Micah Richards’ Manchester City exploits fail to secure England spot

The rampaging forays of Micah Richards are just as integral to Manchester City’s aesthetic as David Silva’s deft close control or an acclimatised Edin Dzeko’s attacking dominance. Richards charged up Manchester United’s right hand side before cutting back for Sergio Aguero to tuck away City’s third in Sunday’s emphatic 6-1 victory. He has already chalked up four assists this season, is earning rave reviews, but is struggling to establish himself at international level despite a dearth of suitable candidates at right-back.

Richards received a call up for the recent European Championship qualifier in Montenegro but opportunities have been few and far between in recent years, as a succession of players tried and failed to establish themselves as first choice right-back. Fabio Capello appears to favour both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, despite neither player occupying the role on a regular basis. There are certain stylistic similarities between the three that must also make his continued omission all the more confusing. Smalling’s lack of experience in the role was cruelly exposed by Mario Balotelli on Sunday and Phil Jones struggled when he was introduced in the second half. In contrast, Richards dealt with the threat of Ashley Young comfortably and dominated the right flank. A casual observer would view Richards’ international inclusion as a no brainer.

The player exudes self-confidence and recently claimed that: “When I’m fit I feel as good as anyone, not just in the Premier League or Europe, but in the world.” He also appears at a loss to explain why he is regularly overlooked at international level: “I’ve not had any contact [with Capello]. I am scratching my head, thinking what do I need to do? I just want to know what I have to do to get in there.”

Last year, Roberto Mancini praised Richards publicly, but his praise was underpinned by constructive criticism that appears to address the underlying issue regarding his perceived weakness. At the time Mancini noted: “Micah is part of my plans. He’s played here for four or five years and I think that he must improve. He has everything to do his job, but sometimes his concentration lets him down. Sometimes, his body is on the pitch, but his head is not. But I think that if we work on him, he will improve.”

Richards has improved this area of his game but the claim is still frequently recycled. It is also believed that Capello frowns upon his inability to follow instruction, an accusation also levelled at Theo Walcott and one that is believed to have cost the Arsenal winger his place at the 2010 World Cup. Capello cannot afford to have two players with the same perceived deficiency operating in tandem on the same side of the pitch. As a consequence Richards is finding it difficult to add to his 12 international caps.

Rotated with Pablo Zabaleta, as are Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov on the left, Micah Richards is one of the few players left at Manchester City that has progressed through their academy. Holding his own at a club that can now acquire the world’s finest talents, his international frustrations appear set to continue while Fabio Capello remains in situ.

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