England’s qualification to Euro 2012 came at a much-publicised price, as Wayne Rooney’s dismissal in Podgorica means at the very least he will miss the first game of England’s Euro 2012 campaign. His sending-off showed a slight regression in his footballing maturity, nevertheless, Fabio Capello must now start planning a contingency for their assault on Euro success and that surely presents an opportunity for, amongst others, Danny Welbeck.
The reaction from Fleet Street was typically morose, as their feeling is now that without England’s most creative force, a difficult tournament in Poland and Ukraine has needlessly intensified. However, and moving forward, the striking options the Italian has at his disposal look healthier than they have for some time. None of them possess the on-field aura and all-round ability of Rooney, but each excels in different departments. A hamstring injury interrupted Welbeck’s explosive start to a domestic campaign, which had seen him play without fear whilst contributing three Premier League goals and one assist. The question is now, can he use Rooney’s reckless suspension for his personal progression?
England’s underlying problem is that Rooney gives the side more than just goals; his movement, link-up play and distribution have turned him into one of world football’s most complete forwards, so there is no man-made replacement. Capello has made it clear he will only pick players who are active for their clubs, so Welbeck will hope Sir Alex Ferguson can push him towards inclusion at next summer’s tournament. He has presence and composure in front of goal, wrapped up with an instinctive nature; comparable to that of Old Trafford legend Andy Cole. Welbeck has a powerful frame and plays more in the No 9 role than Rooney; this would suggest the former’s inclusion would take some re-jigging of formation.
Ashley Young’s versatility across the forward line could be key as he is comfortable playing in the central supporting role, and pairing two Old Trafford employees may also suit Capello, and indeed Welbeck. It remains to be seen whether the latter and Darren Bent could maybe forge a flourishing partnership, but they share similar characteristics and it would mean adopting a much-maligned 4-4-2. Jermain Defoe, Daniel Sturridge, Andy Carroll, et al, would expect consideration in Rooney’s absence; however, club form for the remainder of this domestic season should, in Capello’s own words, be a deciding factor. Welbeck’s European club experience this term could also be vital, outings that the majority of the other strikers in the national pecking order cannot boast.
England are renowned for suffering high profile absences in the run-up to major tournaments, but this time around Capello has two-thirds of a domestic campaign to mull-over how to plug the gap created by Rooney’s misdemeanour. The form of all the contenders will affect Capello’s decision, and Welbeck must primarily focus his attentions on club form in order to turn Rooney’s initial absence into his gain.
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