Despite the disappointing result on the night for England, a 2-2 draw in Montenegro after holding a two-goal lead in the first half, Fabio Capello’s men secured the vital point needed to qualify for the 2012 European Championships in Ukraine and Poland. While the visitors returned from the Balkans having accomplished their main objective, another positive was the confirmation of Ashley Young’s emergence as an England international.
Young has begun the season strongly, earning constant plaudits following his summer move from Aston Villa to Manchester United, including a sensational brace in the 8-2 mauling of Arsenal in August. He has recently transferred this form to the international scene, catching the eye of Capello and earning a start in Montenegro, a selection that quickly paid dividends.
Young opened the scoring for England after 10 minutes, arriving unmarked at the far post to stoop low and head home from Theo Walcott’s cross. With England on the front foot early on, Young then turned provider 20 minutes later. Released by his United teammate Wayne Rooney, Young’s driving run and square pass allowed Darren Bent to double England’s lead with the simplest of finishes.
Walcott, Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson are among a crop of talented English wingers all competing for wide berths in the national side in recent years. Young’s standout performances for club and country this season means there is now further depth to the wide options available to Fabio Capello ahead of the Euro finals. This is a far cry from the much-ridiculed lack of width of previous squads, particularly on the left.
With many leading coaches moving away from the more regimented 4-4-2 system of previous years, there is now less demand for an orthodox left-footed midfielder to provide a team’s width and creativity. Instead, many managers are now opting to select players on their least-preferred side in order to create options coming in from wide positions. Young’s appearance on the scoresheet against Montenegro also highlights the increased goal threat coming from wingers, who can join the lead forwards when necessary.
While England begin to prepare for next year’s Euro 2012 campaign, the form of the likes of Ashley Young could prove vital. This is particularly so with Rooney looking at a ban in the early matches of the tournament and after England, as a team, struggled for goals at the 2010 World Cup. With the added options available, Capello will likely be looking to complement England’s more mature frontline with an injection of youth offering increased pace in attack as well as goal-scoring potential. Performances by Ashley Young similar to his display in Podgorica against Montenegro will make him a legitimate candidate to fill that role.
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