Watching England struggle to a 1-1 draw in Poland on Wednesday afternoon, it soon became apparent that part of the visitors’ problem was their inability to hold the ball up the pitch and thus relieve the pressure on the backline.
Indeed, in the lead-up to Poland’s equaliser, several crosses and set-pieces found themselves cleared only for the ball to come straight back at them with both Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney incapable of controlling the ball. Frankly, it was yet another game that proved the continuing folly of Roy Hodgson’s decision to ignore Stoke’s Peter Crouch.
Latching onto aerial balls has never been a feature of Crouch’s game but, without delving too much into the “good feet for a big man” cliche, what the 31-year-old can do quite superbly is bring others into play. Consider the amount of goals Crouch made for Rafael van der Vaart at Tottenham, or similarly for Jon Walters at Stoke, or when involved in the England squad, Michael Owen.
Against Poland, England were crying out for someone of Crouch’s stature just to worry the Polish defence and look to bring team-mates into play – something that Defoe, for all his qualities as a goal-poacher, will always lack.
However, besides that, there remains the simple fact that Crouch has arguably been the most in-form English striker in 2012. Consider Crouch’s form so far this season to that of Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck or even Wayne Rooney?
Defoe has arguably been in a similar rich vein of form to Crouch and so possibly deserved the nod over the Stoke striker, but to not even have Crouch on the bench borders on farcical for Roy Hodgson considering the lack of striking options available to him.
Of course, there are issues that do stand against Crouch’s selection. The criticism has often been in the past that his mere presence in the starting line-up entices the England team to go long more often than they should. Indeed some will say that the team’s use of the long ball against a competent but hardly outstanding opposition in Poland is a clear signpost to England’s problems with keeping possession on the international stage.
Put simply, to have Crouch in the side would be to the detriment of the style of football Hodgson presumably would like to pursue. Similarly, Hodgson has indicated that he will not take ageing players to squads who are unlikely to play, hence the Rio Ferdinand situation while Crouch’s decision to refuse a place for the Euro 2012 stand-by squad appears to be counting against him.
Whatever the reason, for how long can a man with 22 goals in 42 appearances for England, as well five in eight already for Stoke this season, continue to be ignored?
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