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Owen/Crouch v Bent/Defoe


John Simkin
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There has been much debate about who will play for England today. It seems that Crouch will partner Owen up front against Austria. If so, it is likely to be another bad decision by Sven-Goran Eriksson. This is based on the idea that Owen is England’s best striker and that he needs an old fashioned centre forward who is good in the air to be his partner.

I think this argument has two major flaws. For a start, I do not think Owen is our best striker. He was before he began having hamstring problems. This has affected his confidence in front of goal. He now thinks far too much when he gets an opportunity to score. It happens to all strikers as they get older. That is why the best strikers are fairly young. They have the confidence of youth. They always expect to score when given a chance in front of goal. Wayne Rooney has this confidence. So also does Jermain Defoe. In my opinion, these are England’s two best strikers. However, Rooney is suspended and therefore a new partner has to be found for Owen.

Most football experts claim that Owen and Defoe are too much alike to play together (interestingly, Gary Lineker disagrees with this theory and would play them together).

It is in fact a myth that Owen plays better with an old fashioned striker who is good in the air. It has often been claimed that the dream partnership was Owen/Shearer. In fact, statistics show that Shearer/Owen played 14 games together for England. In that time, they scored nine goals between them (a rate of 0.64 a game). Only one other Owen pairing has done as badly as this, the one with Alan Smith, another player in the mould of Shearer (0.38 per game).

The stats show the best pairing was Owen/Fowler (1.25 goals per game). Fowler is small and poor in the air. In fact, he is just like Defoe.

Crouch’s position in the team is based on some good form he showed at Southampton at the end of last season. His form before and since has been very poor. Although only 24 he has had a succession of clubs. At every premiership side he has failed to establish himself in the team and been moved on by his frustrated manager. He only got into a very poor Southampton team after James Beattie was transferred to Everton. Crouch has still not scored for Liverpool (in fact, he has hardly had a chance given the way Liverpool play).

My choice would be Bent and Defoe. Bent is the man in form and has the confidence of youth. His goals for Charlton last Saturday shows he expects to score every time he gets the ball. The one he scored by curling the ball around the goalkeeper shows that he is a man who has supreme confidence at the moment.

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Opinion is mixed about the performance of the Crouch/Owen performance. It is true that Crouch did manage a couple of headed flicks. However, none resulted in any goals. Crouch also missed a couple of good headed chances (he clearly is not a powerful header of the ball). More importantly, he failed to run into the right places to take advantage of some good crosses from Joe Cole. He clearly is not a striker who will score too many goals. Owen still seems to be a shadow of the striker he was a few years ago.

The big story was Beckham being sent off. It is true that the two bookings were harsh. However, it was another case of Beckham’s stupidity and petulance. What a terrible example he sets other undisciplined members of the team. Apparently, Beckham told his team mates that the referee, like others from Spain, would penalize players who jumped for the ball with their arms up. With 30 minutes to go he jumps with Ibertsberger and elbows him. True it could have been an accident, but he knew that the Spanish referee was likely to book him for the offence and therefore putting him out of the Poland game. With this he loses it and within two minutes fouls Ibertsberger on two more occasions. Both were not bad fouls, but it was clear to every objective observer that Beckham was seeking revenge. The referee had no option but to book him again and send him off.

In my view England will play better with Beckham out of the side. However, Eriksson will not get the message and Beckham will be back, whatever happens in the game against Poland.

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Opinion is mixed about the performance of the Crouch/Owen performance. It is true that Crouch did manage a couple of headed flicks. However, none resulted in any goals. Crouch also missed a couple of good headed chances (he clearly is not a powerful header of the ball). More importantly, he failed to run into the right places to take advantage of some good crosses from Joe Cole. He clearly is not a striker who will score too many goals. Owen still seems to be a shadow of the striker he was a few years ago.

The big story was Beckham being sent off. It is true that the two bookings were harsh. However, it was another case of Beckham’s stupidity and petulance. What a terrible example he sets other undisciplined members of the team. Apparently, Beckham told his team mates that the referee, like others from Spain, would penalize players who jumped for the ball with their arms up. With 30 minutes to go he jumps with Ibertsberger and elbows him. True it could have been an accident, but he knew that the Spanish referee was likely to book him for the offence and therefore putting him out of the Poland game. With this he loses it and within two minutes fouls Ibertsberger on two more occasions. Both were not bad fouls, but it was clear to every objective observer that Beckham was seeking revenge. The referee had no option but to book him again and send him off.

In my view England will play better with Beckham out of the side. However, Eriksson will not get the message and Beckham will be back, whatever happens in the game against Poland.

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England looked much better balanced last night with Wright-Phillips on the right side of midfield and King playing the holding role. However, Beckham and Gerrard will definitely be back in the team for the next game. The fact that we will not have a player to get behind the opposition’s defence will be a great loss. It is yet to be discovered if Gerrard can play the holding role. It will be necessary if we are going to get the best out of Lampard.

Rooney made all the difference last night. He enables others around him to play well. He clearly is a world class player. The fact that we were missing our two full-backs, suggests that as long as our over-cautious manager does not make them play too defensive, we could do well in Germany.

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