In his recent travels around the Premier League, Fabio Capello will have noticed one innovation that might just work for England when they face France in Paris on Wednesday. Steven Gerrard's deployment behind Fernando Torres has propelled Liverpool back into fourth place and the Italian is understood to be considering using Wayne Rooney in the same way as the Spanish striker.
Today Capello names his provisional 30-man squad. He has plenty of wingers at his disposal but a lack of confident, in-form strikers. That trend has led Capello and his assistants to think that Rooney as the single specialist striker, supported by Gerrard and two wide players, might be the right system to tackle a steep task at Stade de France.
It is an interesting concept and one that would benefit from the inclusion of Arsenal's Theo Walcott, whom The Independent revealed yesterday is set to make a return to the England senior squad for the first time since the 2006 World Cup finals. The return for Walcott puts further pressure on places for strikers in the squad, which will be whittled down to 23 players on Saturday night.
The new Liverpool model, which Rafael Benitez appears to have settled upon, includes two holding midfielders – he prefers Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso. There are many such players available to Capello. Rooney aside, Capello's strikers are currently struggling for form or games. Michael Owen has scored seven goals all season for Newcastle, Peter Crouch has barely figured for Liverpool recently and Aston Villa's as-yet uncapped Gabriel Agbonlahor has not scored since the turn of the year.
One player who might put pressure on the four strikers Capello selected in February is Jermain Defoe – he has six goals in six games for Portsmouth and was called in as a replacement, for Agbonlahor, to face Switzerland. While Crouch may have struggled for games lately there are precious few other forwards in the target man role who are proven at international level. Emile Heskey scored against Bolton last weekend, but it was his first goal for Wigan since August.
Owen said yesterday that he believed he had an England future. "I've been an England player for several years and I am still only 28," he said. "There are hopefully plenty of years and more caps under the new manager. But there are many more pressing things – we are not in the European Championship. Obviously everyone wants to get into the manager's team.
"But I have many more important things to worry about until then. My main priority is to get many more points for Newcastle."
David Beckham's fitness is another big issue; the indication last night was that he will be a part of the 30-man squad, although there are no guarantees he will win his 100th cap in Paris. Beckham's Major League Soccer season starts on 29 March when the Los Angeles Galaxy face the Colorado Rapids in Denver. If Beckham is in the final squad next week it would at the expense of Shaun Wright-Phillips, with David Bentley the other right-sided player.
In defence, Matthew Upson, who started against Switzerland at Wembley, has missed West Ham's last three games. John Terry will surely return but Wes Brown, a replacement for Ledley King in February, is not likely to figure. That means a place for a central defender with Middlesbrough's David Wheater ahead of Everton's Phil Jagielka. At right-back, Micah Richards' injury means Glenn Johnson should be in the final squad.
In midfield, Frank Lampard is fit. The central midfielders Capello picked in February – Gerrard, Jermaine Jenas, Gareth Barry and Owen Hargreaves – are also fit. Who makes way for the Chelsea man?
Among the goalkeepers, Ben Foster's return for Manchester United against Derby gives Capello more options. David James, who started against Switzerland, seems a certainty, as is Chris Kirkland, who was in Capello's first squad. Beyond that, Capello must pick one from Foster, Paul Robinson and Scott Carson.Reuse content