Proof is in the pudding!

by Ashleigh Rose

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

There were many points proven in this weekend’s Manchester derby. Man Utd proved they really do never give up, City proved that they can play amongst the big boys even when not deserving it, and Mark Hughes proved that without realising he is already becoming a manager in the ilk of his opposite number on sunday. But the biggest point was proven by United’s new supersub Michael Owen, proving why he has to be in Fabio Capello’s England squad next summer.

Say what you want about Owen, throughout his career he has always been a ‘big game player’. World Cups, FA Cup Finals, qualifiers, you name it Owen has had a say in them through the years. And Sunday he once again showed that commeth the hour, commeth the man with his 96th minute derby winner. Ok yes, Man City should have known better then to leave a player of Owen’s calibre with that much space in the box but you still have to know what to do with it once your in that space, and that’s exactly what Owen did – can you imagine Emile Heskey putting that away?

Now picture the scene, it’s 1-1 with ten minutes to go in a World Cup quarter final that looks like it’s heading for a penalty shoot-out. Fabio looks to his bench and can either see a proven international striker with 40 goals to his name, who’s can take that kind of pressure, or Carlton Cole. No disrespect to Cole, but I know who I’d rather count on and it isn’t the man from Upton Park.

England’s impressive qualifying campaign has papered over a lot of cracks that need to be addressed before next summer and the striking department is one of them. Yes in Rooney we have one of the world’s very best but when then struggle. Heskey does a great job with him and is a Capello fave but will the big man even get a look in at Villa this season? Defoe is in great form but he needs to show that consistently over a season and bring that into a tournament. But then who? I’m a big fan of Crouch but seems to have lost his way a little under Capello and after that the stragglers like Cole, Agbonlahor and Bent are yet to fully convince on the international stage. One man who always has though is Michael Owen, so why not take him as our fourth striker? I know I’d be happy with a quartet of Rooney, Heskey, Defoe and Owen heading on the plane to South Africa.

I’m not suggesting Owen should be a starter next summer. Unless he goes on an incredible run for United, Wayne Rooney and one of Emile Heskey and Jermain Defoe should be England’s first-choice frontline in South Africa. But what a player to have sitting on the bench if and probably when England need him. He might just be England’s savior once again.

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  • Iain

    I’m still not convinced he should be in the England squad. If he can keep fit and show he will start to convert more chances (cos he has missed a few, lets be honest) then sure thing. Why not send him along.

    The thing is the England national team looks really balanced, settled and happy at the moment, and I would be wary of changing that if I were Mr Capello. It is a team game after all.

    Still good to see a once great striker on the way back. If he never scores again he’ll be a Utd legend just for that goal!

  • Matt Quinn

    Owen has scored 2 goals this season! If you want proof- look at the other games for United when he has come off the bench and done nothing.

    In fact, i read that Owen was on the pitch on sunday for 18mins and touched the ball once (for his goal)…. thats a liability. If Giggs hadnt played such a perfect pass, old Owen would have gone a full 20mins without actually touching the ball. That is not good enough.. and he just isnt good enough anymore.

  • Matt Quinn

    Ps. Didnt Carlton Cole score against Liverpool this weekend? Isnt that enough to make a case for him?

  • Ash

    Touching the ball twice is irrelevant, Owen isn’t there to get as many touches as possible, he’s there to put the ball in the back of the net when called upon – which is exactly what he did on Sunday.

    As for the other games, he isnt going to do what he did Sunday, EVERY time he comes off the bench. But when it’s a big game (like a world cup) you know you can rely on him.

    PS Paul Dickov could score a header from a corner Liverpool are defending at the moment!

  • Iain

    Hi Ash,

    I think Matts point is relevant if you are talking about Owen getting into the England squad. At United, they can accomodate an out and out poacher, and I actually agree that he will be an asset for them this season. I like Owen as a striker – he is one of the last of his breed, and a proper Premiership star.

    However the international game has moved on amazingly quickly, even since Owen was last a regular (particularly the England team). The strikers mentioned in the article all have other elements to their game that support the team, and create space or options. I think he would have a negative effect on the current set up. However with all things England I am happy to be proved wrong!

  • dexylongshot

    World Cup strikers


    Walcott/Emergency forward

    Owen had some big games at the end of last season and didn’t do much then for the Geordies then.

  • Ash

    Nothing against Cole but he’s yet to prove anything on the international stage, bar 20 odd mins against Holland at the end of a friendly. If he has another good season he be hard to ignore though.

    Walcott will go as the overrated midfielder that he is, i’d be very concerned to see him play up front seeing as he has hardly played there for Arsenal.

    Yes Owen had some ‘big’ games for Newcastle, but Owen cant win them on his bloody own can he! If he’d had the chances given to him, maybe he’d saved them who knows.

  • Darren

    I’m with ash and I’m an arsenal fan, Walcott is still something of an enigma. He’s hardly played a game for arsenal up front let alone in a wc final. I’d take owen as back up, he’s way past his sell by date but he’s been there done that, plus he have a cool head if it went to pens.

    Imagine this, yr 1-0 down against brazil in the qf, there’s 5 mins to go, who do u bring on? Cole, walcott or owen? It’s got to b owen, he might only touch the ball once but it might be the most important touch since 66!

  • Matt Quinn

    Darren- the last person i would bring on would be Owen.

    Havent we been 1-0 down to the likes of Brazil and Portugal in the last few world cups and hasnt Owen been on the pitch each time? And we always lost! He isnt good enough. We need to look forward and give someone else a chance.

    The number of chances he normally needs to score is worse than Heskey!!! Have you seen how many one-on-ones/clear cut chances he’s missed while at United already? There seems to be this myth that you give Owen a chance and he will score. Watch his misses against Burnley (when United lost) and think again if you reckon he will suddenly crack a couple in against Lucio and Julio Cesar in the World Cup QF.

  • Ash

    Oh dear Matt, think if you’re go back through World Cup/Euro history you’ll see that Owen has scored against both Brazil and Portugal to go along with his goals against the minnows of Argentina, Germany and France. You seem to missing the point, which is if England need a goal with 10 mins to go, like Utd did on sunday who better to have on the bench then a 40 goal, proven international striker and former european footballer of the year? Carlton Cole – really? Agbonlahor – really? Walcott – really?

    To say he misses more chances then Heskey in a ridiculous comment. How could he, 40 goals in 80 games for England against 7 in nearly 60 – facts are there mate. Yes he has missed a couple of chances for Man U, but I’m not saying he’s going to score everytime his put infront of goal! I’m saying he’s proven pedigree and could score against Lucio and Cescar cos they’d just be on a long list of defenders Owen has made a mug of.

  • dexylongshot

    How many strikers are we taking in the squad. 4 or 5, thoughts?

  • Darren

    your are missing the point Matt, totally. We are saying don’t start with him, but bring him on with a few minutes to go. If your house was on it would you really rather Carlton Cole who was a laughing stock only a few seasons ago to a proven big time player. That’s all we are saying. He’s not good enough to start, we know that.

    Ash, you’ll get used to our current Blogger of the year.

    Matt’s heros
    Lionel Messi
    Craig Bellamy
    Juan Román Riquelme

    Matt’s donkeys
    Steven Gerrard
    Michael Owen
    James Milner

    For the record, Dafoe has started well this season, but he is by no means the answer as every seems to think. He’s offside more then Inzagi and Adebayor put together.

  • Ash

    Couldnt agree with you more Darren, Defoe’s on a hot streak right now but has never proved to be a consistant top level goal scorer, hopefully he’ll prove that this season though.

  • Matt Quinn

    I understand what you are saying but i dont think Owen would turn a game in Englands favour. Yes, i understand your hypothetical situation about if there was a chance in the 85min of a game who would you want it to fall to etc…

    What im saying is that normally, when England are losing 1-0 to Brazil/Portugal etc, its because we arent playing well as a team and NOT creating these hypothetical chances. Bringing Owen on, would not change that as (as sunday showed) he can go 20mins without touching the ball. That is not an impact sub. He wouldnt change the way England are playing- which has always been the REAL problem. An impact player would be a Walcott, Agbonlahor or Cole- someone who’s pace or presence would change the last 20mins of a game, exploit the gaps and CREATE the chances from this. I dont rate any of those 3 particularly highly- but as impact players they are much more practical than Owen.

    Ps. Darren, my all time favourite player is Juan Carlos Valeron. Please put him on the list.

  • Matt Quinn

    Pps. Ash- im aware Owen scored in those games, but England still lost. Maybe without him, we might have created more chances and won.

    Its an easy question… do you want Owen to score 1 or England to score 2???

  • Iain

    Owen doesn’t fit into the current England set up on any level though.

    As much as I agree that if you put him on with a few minutes to go then he’ll score given the chance, my fear is that by putting him on the pitch you have to take someone off who will help create that chance.

    Who would you put him on for?
    Rooney? not way – our best player and a far better chance of scoring a goal out of nothin
    Heskey? – our attacking play revolves round him
    Gerrard? – possibly
    Barry / Lampard – take them out and holes appear in our midfield, leaving us more susceptible to counter.
    Lennon / Walcott? – Capello won’t take off any pacy winger in the last 10 minutes, unless to replace with another pacy winger

    By the same token Defoe wouldn’t be put on if we were chasing the game. The best players are the ones that start, and they should be the ones to recover the game.

    Under Eriksson or any other system over the past 10 years, Owen would be on the plane. In fact I would like him to play for selfish reasons. But England is bigger than Owen, and I think we are better without him, and won’t find ourselves in those situations where we have to chase the game.

    Incidentally Dexy, it’ll be 5 strikers I think, with Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, Crouch, and one from Cole / Bent (if he keeps scoring / Walcott (agreed not a striker though) and Owen. Capello likes Crouch, and so do I!

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