Paul Parker

Johnson should replace Walcott

Paul Parker

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Everything is rosy for Fabio Capello after beating Bulgaria 4-0, but Switzerland are a much tougher proposition for England on Tuesday.

You've got to sweep the last game under the carpet and look to the next one - and it will be a tough, tough contest.

We can't afford to go a goal down. It will be very difficult to get it back if that happens because their goals-against record is top notch. They're one of the best defences in the world, and it's down to the way they defend as a side. It is absolutely incredible how they do it.

They're not the best side to watch: they'll straight away try to make the game as ugly as possible, and it's not going to be a spectacle unless England score the first goal. To open up Switzerland they have to do that.

It doesn't matter that they're at home: they won't really change their style because it's been very successful for them.

You have to remember that the Swiss played against Spain at the World Cup - and beat them. They were the only side to do that, and did it brilliantly: Spain struggled for 90 minutes, and couldn't even get shots on goal.

Wayne Rooney dropped off a lot on Friday to lead counter-attacks and the Swiss will have watched him. He won't have the same impact at all.

They're too good, too clever. In Ottmar Hitzfeld they've got a very astute manager who was very successful at club level and has proven himself at international level compared to Capello.

What works once at international level doesn't work twice. You've got to have more than a Plan A and a Plan B; Wayne won't be given the opportunity to do that again, especially against the Swiss.

I don't think a sitting midfield with Wayne bringing the ball forward every time is the way to approach the whole qualifying campaign; he always drops off for Manchester United and you see how teams combat that at Premier League level - and international level is another grade up.

We saw during the World Cup that England didn't have a clue how to break down people or keep the ball. Ball retention isn't a trait of our country, while in other European nations it is done very well; it's noticeable when our top sides play that they can do it, but at international level we struggle to.

For me, the onus is on Steven Gerrard to attack more. He's our best midfield player and we need him breaking forward, making late runs; anything significant England have done in recent years has all come from Steven Gerrard. He could still do with a little bit more adventure.

I have to ask whether Gareth Barry is the right man to still play in the middle with him - I'm surprised that he played against Bulgaria because we need legs.  All the top sides, the Germans, the Spanish, the Dutch, they've all got good legs and good pace.

Barry hasn't got mobility - we saw that in the World Cup and recently. Playing for Man City against Sunderland he got left on the touchline. When Sunderland got their penalty he couldn't move. He lacks agility and pace for top-level international football.

I don't think James Milner is the answer either. He did okay at the World Cup in the end -he started poorly - but does he see himself as a wide player? I don't think he does. But for England he has to play wide. I don't think he can do an effective job in the middle over a long period, as he might for his club if needed.

And I'd get rid of Theo Walcott too. Adam Johnson's got more quality than Theo. When he gets in position you know he's got a good left foot and can shoot and score all kinds of goals - there's an end product. Walcott is a little bit crispy, but he hasn't got a finish. I've said it before - if he was a postman he'd be sacked for non-delivery.

Because he didn't go to the World Cup and we were poor in South Africa everyone started talking about him. Yes, he's had a reasonable start for Arsenal this season, but he's inconsistent when he gets into positions. You need a bit more than that.

We can't keep saying that he's young. He's not: he's been involved in the Premier League too long. In any other job he'd be an apprentice, but not in football because it's a short industry. He's getting to the point where he's a mature adult in the lifespan of a footballer and we expect to see more from him. Ryan Giggs, at the same age, was 100 per cent better than Walcott is now.

Johnson's not been fast-tracked like Walcott: he's got an appetite and a point to prove and he can make something out of nothing. He doesn't rely on pace to beat a player; he's got tricks, hip movement, shoulder drop; Walcott's just got pace.

You need a creative midfield player who has a bit of disguise who can thread a ball through for him to run on to. At international level he's easily read - the full-backs drop a bit deeper and he hasn't got a trick to get past them in tight spaces.

If the plan is to use Johnson's pace to get down the outside and get a cross in, he should start on the left against Switzerland.

We've got to look to these young players we've been talking about, such as Johnson and Milner, and use them now. The likes of Frank Lampard and John Terry aren't going to be around forever and Capello will take heart from missing some experienced players but still winning 4-0.

If he can go to Switzerland get more than people expect then these first-team players may have to sit on the sidelines for a while. In a short space of time, just two games, they've earned the right to play in the next game.


With Michael Dawson out England have a problem. You don't want an inexperienced centre-half for Switzerland so Gary Cahill should not start; Matthew Upson is the best candidate, although he lacks pace.

The man in charge earns £6 million a year to make decisions like this - and this is a big one to make.

He's going to make it knowing the Swiss are aggressive in the box and can score goals from set pieces.


I never played in Switzerland during my career - and was gutted to miss out on one England game there.

It was when I was at Queens Park Rangers and couldn't travel due to an injury.

All the players were given a Gucci watch by the Swiss FA... and I missed out on that!

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