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Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

World Cup scouting: right midfield

England winger Aaron Lennon in action against Slovenia
England hope Aaron Lennon (l) will be fit in time for the World Cup finals

By Alan Shearer
Former England captain and BBC Sport pundit

Make no mistake, losing David Beckham to an Achilles injury is a blow to England's World Cup hopes.

He might not have started for England but he would have been in Fabio Capello's squad. The team will miss his experience and his presence, particularly when he can come on from the substitute's bench and use his knowhow.

As he proved when he came on last week for AC Milan at Old Trafford, he has still got plenty to offer. It is a shame that just as Wayne Rooney is heading in goals from everywhere we lose what could be a fruitful supply from the flanks.

606: DEBATE
Alistair M - BBC Sport

Beckham will also be missed from being around the World Cup camp as he would be able to help the younger players in his position or in the squad.

It is a disappointment all round, but on the other hand it will be a big opportunity for someone else vying for a spot in the squad.

As Lee Dixon has mentioned in previous weeks, things are looking suspect in several positions for England at the minute and Beckham's injury puts a question mark over the right midfield spot.

Right now you could not say who would start in that position at the World Cup. But I think that is the case for several places - goalkeeper, right-back, left-back, right midfield, left midfield, and even up front with Wayne Rooney.

THE CONTENDERS

Although Beckham would have been behind one of the other contenders on the right of midfield, there are several players who will be looking to secure their spots between now and when the provisional squad is announced on 16 May.

The situation has given a further chance to Tottenham's Aaron Lennon, if he can get fit, Arsenal's Theo Walcott, Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Phillips or even his team-mate Adam Johnson.

Adam Johnson
Could Adam Johnson be a late runner?

People have to remember that Walcott, at 20, is only young so he is going to have up and down times.

And, yes, Lennon is currently injured, but whether he will be fit in time you just do not know. He has to be wary, though, as Capello has already said he does not intend to take injured players to South Africa.

The reality of it is that you could pick someone now but end up not using them when the World Cup starts; the way I see it, you pick someone who is in form at the particular time.

As a manager you want as many options in each position as you can. Don't forget you've got Steven Gerrard and James Milner who can play there, but they are the kind of players who can play anywhere.

I think the five who were vying for right midfield were Beckham, Lennon, Walcott, Wright-Phillips and maybe Johnson. So it's down to the four of them now.

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

Based on the fact that he has picked him when he is fit, Capello seems to be a fan of Walcott's and to be honest I am too.

He has got a lot to offer and Walcott could still qualify for the under-21s so everyone has to take that into account. He is just a lad really and everyone is human so they have good games and they have bad games but I think he is a huge talent.

Despite what others might say about him, I think he definitely has a footballing brain and I think he can flourish as he gets older, particularly under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

WALCOTT AND LENNON THIS SEASON
Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon
16 - League appearances - 18
1 ---- League assists ---- 9
2 --------- Goals --------- 3
9 - Total England caps - 15

Whether Lennon, 22, would be ahead of Walcott in the pecking order, depends on his form at the given moment. Earlier this season Lennon was playing well while Walcott was injured.

Now Lennon has a groin problem and Walcott is finding his way back to form.

They are both very good players and in a lot of ways quite similar. They are both very pacy, and that is one thing defenders don't like.

On their day it is very difficult to play against them as they can get behind defenders and that is one place defenders do not want the ball to be. Yes, the final ball is lacking from both of them at times, but that is something Lennon has improved on based on his nine league assists this season.

Wright-Phillips made a good impression in the recent friendly against Egypt when he came on to score and set up a goal for Peter Crouch.

And when you're a manager and you bring someone on you're looking for an impact - to change the game and do something different and Shaun did that on that particular occasion.

VERDICT

If I was picking two right midfielders I would take Walcott first and then it all depends on if Lennon is fit whether you would take him or Wright-Phillips.

If they are both fit and both playing well I would take Lennon alongside Walcott.

Alan Shearer was talking to Alistair Magowan



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see also
World Cup scouting: right-backs
12 Mar 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup scouting: left-backs
02 Mar 10 |  World Cup 2010
Spurs worried by Lennon progress
14 Mar 10 |  Tottenham
Wenger tips Walcott for greatness
05 Mar 10 |  Arsenal


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