Many questions were raised when Jay Bothroyd received a call up to England’s National team for the friendly against France. Isn’t there someone else playing in the Premier League that would be more worthy of a call-up? Is a player playing in the second tier good enough for an International team as highly ranked as England?
There are many blogs that have gone into the positives and negatives of Bothroyd’s call up, that is not the question I wanted to look at. Fabio Capello has himself questioned the number of English players playing at the highest level, limiting the pool of players he can pick his squad from. Does Capello have a point? If not who are the strikers playing in the Premier League that Capello could call on and are other countries suffering the same fate?
To get an idea of the situation across Europe, six countries were used for the research looking at forwards who play in the country of their birth and who have scored at least two league goals this season. England were the first country under the spotlight and it seems Fabio Capello’s fears are correct, only eleven English forwards have scored two or more goals this season in the Premier League, four of which play for Ian Holloway’s Blackpool, and two play at Newcastle. That means only seven out of the 20 Premier League clubs have an English striker providing goals.
At the time of writing each team has played 13 games, nearly one third of a way through the season, surely this is a worrying statistic, just to put it into context in France’s Ligue 1 there are nearly double that amount, 20 French forwards have 2 or more goals.
- Andy Carroll – Newcastle United – 7 goals
- Darren Bent – Sunderland – 6 goals
- Theo Walcott – Arsenal – 4 goals
- Kevin Davies – Bolton Wanderers – 4 goals
- Marlon Harewood – Blackpool – 4 goals
- Cameron Jerome – Birmingham City – 3 goals
- Sylvain Ebanks-Blake – Wolves – 3 goals
- Shola Ameobi – Newcastle United – 3 goals
- Luke Varney – Blackpool – 3 goals
- DJ Campbell – Blackpool – 2 goals
- Gary Taylor-Fletcher – Blackpool – 2 goals
That is not a list of household names; Theo Walcott has only played 305 minutes of Premier League action; Harewood and Ameobi have appeared for just under 500 minutes. Two observations that come from that list are A) The number of high profile names missing B) A noticeable absence of the top clubs, except for Arsenal’s Walcott.
Arsenal are an easy target, known for producing and bringing through talent, they are often criticised for the lack of English talent coming through, only Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs are bucking the trend at the Emirates. Chelsea only have one English forward in their first team – Daniel Sturridge made the move from Manchester City to Chelsea in 2009, with only two starts in his Chelsea career and a very sparse 80 minutes of football this season, this seems like another young English talent stifled at a big club.
Two big names that in the past would have easily appeared on this list are Manchester United duo Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen, both with only one goal each this season, Rooney’s problems have been well documented, only four starts this season, he now needs game time to get back the form of last season. Owen on the other hand has only appeared for 96 minutes, and with United not exactly firing on all cylinders, it seems Sir Alex does not have faith in the once deadly striker.
Looking around the league the potential is there, at Villa: Agbonlahor, Delfouneso, and Heskey have only one goal between them but could provide so much more. Jermaine Beckford’s chances at Everton have been limited, Zamora was ruled out via injury for Fulham, and Andy Johnson has recently returned to fitness and continues to find his feet again.
Up north at the time of writing Danny Wellbeck and Frazier Campbell have only one goal between them, Harry Redknapp’s English duo of Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe due to injury and form has also only one goal, not the deadly English partnership they threaten to be. Just down the road Carlton Cole has also struggled for goals, only one in fourteen games for the former England man. Liverpool, Man City and Stoke have no English strikers worth mentioning.
Worryingly the remaining Premier League teams tend to rely on foreigners to put the ball in the back of the net. However if you take the eleven players on the list and add to that the fourteen previously mentioned it works out to what is a decent sized pool of forwards to choose from. It seems it is harsh for Capello to suggest there are no players at his disposal; it looks like a combination of bad form and injuries that limit his options.
The worry seems to be the number of young English forwards playing for the top teams, Danny Wellbeck will find it hard once he returns to Manchester United, with Javier Hernandez and Federico Macheda doing well it’s seems he’d be back down the pecking order at Old Trafford. More worrying would be the lack of players at Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester City.
At Eastlands Carlos Tevez is a class act, Adebayor, Jo and Santa Cruz on the other hand are not, one goal between the three of them is grim reading, surely to take on a young English striker would be no more of a risk than having three forwards doing nothing to help you cause. Is David N’Gog at Liverpool any better than the forwards in England’s u21 squad? Zavon Hines, Franck Nouble, Junior Stanislas or Freddie Sears all of them on West Ham’s books and they have made a total of one sub appearance for an awful Hammers side. Are Piquionne and Boa Morte that much better than these youngsters?
Premier League teams need to move away from playing sub-standard foreigners and put some faith in the younger breed. Give them the experience at club level and they could reward you with a goal or two.
As previously mentioned in Ligue 1 in France there are 20 French forwards that have scored 2 or more goals, the Bundesliga in Germany has 19, 15 in Spain and 18 in Italy’s Serie A. Now it would be easy for all these strikers to play at lower level teams scoring goal after goal before moving on somewhere else, this is not the case, all the big name European clubs are there.
In France you have Andre-Pierre Gignac and Loic Remy at Marseille, Guillaume Hoarau at PSG, Jimmy Briand and Bafetimbi Gomis of Lyon. Mario Gomez at Bayern Munich, Kevin Großkreutz at Dortmund, Patrick Helmes at Leverkusen, and the list goes on Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia, Juventus, Roma, Lazio and AC Milan, all top clubs that will feature at the top half of their league and most will offer experience at Europa or Champions League level.
Most of these clubs have either bought from within their own leagues or promoted through their youth system, the new National Football Centre in Burton may help produce these talented youngsters in the future however it will be a good 10 years before the national games reaps the benefits. The way English clubs buy players has to change if the national team is to improve in the near future.
England isn’t the only country to suffer from foreigners being favoured instead of home-grown players. Portugal’s Liga Sagres has a very similar problem, only eight Portuguese forwards have featured on score sheets twice this season, not a great stat for a country that prides it’s self on developing youth and giving them a chance.
Foreign imports will always be an issue for Portuguese clubs, with no language barrier; Brazilian players find it very easy to move over, play well and then move on to a bigger club. Luckily for Portugal some of these players will become naturalised Portuguese i.e. Deco and Liedson but surely it is still a worry. This fact is brought home when you see that fifteen Brazilians have scored two or more goals in the Portuguese league this season. So it’s a great place for Brazil to develop their players but it is surely affecting the homegrown players, contributing to Portugal’s eternal struggle for a World Class striker.
It seems the situation is not as bad for England as it first seems, but the potential is there for it to get worse before it gets better, these new home-grown player rules will mean the price of buying young English talent is only going to increase, this will force clubs such as Blackburn, Stoke, Bolton to look further afield for players who might not be any better than what’s in the country but will cost half the price to bring in.
Who knows what the future brings, but my questions is, when will the next Premier League Champions win the title with an English player grabbing the Golden Boot, it could be a very long time.