He’s not the Messiah he’s a very naughty boy…
So Fabio is being put on the spot by Rooney’s suspension (and why were people surprised that it was for three matches?) and now there is the question of whether to take him to the Euro’s at all. The argument for taking him goes something like: he’s our best player, he can turn a match around, he’ll be fresh and raring to go if we make it through the group stage.
I think it would be a very bad idea to take Rooney. To begin with it would cast a shadow over building a team with the capacity to get through the group stage. That by itself we could probably live with, but let us just pursue what might happen. I think there are three possible outcomes:
1. We don’t get through the group stages – in which case taking Rooney has wasted one space in the squad, a space which might conceivably have given Fabio another option to respond to dire circumstances.
2. We sail through the group stages in great comfort – in which case adding Rooney in would mean disrupting a team that has successfully gelled without him.
3. We struggle through the group stages and look to Rooney to raise us up to a higher level – in which case the pressure upon Rooney to perform becomes all the greater.
The first two outcomes argue against taking Rooney, but it is the third which I think is in fact the most problematic, simply because Rooney has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to cope with intense mental pressure. This would be the worst environment in which to pitch a volatile player. If English football is ever to get the best from his immense talent then perhaps the salutary lesson of not being taken to Euro 2012, and the experience of watching from the sidelines, is the best opportunity for him to conquer his demons.
I think Fabio should build a team without him, and leave the task of integrating Rooney to his successor. A front four (in a 4231) of Young-Gerrard-Sturridge, with Bent converting the chances, should surely be enough to get us to the traditional quarter-final elimination, and there are other options around too who could cover for injuries in that quartet. We need to stop relying on talented individuals, and start building a proper team, and a proper system.