After James Milner, Michael Carrick and Tom Huddlestone failed to deliver an “undroppable” performance against Mexico on Monday night, Fabio Capello proved just how concerned he was about the potential absence of Gareth Barry by allowing him another week to prove his fitness.
The England boss has previously said that players must be in form and fully fit to make any of his England squads, but with less than a week to go before he names his final 23, he seems so keen to see Barry make the squad that he is prepared to allow him up until the last minute to make the cut.
Capello’s stance is hardly a ringing endorsement of the candidates keen to fill his role, but Barry had previously played 19 of Capello’s 22 games in charge before last night, with the Italian manager clearly rating his influence protecting an occasionally wobbly defence.
Neither Milner or Carrick did that especially well against Mexico, but of more concern to Capello would have been the amount of sloppy passes given away – with Huddlestone also guilty of lapses in concentration in his half an hour on the pitch – in contrast to the calmness exuded on the ball by the returning Man City midfielder.
As well as offering more defensive stability in the side, his willingness to cover when roving full backs Glenn Johnson and Ashley Cole bomb forward allows England to flex an extra attacking muscle without overly fearing a counter attack.
With natural replacement Owen Hargreaves also out, it leaves Capello scratching around his squad for someone to adequately fill the role in Barry’s absence. England’s final warm-up game against Japan will give Milner and co. another chance to shine, or allow Capello to try something different.
And with only 17 days until England line-up against USA in Rustenburg, it doesn’t leave him much time to find a solution – England are 1/2 to beat the underperforming Americans.