Manchester City man does not appear to suit Roy Hodgson's formation and the memories of Bloemfontein taint him - but Jagielka's call-up betrays a huge gap in squad depth
By George Ankers
On Monday it was confirmed that Gareth Barry will miss England’s Euro 2012 campaign through injury. A nation shrugged.
The reaction was perhaps over exaggerated as the Manchester City midfielder is not an eye-catching, flashy sort of player, but nevertheless, the Three Lions are unlikely to miss him. Indeed, they might even be glad that he will not be there.
It is the continuation of an unfortunately-rough England career for Barry. For most of his early years at Aston Villa, he was a fine young left-back unfairly overlooked for long periods at international level by then-boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, racking up huge numbers of Under-21 caps in the process.
After finally establishing himself in the team under Steve McClaren and then Fabio Capello, he came into World Cup 2010 struggling for fitness and missed all his side’s group games before returning for a certain fateful knock-out match.
Injury or no injury, Barry was shown up in Bloemfontein as he proved comprehensively unequipped to deal with the quietly rampaging guile of Mesut Ozil, sharing with John Terry and Matthew Upson a defensive nightmare. Germany, of course, won 4-1.
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Took on the captain's armband after replacing Gerrard at half-time. Very sloppy and continually gave the ball away before he was replaced by Henderson in the 73rd minute.
That did not happen, of course, and he can count himself unlucky to have to sit out as that same old guard who qualified for Euro 2012 with him flail through it without him.
While a regular this season, Barry has been one of the least important cogs in City's Premier League-winning machine, and it is hardly a body blow to Roy Hodgson even though he regards the midfielder a little more highly.
That the England boss started the 1-0 win over Norway with Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard in the centre was a clear sign of his plans – after all, when your first game in charge of the national side is one of only two pre-tournament friendlies, you test what you think is your best team.
Barry was out of that first XI on merit, not greatly suiting Hodgson’s system. Playing a 4-4-2 with the captain, Gerrard, as one of the two central midfielders, the City man is not the type of bustling defensive sort that would work in that partnership.
Parker is not quite as quick as you would like from a man in that position internationally but Barry is less so. And, as was learned in 2010, you do not want him as the lone defensive midfielder against top attackers.
Equally he is not suited to the role handed to Gerrard. The 31-year-old passes, by and large, competently enough but still loses his composure a little too often in turning a simple pass into a silly one, as witnessed clearly against Norway.
He is neither a creative nor a destructive force going forward, and if Hodgson has put Gerrard there ahead of him, then that is what he is looking for.
If he were on the bench then Barry would hardly be the man to bring on in order to change a game, only to consolidate – and England are much more likely to be chasing matches than keeping hold of them.
Apt or not, though, Barry would probably have been the man called upon by Hodgson in case Parker, too, were to succumb to the Achilles injury that has some worried. But the problem would persist even if he were in the party – England have almost no true cover in defensive midfield.
Phil Jones is in the 23-man squad as, essentially, a utility man but, young and immature, is far from ready to step up to that crucial position internationally. It would not be fair on such a promising player to thrust him unprepared into a role which he should grow into over much more time.
But if not him, who else? Owen Hargreaves should have been that player but is now consigned to the scrap heap. Jack Rodwell may get there eventually. Even leaving aside his terrible season and ridiculous inclusion on the standby list, Jordan Henderson does not fit the mould as defensive cover.
With such a paucity of options, calling up orthodox defender Phil Jagielka as Barry’s replacement is about as sensible as Hodgson can be.
Barry’s absence raises this debate but, while he might have been better than the rest, he still is not a player who would have given England what they need.
Both his initial inclusion and his withdrawal serve to reinforce that only a whimper, not a roar, should be expected from the Three Lions this summer.