In the end, Giovanni Trapattoni didn’t have to take an awkward position.
And neither, it seems, will the majority of his 23 players.
While the sad case of James McCarthy obviously illustrates that, yes, there are many issues that matter a lot more than football, it was telling — if comparatively trivial — that the youngster’s withdrawal removed any real talking points from the squad make-up.
Because, in the build-up to yesterday’s announcement, much of the discussion had been about whether the 23 could be arranged in any way to include the most obvious cause célèbres: McCarthy and McClean. Given the manager’s stated preference for five forwards and his clear appreciation of players such as Stephen Hunt and Keith Fahey, it seemed it was going to take a fair bit of positional flexibility to bring both bright young prospects. In truth, it looked impossible without overloading midfield.
This morning, though, there is an undeniable balance about the squad. Any questions are minor rather than major.
One of the most pointed, though, regards the defence. There are only three replacement defenders to cover what will always be a back four. There, it is perhaps surprising that Trapattoni didn’t bring either Ciarán Clark or Seamus Coleman, given their versatility. The former, however, is considered too young and the latter frozen out for reported disciplinary reasons. Beyond those, it’s difficult to see who else could really have come in.
Many, of course, will point to Seamus Coleman. But, for one thing, right-back is relatively well covered. Secondly, Trapattoni doesn’t even consider him in that position. Neither, it should be noted, does Everton manager David Moyes.
One of the youngster’s best qualities, meanwhile, doesn’t really synch up with Trapattoni’s system. Coleman’s aggressive abandon on the run is in stark contrast to the general controlled energy of the team.
What’s more, it is also the wings that see the widest range of options. Not only can Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady be replaced by McClean and Stephen Hunt but also Shane Long, Simon Cox and Jon Walters.
Here, Trapattoni has been undeniably forward-thinking. As we well know by now, the majority of the creative burden falls on wingers who are already overworked defensively. As such, one of Trapattoni’s most common substitutions is to replace the wide men and it is always about tiredness rather than tactics. Now, not only does he have extra subs but also extra options in case of injury.
Of course, much of this only makes sense if you have now accepted Trapattoni’s attitude. He was never, for example, going to change the midfield structure for Wes Hoolahan.
And, in the context of his system, it has to be said he has ticked most of the boxes as far as tournament squads go: a decent balance, a certain amount of flexibility, no real fitness risks and — of course — a livewire wild card in McClean.
It’s just a pity that doesn’t include a certain dynamic young central midfielder.
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