GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI IS sometimes accused of selecting players on reputation rather than form, with many fans bemoaning his tendency to prefer Andy Keogh over Seamus Coleman etc.
So we at TheScore.ie decided to ascertain what Trap’s team would actually look like if it were based purely on form.
And what better way to measure form than by looking at Fantasy Premier League statistics (okay fine, there probably are more scientific but less fun ways of measuring form).
Sure it may be a flawed method of judging players’ progress, but is it any worse than Trapattoni’s occasionally bizarre selection policy?
Anyhow, here’s how the team would look:
Goalkeeper: Paddy Kenny
(Kenny has been in excellent form for QPR this season – Stephen Pond/EMPICS Sport)
And immediately this questionable strategy of selecting players based on Fantasy Football form seems highly dubious. Kenny has secured more points than Given, but this is partially because he has played more games than him this season, as the Villa goalkeeper was injured for a period. Then again, it could be argued that he has also been at somewhat of a disadvantage, as he has had to play alongside an inferior centre-back pairing.
Regardless though, even if Given was hit by a bus between now and June, it seems unlikely that Kenny would make the squad – he was made a scapegoat for Ireland’s infamous 5-2 loss against Cyprus during the Staunton era and appears not to have been forgiven since.
Defenders: Stephen Ward, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea and Marc Tierney
(Tierney has been one of Norwich’s most consistent Premier League performers – Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport)
Admittedly, this lineup is not drastically different from the one Trapattoni is likely to field for Euro 2012, with three of the four players in contention for a starting position come June. Norwich’s Marc Tierney, of course, is the one obvious exception. A potential problem is also posed by the fact that both Tierney and Ward normally operate at left back, though the latter player’s versatility means he could conceivably slot in at right back.
While Tierney has been in decent form this season, it seems highly unlikely that he’ll be selected, barring an injury crisis at full back, with the likes of Ward, Stephen Kelly and Paul McShane all seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order. Sean St Ledger is also ruled out of contention for this team, given that he plays in the Championship – though even if we were to include Championship stats, he would not feature, as he has been sitting on the Leicester substitutes bench for the majority of this season.
Midfielders: Jon Walters (captain), Wes Hoolahan, Anthony Pilkington and Stephen Hunt
(Stephen Hunt has regularly featured in Irish squads of recent years – James Crombie)
The midfield has an unusual look about it when FF statistics come into play. In reality though, only Hunt and Walters seem likely to make the squad, let alone the team. And of the above players, three are wingers, though Stephen Hunt can play central midfield. Moreover, Aiden McGeady is one notable absentee from the list, given his involvement in the Russian Premier League.
Glenn Whelan, meanwhile, marginally misses out, while Keith Andrews is another player consigned to the Championship (though unlike St Ledger, he has been in terrific form of late). Damien Duff, the first name on the team-sheet when it comes to international football, is currently struggling to find a place in the Fulham team. It’s also worth pointing out that the work of defensive midfielders is often inadequately accounted for in the FF points system, hence the prominence of wingers such as Pilkington.
Strikers: Shane Long and Leon Best.
(Shane Long has excelled since his move to West Brom in the summer – David Davies/PA Wire)
Who should start as centre forward for Ireland is perhaps the most debated topic when it comes to team selection. Keane, who again was excluded on the basis of his decision to venture away from the Premier League, appears the only certain starter, with Doyle, Cox, Long and Walters all in with a realistic chance of partnering him.
Best, meanwhile, seems unlikely to even make the squad, owing to Trap’s (some would say misguided) loyalty to Cox, who to be fair, has performed well for Ireland when called upon.
Subs: Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, Steven Reid and Kevin Doyle.
So what conclusion can we derive from all these statistics? Obviously it would, for many reasons, be foolish to suggest that Trap should select this exact team. However it does raise some legitimate questions. For example:
Is it fair that Paddy Kenny has been essentially ostracised from the squad, while David Forde, who plays at a lower level than Kenny, continues to be selected?
Should Trapattoni continue to ignore the Norwich trio (not to mention promising youngsters such as James McClean and Shane Duffy), who have consistently excelled this season, while considering Championship players such as Liam Lawrence, Paul McShane and Andy Keogh ahead of them?
And what of the wealth of options at centre forward? Is Trap’s faith in Simon Cox merited, given that both Leon Best and Anthony Stokes have been in better form this season?
So what do you think? Should Trap remain loyal to all the players that featured in the qualifiers? Or should the peripheral members of the squad be cast aside in favour of their in-form counterparts?
Let us know in the comments section below.