One thing i sometimes hear from friends and other football fans is that Michael Owen is ‘past it’ and has lost his pace from when he was younger. Although to some degree this might be logical given his long term injuries and his lack of match practice, the stats do not agree, especially at international level.
He is by far and away England’s current playing highest goalscorer, 4th in the all-time lists with 36 goals in 80 games, a very good record at International level. He is also still only 27 which means he will probably go on and break the record. He is the only England player to have scored in four major international tournaments; World Cup 98′, Euro 2000, World Cup 2002, and Euro 2004. This could’ve been extended had he not got injured against Sweden.
One other stat which is most improtant however is his goals in competitive games for England, matches in qualifiers and major tournaments. He holds the joint record with Gary Lineker on 22. This is particularly important now as it is clear that there have been a distinct lack of goals for England in the reign of Steve McClaren. England have scored 9 goals in 6 competitive games, though it must be remembered that 8 of these were in the 2 games against Andorra. There have been no goals against Macedonia (home), Israel (away) and Croatia (away).
Owen is still only 27 years old with several years of football at the top level in him. Although he has been injured for a long time, with games and training he could solve England’s goal problem, more so than the arrival of David Beckham. He has a proven track record and should be given time to recover from his injury.
Even though many will say Wayne Rooney now leads the frontline, he is more of a creative player, not an out and out goalscorer such as Owen. His 12 goals in nearly 40 appearances clealry show this, not to mention his disciplianry record, which is it must be said is improving at club level. He is still only young and has many years to develop.
Owen’s performance against Brazil was solid and workmanlike given the lack of chances created for him and his lack of fitness. He held the ball up well compared to Alan Smith who was seemingly dominated by Naldo all game and Owen should start against Estonia on Wednesday.
Our options up front are bare to say the least; Crouch has a good scoring record but his presence encourages the long ball game which does not work to England’s advantage. Defoe has not played well for Tottenham or England for a good year and is out of form. Bent is rarely in squads and he needs to prove he is international standard, he isn’t someone who should be brought in for the crucial must win qualifying games against croatia and Russia.
Even if he has lost his pace, Owen still has a knack of finding space and making incisive runs in behind opposing defences. Until the return of Dean Ashton which is seemingly a long way off, he is clearly the best man for getting the goals England need.