With just over two weeks left until the Euro 2016 party begins, Roy Hodgson still faces some difficult decisions in regards to his chosen England squad and to whom will be in his starting XI for our first game against Russia on Saturday 11th June. After a 2-1 win over Turkey in a close and competitive match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and with two more friendlies coming up before the England squad travel to the continent against Australia and Portugal, Hodgson is close to making some big calls on his England team and squad.
Firstly I want to quickly disclose who the three players are that I would drop from the 26 man squad currently participating in the three friendly matches prior to EURO 2016. The three in question are Ryan Bertrand, Andros Townsend and Fabian Delph in my opinion. I think most would agree with that call. Despite having a great season for Southampton, Ryan Betrand misses out for me purely because I don’t think we need two extra full backs in the squad with Nathaniel Clyne too in the 26 man selection. Fabian Delph too for the same reason as I believe Henderson, Lallana, Milner, Alli, Drinkwater and Wilshere are simply stronger players right now and Andros Townsend misses out in my opinion as I don’t think he’s good enough to play for England currently in my honest opinion.
England fixtures at Euro 2016
England vs Russia – Saturday 11th June. 20:00 kick off
England vs Wales – Thursday 16th June. 14:00 kick off
England vs Slovakia – Monday 20th June. 20:00 kick off
The formation Roy Hodgson will adopt for his England side at Euro 2016 is further up for debate. With a lack of pure wingers in the England squad this time around I would personally play a central based diamond formation. Despite the lack of width this formation possesses it offers us stability both going forward and at the back. With Eric Dier in that central defensive midfielder slot it allows the forward five players the chance to roam and attack at will, I want to see this England side attack other teams rather than sitting back and inviting the pressure on.
58 England caps
England’s number one, England’s England’s number one. Arguably the most straight forward selection in this team. Even though Burnley’s Tom Heaton had a fantastic season culminating in his sides promotion back to the Premier League and Fraser Forster had another fine season with Southampton resulting in them finishing sixth this term, neither have the pedigree to really worry the Manchester City shot stopper.
Despite Manchester City’s poor performance in the league this term under Manuel Pellegrini, 29 year-old Joe Hart had another solid season for the Citizens keeping an impressive 15 clean sheets in 35 Premier league appearances. As well as that Hart put in some man of the match performances as City reached the Champions League semi-final for the first time in their history. With a low average of only 1.03 goal conceded per match and a 96% claim success rate, Joe Hart is surely a shoo-in for England’s number one spot in France at the 2016 European Championship.
15 England caps
This was a difficult call because I really rate Liverpool full back Nathaniel Clyne but for me right now Kyle Walker just edges him out. The Tottenham right-back has had a great season this time around as Spurs secured third spot in the Premier League behind champions Leicester City and bitter rivals Arsenal. With his raw pace, his strength and his composure on the ball, Kyle Walker has excelled over the past few years at the London club.
Still only 25 years of age, although it feels like he has been around for a longer period of time than he actually has, Kyle Walker made 35 appearances this year for Tottenham. In comparison with Nathaniel Clyne who he is in direct competition with, Walker has created more chances, averages a higher amount of defensive actions and has a higher percentage of duels won all whilst making the same amount of appearances as Clyne. Both made 33 appearances and scored one goal each this season. For me Kyle Walker just edges out his competitor on this occasion.
23 England caps
After the solid season he’s had with Manchester United Chris Smalling is England’s number one centre back going into Euro 2016 for me. Up until the 2015/16 season Chris Smalling has had his doubters and rightly so as in past seasons he’s largely struggled to keep the high level of consistency needed to be a starting international with England. However this term he has been a rock at the back for United and would likely be claiming player of the year for the Red Devils if it weren’t for ‘keeper David De Gea.
Making 35 appearances this season for Manchester United, Chris Smalling has made 0 clear defensive errors across those league matches, has on average made three key interceptions per game and has on average completed over 7 tackles per game. Chris Smalling further has the ability to pass the ball out of defence, has developed a better understanding of the game over the course of this season and has the pace to get him out of trouble when needed.
42 England caps
Choosing a centre back to play alongside Chris Smalling was the hardest decision to be made in picking my starting eleven for England at the European Championships come June. My choice is Gary Cahill.
I’m going to be brutally honest here, for me Gary Cahill is playing nowhere near his best at the moment but we need some experience at centre back in France and Cahill has that over Everton’s John Stones. Stones is the better player here although he has struggled at points this season with Everton who had a very poor campaign by their own standards but as I said, this team needs experience and I think Roy will go down the same route.
Despite John Stones having a better pass accuracy and better average duels won stat than Gary Cahill, the youngster has made 4 defensive errors this term in the league and at the international level in a major tournament England simply cannot afford defensive slip ups.
Gary Cahill gets the nod from me over John Stones and seems to be motivated to undo his poor performances at the 2014 World Cup, this week stating; “I have never been as hungry to go. I want to make it right” when discussion Euro 2016.
3 England caps
After a solid season with Spurs, Danny Rose has to be England’s starting left-back in France. This is perhaps the easiest selection for Roy Hodgson this summer as Rose has come on leaps and bounds in his last few Premier League seasons.
Due to the fact that I firmly believe Ryan Bertrand will be dropped from the current 26 man squad by manager Roy Hodgson, Danny Rose has hardly any competition for his spot at left-back at Euro 2016, even though Nathaniel Clyne can play there if needed.
Danny Rose has excelled this season, he’s been solid, put in some huge performances for Tottenham and has kept a high level of consistency throughout his 24 appearances in the league during his sides 2015/16 campaign. With only 1 key defensive error to his name this term he has improved the defensive side of his game substantially whilst still obtaining the traits needed to move forward from the full back slot. Creating 24 chances for his teammates in the Premier League this year, Rose’s lightning pace and ability to deliver a quality ball into the box will worry any defender he is put up against at Euro 2016.
Central defensive midfielder
5 England caps
Eric Dier is a fantastic addition to this England squad and could well prove to be one of our country’s key players in France next month. Making his debut for England back in November of last year, Eric Dier only has five caps to his name so far for his country but offers the national side something they have been missing for a long time, an anchor man in midfield. The Tottenham man can play as a central defender if needed too.
Enjoying a break out season with Spurs this year, Eric Dier has had an exceptional season and is already growing into one of England’s best prospects alongside teammate Dele Alli. Joining Tottenham for only £4 million from Sporting Lisbon in 2014, Dier has made 65 appearances for the London side, 37 of them coming in the league this term.
Dier’s presence in this England side is crucial as it allows our forward players the freedom they need, he’s a player that England have missed in recent times to some extent. With the ability to both go forward when needed and stay back defensively, Eric Dier has created some 18 chances for his Tottenham team mates this season in the league whilst suffering 0 key defensive mistakes. The defensive midfielder managed 3 goals for Spurs this year and scored the winner in England’s recent comeback win in Berlin against World champions Germany.
Eric Dier has to start in France at Euro 2016.
2 England caps
When it comes to international football, form is vital and nobody has been more in-form than central midfielder Danny Drinkwater this season. After all he is a Premier League champion with Leicester City.
Drinkwater is a complete, all-round central midfielder who enjoys both influencing the game going forward but is also prepared to put the effort in to get back and help his respective side out defensively. This year he enjoyed 78% pass accuracy on average and created 44 chances for the likes of Riyad Mahrez and fellow England international Jaime Vardy at Leicester City. As mentioned before he is not scared of tracking back and breaking up opposition play when needed and this season in the league made on average 4 defensive actions per game. His red card against Manchester United at Old Trafford highlights his rash decision making at times though, something Roy should be wary of.
7 England caps
What an absolute star Dele Alli is. Claiming the ‘Young Player of the Year’ award in the Premier League this season, won by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale previously, Dele Alli has enjoyed one of the best breakout seasons in Premier League history. Influential in an attacking midfield role, Alli has lit up the league this season with some fantastic man of the match performances for Tottenham and arguably scored the goal of the season against Crystal Palace with an exquisite flick and volley finish from outside the penalty area.
Looking at the stats, Dele Alli managed an impressive 10 goals and 9 assists from midfield this season for Spurs in 33 league appearances as well as two further assists in his 7 Europa League starts.
Dele Alli is English footballs brightest talent right now, simple as that.
In this formation it can be expected that Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney would casually swap positions during the match from time to time.
Wayne Rooney (C)
Central attacking midfielder
109 England caps
England’s captain and record goal scorer but arguably one of the players least wanted in England’s starting XI at Euro 2016 according to most fans. Wayne Rooney has suffered a major slip in form over the past couple of seasons and has rarely lived up to the standard of football the Manchester United forward once dazzled the Premier League with.
However Wayne Rooney’s position in the England squad is interesting. In a recent press conference he stated that he saw himself more as a central midfielder than a striker nowadays after a few recent positive performances for the Red Devils in a central role. Rightly so. This season Rooney can’t be compared to Harry Kane and Jaime Vardy going forward due to the sheer amount of goals the pair has in comparison but his influence is still there. Wayne is an extremely hard working player and since he lost that extra bit of pace, his defensive displays have become much stronger. His vast international experience is vital too as this England side lacks in their sheer amount of England caps.
In my opinion Wayne Rooney has more drive than Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere to name but a few and due to his nature as England’s highest ever goal scorer and captain, it would be foolish to drop him going into a major tournament. His 7 goals in our Euro 2016 qualifiers show he still has an eye for goal.
As mentioned before his positioning in this formation if it were to be adopted by Roy Hodgson would be flexible as him and Dele Alli would frequently swap positions during matches.
6 England caps
Mr Roy of the Rovers himself, Jamie Vardy has brought a fresh of breath air with him into the England set up. His true underdog story has inspired a nation and his inclusion in the England squad has excited many a fan since his debut against Ireland back in June last year. On his day Jaime Vardy can be lethal, best highlighted with his 24 goals for new Premier League champions Leicester City in his 36 league appearances this year. Jaime Vardy finished as the second highest scorer in the Prem this season coming only second to England partner and Spurs striker Harry Kane.
Vardy has all the key attributes a forward needs to succeed at the highest level. His pace is electric; his finishing is magnificent whilst his decision making is strong for a forward. As well as his 24 league goals for Leicester, Vardy further assisted on 6 occasions and created a further 40 chances this season for the Midlands side. Vardy had a total of 93 attempts on goal this season with 57% of those efforts landing on target, a higher percentage than Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. The striker is not shy to get his foot stuck in either, winning 37% of his duels this term which for a forward is very good reading.
With 4 goals in his last 4 England matches Vardy could prove to be England’s talisman in France. In this selection I fully believe that Jaime Vardy compliments Harry Kane very well and could form an explosive partnership with his England colleague at the European Championships in June.
11 England caps
Last but not least comes Tottenham forward Harry Kane. The striker, who largely carried Spurs to their highest ever Premier League finish, has been in scintillating form this season once again. With 25 goals in 38 league appearances, Harry Kane deservedly grabbed this seasons Premier League golden boot award from under the nose of England counterpart Jaime Vardy.
Over the last two seasons no player in the Premier League has scored more goals than Kane who has 46 goals in 70 league appearances for Spurs. His impressive goal scoring record has led many a football fan and critic alike to believe that Kane will overtake Alan Shearer for the title of most Premier League goals later on in his career. With 124 attempts at goal over the course of the 2015/16 EPL campaign, with a 60% shots on target ratio, it is evident that the Spurs forward is not shy in front of goal. At the international level the talisman has further impressed since making his debut against Lithuania last March, scoring on five occasions in only 11 matches for England’s first team.
Alongside Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane could be prolific; the pair complement each other perfectly. Kane is a complete centre forward. He has the finishing, the height, the strength and the composure that all world class forwards need and with the Tottenham man still only at the young age of 22, Harry Kane has a very bright future ahead of him for the England team.