The starting XI Roy should let loose in France

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

 

My England starting XI for Euro 2016.

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.

Joe Hart
Goalkeeper
58 England caps

Joe Hart

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.

Kyle Walker
Right back
15 England caps

Kyle Walker

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.

Chris Smalling
Centre back
23 England caps

Chris Smalling

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.

Gary Cahill
Centre back
42 England caps

Gary Cahill

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.

Danny Rose
Left Back
3 England caps

Danny Rose

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.

Eric Dier
Central defensive midfielder
5 England caps

Eric Dier

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.

Danny Drinkwater
Central midfielder
2 England caps

Danny Drinkwater

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.

Dele Alli
Central midfielder
7 England caps

Dele Alli

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

Wayne Rooney

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.

Jamie Vardy
Striker
6 England caps

Jamie Vardy

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.

Harry Kane
Striker
11 England caps

Harry Kane during England's 3-0 win against Lithuania in Vilnius on Monday

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.

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January transfer window improvements: AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal.

The January transfer window is arguably the most important time of the Premier League season as teams are both strengthened and in some cases weakened for the rest of the season with make-or-break transfers being negotiated and completed before the 31st. As we roll into December it’s now time to look in-depth as to what crucial signings each Premier League side needs to complete over the crucial transfer window period to improve in the second half of the season.

AFC Bournemouth

Let’s face it, every football fan (unless you’re from Portsmouth or Southampton) likes AFC Bournemouth and what the club brings to the 2015-2016 Premier League season. Their recent history is nothing short of heroic, a sort of fantastic dream every lower league football fan has before waking up on a Monday morning disappointed. This season Eddie Howe and his men have shown real courage and a desire to stick to the slick passing style of play that saw them crowned Championship champions last summer even if the opposition they face this season have single players worth more than the Cherries whole club combined.

Eddie Howe
Eddie Howe has the footballing knowledge and tactical awareness to keep Bournemouth in the Premier League this season.

Bournemouth’s antics this year are a throw-back to a couple of seasons ago when Blackpool came storming through the Championship play-offs and started putting in gutsy performances against the Premier League big boys. Unfortunately however, but rather not surprisingly, Bournemouth are locked in a relegation battle and find themselves in the bottom three heading into the Christmas period but this isn’t through a lack of desire or passion, as seen in their 3-3 last gasp draw at home to Everton and their historic 1-0 win away at Chesea, but maybe due to a substantial injury list which includes the likes of star forward Callum Wilson and winger Max Gradel.

Where to improve?

Despite been hammered by Tottenham at home 5-1 and by Manchester City away, Bournemouth have usually lost matches this season by only the odd goal or so and have usually put in very credible performances in most matches this season. This shows that whilst Eddie Howe’s defence could always be improved, just like most other Premier League sides up and down the league, maybe investment should come in the form of a prolific striker who could steer the South coast team away from relegation. As mentioned before, Bournemouth have been extremely unlucky with the long term injuries of both Callum Wilson and Max Gradel, two key forwards whom were in great form for their side before their retrospective injuries earlier in the season. With both predicted to miss at least three quarters of the season, Eddie Howe needs to strengthen Bournemouth’s front line. For me, Howe should be looking for a striker with Premier League experience, a player that is known for top finishing who can stick away those chances created by players like Matt Ritchie at Bournemouth and for me it is key for the South coast club to avoid relegation this season.

Arsenal

In a season full of unpredictable twists and turns is it time for Arsenal to step up and win the title for the first time in thirteen years? Although struggling for form in the Champions League with loses to Olympiacos and Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal sit second in the league at this point of the season and are been tipped by many to win the title this year. The losses of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin due to recent injuries are a big worry for Arsene Wenger but with Chelsea out of contention, Manchester United struggling to score and Manchester City faltering, with a bit of invest the Gunners could quite easily capture the Premier League title in May.

Where to improve?

When will Arsene Wenger buy a solid, defensive midfielder?! I’m not even an Arsenal fan and it massively frustrates me. Don’t get me wrong Francis Coquelin has been in inspired form for Wenger this term so far but his recent injury is a worry for the Arsenal manager. Santi Cazorla has also been playing well in a deeper position, protecting the defence but it has since been confirmed that the Spaniard midfielder is set to miss up to four months of the season due to having surgery on a recent knee injury.

Cazorla injury
Santi Cazorla sustained a serious knee injury in Arsenal’s match against Norwich. The Spaniard could be out of action for up to four months.

For me, there are a few players that would really fit the bill at Arsenal including Lars Bender of Bayer Leverkusen and William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon who both have a fantastic reading of the game and will protect Arsenals back four by breaking up the play in the centre of the park meaning the forward players can play without any defensive restrictions. I still believe that Arsenal too need a top striker. To be fair to Olivier Giroud he has bagged ten goals in all competitions this season for the Gunners but in my opinion this still isn’t good enough as Arsenal’s Premier League rivals have a better standard of strikers like Sergio Aguero at Manchester City. If they do want to bring in a top, in form striker this January, Arsenal will most likely have to go up against Chelsea for the players signature as the Blues are also struggling for goals so far this term. Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid or Borussia Dortmund’s rapid forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be options for Arsenal Wenger to bring to the Emirates in the next transfer window.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RETURNS: TEAMS TO BACK TONIGHT.

MANCHESTER CITY VS JUVENTUS

Without a shadow of doubt the main clash of tonight’s Champions League fixtures comes from the Etihad Stadium as unbeaten Premier League leaders Manchester City play host to Italian champions Juventus. In their recent Champions League history Manchester City have struggled to cope with some of Europe’s top teams and have endure disappointing campaigns in the competition, however this year could be different. The Manchester side have splashed a whopping £142.36 million this summer alone on transfers including the big money acquisitions of Raheem Sterling, Nicolas Otamendi and not to forget Kevin De Bruyne which means that Manuel Pellegrini has massive strength in depth for this upcoming season.

As for Juventus, the Italian champions have always had massive pedigree in the European competitions, reaching last years final, but have suffered a poor start in defending their Serie A title this season. The Italian giants have had a very busy transfer window in which the ‘Old Lady’ have lost several key players. Along with Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo have left the Turin club in a major reshuffle. Juventus have since invested in youth, particularly highlighted through their purchase of striker Paulo Dybala from Palermo.

Paulo Dybala could be the future for Juventus.
Paulo Dybala could be the future for Juventus.

In terms of tonight however Manchester City’s star striker Sergio Aguero picked up an injury in his sides weekend fxture at Crystal Palace and will miss tonights action. However both Raheem Sterling and David Silva are available for selection after overcoming hamstring and ankle injuries.

Prediction: DRAW

Real Madrid vs FC Shakhtar Donetsk – Back Real Madrid
PSV vs Manchester United – Back the draw
Paris St G vs Malmo FF – Back Paris St G
VfL Wolfsburg vs CSKA Moscow – Back VfL Wolfsburg
Benfica vs FC Astana – Back Benfica
Galatasaray vs Atletico Madrid – Back Atletico Madrid
Sevilla vs Borussia Monchengladbach – Back Sevilla