As the build up towards one of the biggest international tournaments intensifies, speculation as to who should go to France is rife among England supporters. Everyone has their own opinion about the best England line-up, and it is always an intense topic for debate. The international friendlies gave fans and the manager, Roy Hodgson, a chance to see how some of the players would fare and it’s looking like a new-look England side could well be on the cards. There is a strong argument for taking players to Euro 2016 who have been performing well all season for their clubs, rather than going with the more experienced players who have not enjoyed such form. By that reasoning, here is how the England team could line-up in the summer.
What is striking about this team at first glance is the lack of experience and the plethora of young players. But here it is argued that this crop of players could go on to be an incredible unit in the future. A tournament like the Euros could be the ideal opportunity to blood these potential stars and give them the experience they need for the next World Cup and beyond. But with the talent and form of these stand-out Premier League performers combined, they have every chance of causing an upset in the summer. This is why England, at the time of writing, have average odds on Oddschecker of 9/1 to lift the trophy at the end.
England’s goalkeeper situation was looking incredibly healthy until Jack Butland suffered an injury that will see him miss out on the Euros. The options are still good, with there being no doubt that Joe Hart will start as the no.1, if he is injury free. Fraser Forster is a more than capable back-up, as he has shown at Southampton since his return from injury. It is unlikely that the third choice behind these two will get a chance, but the Burnley keeper, Tom Heaton, will probably make the squad.
The main problem that Hodgson is facing right now is the defence. Since the rock-solid partnership of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, there has been a lot of rotation in the centre. Hodgson actually stated recently that it was a shame that Terry was no longer available, as he would still be ideal and could be a fine leader for this team. The best central defensive partnership available for the Euros is Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill. Smalling has commanded a backline at Manchester United this season that has been tight, and Cahill’s defensive partnership with Terry last season led to 17 shut-outs with only 32 goals conceded in the league. John Stones has shown that he still has a long way to go and his mistake in the friendly against Holland could have easily been avoided. He and Phil Jagielka will provide backup.
There is a lot more competition for the full-back positions, with Nathaniel Clyne and Kyle Walker battling it out at right-back. At left-back, Ryan Bertrand and Danny Rose now find themselves ahead of Leighton Baines in the pecking order. Walker and Rose may be the better options because of the Tottenham Hotspur link. They are both excellent in attack and Spurs have the best defensive record in the league this season. Clyne and Bertrand will provide excellent cover and allow for rotation.
Eric Dier made an incredibly strong case for his inclusion in the starting line-up for the Euros by putting on a hugely impressive performance against Germany. And by scoring the winning header late in the game, he surely gave himself a huge confidence boost. Dier’s role this season in defensive midfield for Spurs has been vital and he is one of the reasons why the club have managed to keep so many clean sheets. His protection of the two centre-backs also gives the full-backs more freedom to maraud up the pitch and help build attacks. Walker and Rose may feel more comfortable to continue what they have been doing at Spurs all season, knowing that Dier is protecting the defence.
Danny Drinkwater has made his case for inclusion so strong over the course of this season that it was impossible for Hodgson to ignore him for the recent international friendlies. He earned his first England cap due to his relentless passion and dedication to Leicester’s title charge. He has developed massively as a player and, because of the link he has with Jamie Vardy, he could really flourish at the Euros. As one of the key components to a side who have dominated the Premier League this season, Drinkwater deserves his chance.
Of course, Hodgson also has the highly experienced James Milner at his disposal, who may be a safer option. Milner has played in three other major tournaments already and is the second most capped player behind Wayne Rooney. He has been considering, though, whether this tournament should be his last. Jordan Henderson also poses a more reliable option, although he has never quite managed to reach the same heights as his predecessor at Liverpool, Steven Gerrard. It could be time for Hodgson to take a leap of faith in this department and go with the form players who have been doing the job well all season.
Last season the breakout star at Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino was Harry Kane. This season, the Argentinian has nurtured and brought forward another outstanding talent. His name is Dele Alli and, even though he is 19 years old and inexperienced at international level, he will probably be one of the first names on the team sheet. Sir Alex Ferguson recently described Alli as the most exciting young player since Paul Gascoigne.
He has already popped his cherry for England with a breath-taking long distance strike against France and almost ran the show in the recent friendly against Germany. His attacking nature, skill, and ability to score incredible goals (see below) are how this new-look England team will be characterised. His speed and deadliness on the counter-attack should combine perfectly with Vardy, and he already has the almost telepathic link-up play going on with Kane at Spurs. When these three players gel, it could produce some extraordinary results.
Choosing a partner for Alli in the other attacking midfield position is slightly trickier. Ross Barkley has been enjoying the best season of his career, albeit for an underperforming Everton side. His aggressive nature and the fact that he has been playing for such an attack-orientated team could mean he is the ideal fit for this England line-up. He has also got quite a lot of international experience under his belt, having been earmarked as a potential star from a very young age. He has shown he can cut it in the international team at various levels and in major tournaments, so should be given a chance to carry on this excellent form for England in the summer. With such solid defensive midfielders behind them, Barkley and Alli should enjoy a lot of freedom to roam and attack with speed, feeding the strikers and scoring goals themselves.
Adam Lallana is another candidate, who could fit well into the attacking system. The problem, though, is that he hasn’t been starting every match with Liverpool this season. If he can get a run of starts and hit top form before the summer, he could also be a great option for Hodgson in attack. The other option is Raheem Sterling, who is somewhat of a favourite of Hodgson. There is no doubt that he possesses great skill and pace, but can often be erratic and make the wrong decisions. Sterling could be a superb player to bring on as a late substitute to split tired defences.
For the first time in a long while, the England manager has a wealth of attacking options he can turn to, with some extremely in-form players. Hodgson is lucky to be able to call upon two of the contenders for the Premier League Golden Boot in Vardy and Kane, who have both been in exceptional form for their clubs this season. They have been vital contributors to their teams’ successes with their goals and it could be argued that Leicester and Spurs would not be challenging for the title without these key players. The amazing success story is Vardy (see below), who has catapulted his side from relegation candidates to title favourites. The history of the bookmakers’ odds can be found online, where Leicester started the season at around 2500/1 to win.
It is also promising that both of these players have made a seamless transition to international football and both netted goals against the world champions, Germany. This will be a significant confidence boost. Kane is almost guaranteed a starting berth, while there is a strong argument for Vardy to partner him. The Leicester City striker could also be effective as a late substitute, as he proved against Germany.
It is likely that should Rooney return to complete fitness in time, Hodgson will incorporate the captain into the squad in some way. This could be in the partnership up-front with another striker, or in an attacking midfield role. This means Vardy or Barkley could have to make way for the Manchester United talisman. Rooney has an excellent record at international level and a wealth of experience. Just having him in the side could help calm the less experienced players’ nerves. If he doesn’t get fit with the ferocious style of play and get among the goals, however, the manager will have to make use of his other options.
This leaves Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck. Both of these players possess the skill and experience to cut it at this level, but there are also a drastic number of concerns surrounding their fitness. They have both only recently returned to the fold for their clubs after exceptionally long lay-offs through injury. There is no doubt that a 100% fit and in-form Sturridge would be a massive boost to this team and, if he manages to get to that stage before the summer, he may even be competing for Kane’s starting place. Welbeck could be utilised as an effective late sub as he showed on his return from injury against Leicester. He scored a hugely important winner with only seconds of the game remaining.
This is a truly exciting time in terms of England’s striking options and there is a case to be made that Hodgson has the best strike force available to him out of all the teams in the competition. Which other country can boast two strikers battling to be the leading goal scorer in a top-flight league?
This proposed starting line-up features five players from Spurs and two from Leicester. It makes a lot of sense that the two teams battling for supremacy in the Premier League should be represented in the national team. If Hodgson does not place his faith in these players he may be making a big error. There are experienced players to call upon should the need arise, but now could be the time to put this new England team to the test.