How do England approach Euro 2016 if all options are fit?
Matt Haynes | November 21, 2015
Coral discuss the possibilities that Roy Hodgson has open to him after England’s 100 per cent record in Euro 2016 qualifying and recent results since.
Did France friendly set the tone for future line-up?
Following England’s 2-0 win over France, despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the match, there were a lot of positives that Roy Hodgson will have been able to take from the match and these may have started to shape his thinking for Euro 2016. As ever in the lead-up to a major tournament though, it is usually the players who are on form towards the end of the season who generally reap the benefits.
The Three Lions are 12/1 fifth favourites with Coral to win tournament, however all associated, including fans and the media must avoid the usual getting excited about their chances and let go of all expectation. However, there are any one of a number of teams who could win Euro 2016 such as Spain and Italy, while there have been surprises before, such as when Greece triumphed in 2004, with very long outside odds.
Against France though, and applying this approach, shackles were seemingly thrown off. While not much can be read into the result, baring in mind the understandable frame of mind of the French players, there were some positive performances.
Without a doubt, Dele Alli was the star of the show. He can be a great, though Hodgson and his boss at Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino need to handle his progress sensitively, something which the latter is all too aware of. He is the old-fashioned archetypal, all-action midfielder, something which England have been missing since Steven Gerrard was at his very best.
For both goals, his tenacity led to him winning tackles which turned into successful outcomes; the first an outstanding strike from him. If England are to have a good tournament and carry on in future years, this kind of contribution can form the backbone of how the Three Lions play.
His performance, though, overshadowed the fact that there were a number of other impressive showings. Spurs teammate Eric Dier was calm, collected and unruffled in a holding midfield role, a position Pochettino has charged him with this season, which has turned into a tactical masterstroke. So far, there is evidence to suggest that he is the prime candidate here in the summer, if all options are fit.
Another, who has excelled as well this term, highlighting why Chelsea pursued him so aggressively in the summer is John Stones. For Everton so far, he has been arguably their best player and he demonstrated why in the France match.
While he has all the technical attributes of a centre back, he also demonstrated a mature tactical element of his game, creating angles to receive passes from his goalkeeper and having the foresight to carry the ball forward; what was lacking, through no fault of his own was willing runners up front to give him an option.
Should Joe Hart pick up an injury, Hodgson shouldn’t be worried. Jack Butland this campaign has been outstanding for Stoke City and he highlighted why he was selected in the second half against Les Bleus. Having made it quite clear that he is there to challenge Hart, there are many similarities between both. For one, neither are lacking in confidence.
Midfield creates a conundrum
During qualifying, Hodgson utilised a number of systems, each to much success. Initially it was a diamond midfield, with predominantly Jack Wilshere, Fabian Delph, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling at the tip.
Many may have forgotten about Henderson, though he was starting to show signs that, in time, he can become a world-class player. However, the Liverpool skipper, who has missed most of the season already due to injury is nearing a return and will likely increase Hodgson’s selection headache.
More recently, a 4-3-3 has been implemented, again to good effect. It means that Sterling plays in his natural wide role as part of the Three Lions attack, though if the prolific Harry Kane, who struck three goals in five qualifying matches is selected, skipper Wayne Rooney may well be shunted out into a narrow left sided role, as he was against France.
Throw into the mix, Ross Barkley, who has also shone for England when given a chance, the currently injured Michael Carrick who adds experience among such a youthful set-up, Adam Lallana, the ever-consistent and industrious James Milner, who is also a short-term absentee and all of a sudden the Three Lions have genuine options in the middle of the park.
And then there is Arsenal duo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere, who are also injured but have also impressed. Such competition for places is healthy and it has definitely seen a rise in the quality available. There is a question mark over the latter though. While he is inconsistent, when he is at his best, he has shown just how unplayable he is.
Hodgson had hoped, along with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger that he can have the effect that Andrea Pirlo has had for Italy over the years, in that deep-lying holding midfielder/playmaker role, however the 23-year-old can also operate further forward due to his ability to operate in small spaces, create space and unleash superb strikes on goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain, meanwhile, is explosive, like Alli, not afraid to shoot and has energy to burn.
It certainly is an intriguing jigsaw puzzle.
Can Hodgson strike it right up front?
If the England boss thought he had a headache in midfield, it looks even more difficult for forward places. While Rooney, barring any injuries, will definitely be going, Hodgson needs to decide how many strikers to take.
On current form, for both club and country, Kane is the next most obvious selection and he justifies his place. Then, there is the small matter of Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott, all currently injured though nearing returns.
Should Sturridge make the squad, it won’t be his form in qualifying that justifies his selection, having missed every game due to injury, so he will need to be in prolific form for Liverpool and impress (if selected) in remaining friendlies.
Welbeck, meanwhile at one point was the top scorer in qualifying, before his injury, having scored six in as many matches. With the Gunners needing more firepower this season, he will definitely be playing a part when he returns and should resume his duty in the England squad.
His Arsenal teammate Walcott, while maybe not an out-and-out scorer, adds dynamism to any team and to his credit struck three in four during England’s qualifying campaign, though Hodgson may decide to classify him as a midfielder.
It leaves the possibility for a wildcard selection. Jamie Vardy is, at the minute, probably the obvious choice. He has 12 goals in 13 games for Leicester City this term and it was his searing pace which set up the second goal against Estonia when he was brought on as an 82nd minute substitute in Talinn.
Saido Berahino hasn’t done himself any favours having proven his petulant side on more than one occasion this season, though, most notably after being told he couldn’t move to Spurs in the summer, and there is no room for this kind of behaviour in any squad. Another who may sneak into contention, is Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez, who Hodgson had selected for his 2014 World Cup squad.
Depending on how fast the 26-year-old recovers from a mysterious foot injury and then starts to show glimpses of his best form, he may make, at least the provisional squad, though for now, the forwards may just pick themselves.
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