Sport Editor, Jack Pethick, evaluates England manager Roy Hodgson’s task of picking a 23-man squad for this summers European Championships in France.
— England (@england) March 30, 2016
Following England’s disappointing defeat to what was, lets be honest, a very average Dutch side last night, myself, my brother and my Dad carried out the typical conversation that any England fan usually undertakes after watching England. There were the usual lines like: ‘Well that’s us not winning the Euro’s then.’, ’But we have such a good team’ and ‘Why isn’t he picking the team on form? How hard can that be?’
Well, we decided to give it a go, and turns out it’s a lot harder than it looks…
After writing down any half-decent English footballer we could think of, we then went about trying to pick a 23 man squad, a 5 man reserve squad, and then our starting line-ups for the opening game against Russia. This was the list of players we picked from:
Goal Keepers: Tom Heaton, Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Ben Foster, Jack Butland, Alex McCarthy
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Nathaniel Clyne, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, John Stones, Gary Cahill, Ryan Shawcross, Danny Rose, Kieran Gibbs, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Chris Smalling, John Flannagan, Stephen Caulker, Luke Shaw, Ryan Bertrand, Martin Kelly, Scott Dan, Callum Chambers, Phil Jones, Joe Gomez, James Tomkins
Midfielders: Michael Carrick, Danny Drinkwater, Jordan Henderson, Delle Ali, Eric Dier, Mark Noble, Reece Oxford, James Milner, Michail Antonio, Marc Albrighton, Theo Walcott, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere, Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ashley Young, Andros Townsend, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Cleverley, Fabian Delph, Wilfried Zaha, Jesse Lingard, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Barry, Ryan Mason, Jordan Ibe, Reuben Loftus-Cheek, Ben Watson
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Charlie Austin, Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Danny Welbeck, Jermaine Defoe, Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert, Saido Berahino, Danny Ings, Marcus Rashford, Benik Afobe, Callum Wilson, Troy Deeney, Andy Carroll
Turns out that Roy has quite a large pool of players to choose from, and trying to narrow that down to a balanced 23-man squad is a lot harder than it appears. Dismissing the obvious (those who will be injured for the tournament and those who have not had good seasons), it becomes a lot harder to boil down. We found that it actually was a lot easier to say who definitely won’t be on the plane, rather than who definitely will be. After much debate and deliberation, here is my 23-man squad if I was the man picking the team:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Gary Cahill, Ryan Shawcross, John Stones, John Flannagan, Nathaniel Clyne
Midfielders: Michael Carrick, Eric Dier, Danny Drinkwater, Delle Ali, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Michail Antonio
Forwards: Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Troy Deeney
Reserve Squad: Tom Heaton, Phil Jagielka, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mark Noble, Daniel Sturridge
Starting XI and Subs:
Now I am sure that without doubt, there will plenty of you out there who disagree with not only my starting XI, but a lot of my picks too. This is something that most of us could debate all day, but without going in to huge amounts of detail, I will now attempt to defend my picks.
I’ve gone for just the two goalkeepers. This is a point that is debated it seems every tournament, as to whether or not you need three goalkeepers rather than two due the possibility of injury as you cannot change your squad after the quarter-finals. However, I am of the mindset that if two goalkeepers in your team get injured, you’ll be seriously unlucky, and it’s a sign that it will not be your tournament. I personally would rather gamble and have the extra midfielder or attacking player. Both Keepers I have selected however, fully deserve their place in the side, this might have been a bit more difficult however, if Jack Butland had not been so unfortunate of picking up a lengthy injury against Germany.
At the back, Ryan Shawcross may be a surprise pick for quite a few of you reading this. However, after leaking 4 goals over the last few games, the English defence looks like it is crying out for a leader and someone who can organise the defence; Ryan Shawcross fits this bill perfectly. He makes such a difference to the Stoke defence and would compliment the more technical Stones perfectly. The choice of fullbacks is a no brainer in my opinion. Eric Dier can also easily slot back into a defensive position, hence why I have also gone for the extra midfielder.
In midfield, Michael Carrick again might be a surprise selection for a few of you, but I believe he is one of the best incisive passers of the ball that England possess currently, and would compliment Dier in midfield. He has also picked up plenty of big game experience for Manchester United over the years, something that will be invaluable in what will ultimately be a very inexperienced squad. Michail Antonio also gets the nod. He’s been in terrific form this season and can provide a more direct approach from the flanks in combination with Sterling. I honestly believe that the squad should be picked based on giving yourself the most options possible in terms of style of play. In games where England want to dominate possession, or pack the midfield against the bigger teams, then the likes of Ali and Lallana can do this. However, in different games where you want to play on the counter attack or stretch the opposition a bit more, then the likes of Antionio, Sterling and Welbeck can give you this width. It must be remembered that international managers don’t really have lots of game time in reality to implement a set-style, so therefore, I believe that giving yourself a multitude of options to play several different ways is the best policy.
Carrying on from this point, the forward options I have selected reflect this philosophy. Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney both play in a similar way in my opinion, possessing the ability to drop deeper at times, shoot from range, as well as link-up the play. Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck again have similar styles. They both possess bags of pace, can both finish well and can be a pain in the backside for defenders with their relentless energy. Troy Deeney gets the nod as a potential battering ram/ target man, but gets the nod over the likes of Andy Carrol due to both form and technical ability. Daniel Sturridge doesn’t get in due to fitness concerns and a lack of form in recent weeks. However, should he find form towards the end of the season, he could quite easily get into the team. But with recent performances, I personally would find it hard to pick him over the others.
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