Who is going to make England’s Euro 2016 squad?
During qualification for Euro 2016, where England earned ten victories from ten matches, Roy Hodgson used no fewer than 33 players and three separate systems. Nevertheless, naming his potential 23-man squad for next summer’s tournament isn’t as tricky as you might expect…
Joe Hart is England’s number one, and arguably the only player who deserves his status as undroppable. His immediate back-up is probably now Jack Butland, who has been hugely impressive in his first season as Stoke City’s first-choice keeper, with his England position strengthened because of long-term injuries suffered by both Fraser Forster and Ben Foster.
The latter is due back shortly, has a head start on Southampton’s Forster, and therefore seems most likely to make the squad. Burnley’s Tom Heaton was in the most recent squad, but is an outsider here.
Hart, Butland, Foster.
This appeared England’s problem area at this point last year. However, Chris Smalling has improved significantly and started this season in particularly good form, while John Stones has progressed further at Everton too. On form, those two should form England’s centre-back partnership, but Gary Cahill has started pretty much every major game over the past three years, and will probably start.
Phil Jones has just about completed his return from injury and his versatility means he’ll probably get the nod over Phil Jagielka. The Everton skipper captained England this week, but his form has declined over the past couple of years, and realistically he’s not quite good enough for this level any more.
Smalling, Cahill, Stones, Jones.
Hodgson is in a peculiar situation here, because he has several excellent options on the left, and very few on the right.
On the left, it’s difficult to imagine Luke Shaw will return in time after suffering a horrific leg break recently – and even if he does, it will be tough to reach full fitness. Hodgson likes Leighton Baines, although his style has never worked particularly well in this England side, and he’s yet to play this season because of injury. His place could be in danger, because Ryan Bertrand is performing well for Southampton, and while Kieran Gibbs can’t get a game at Arsenal, he started more of the qualifiers than any other left-back. Danny Rose has also improved over the past season and is another option, but Baines and Bertrand seem more likely.
On the right, Nathaniel Clyne has become undisputed first-choice without ever particularly impressing for England, summarising the lack of options. Kyle Walker has often done well for England, although it feels like Hodgson will gamble by not taking a reserve right-back, in the knowledge both Jones and Stones can cover if needed. This was his approach at the World Cup, and allows him to take an extra attacker.
Clyne, Baines, Bertrand
Hodgson has used Jack Wilshere, when fit, at the base of his midfield, and this will probably be his approach next summer. The worrying thing is the lack of alternatives, though, which means Michael Carrick – always on the fringes of the squad – could make his first tournament since 2010. However, an outsider could upset the party: Eric Dier has performed very well in a deep midfield role for Spurs this season, and while he’s yet to make his international debut, he could well command a place ahead of Carrick if his good club form continues.
There are lots of certainties in this zone – Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Fabian Delph are all useful for playing on the outside of a diamond, or as part of a three-man midfield. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can play in the centre or out wide, and is still yet to lose for England, while Ross Barkley was England’s best performer this week. Andros Townsend has always performed better for England than for Spurs, and Hodgson likes him a lot, but he’ll probably miss out here unless he enjoys a fine domestic campaign.
Wishere, Carrick, Henderson, Milner, Delph, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Barkley
Going forward, it’s tough to see Hodgson leaving out any of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Hodgson wants pace from his attackers, which means Kane will probably be a supersub. Rooney won’t be dropped, despite questionable form and the difficulty of finding his best position. Sturridge didn’t feature in any of the qualifiers through injury but will surely return, while Welbeck is out for half the campaign but was England’s best player in the qualifiers this time last year.
This means the likes of Jamie Vardy and Saido Berahino will have to do something extraordinary to break into the 23-man squad – and even if one of the aforementioned six attackers drop out through injury, Hodgson might then strengthen the defensive positions anyway.
Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck, Kane, Walcott, Sterling
Compared to Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad, there aren’t the established superstars like Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Ashley Cole – but then there aren’t back-ups as a poor as Martin Kelly and Stewart Downing either.
It’s a deeper squad than England have had in previous years, with various players of similar quality competing for lots of positions. Hodgson could probably name much of his 23-man squad today, but selecting his starting XI will be much trickier.
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October 15th, 2015 by Michael Cox