As the Premier League season draws to a close (bar the rescheduling of Manchester United v Bournemouth on Tuesday night, due to the suspicious package found at Old Trafford this afternoon), all footballing eyes will begin to move towards France, and Euro 2016. More specifically, interest will be focused on Roy Hodgson’s delayed announcement of his England squad for the tournament, revealed tomorrow.
Countless people have drawn together countless combinations of players and squads, so naturally I’ve thrown my hat into the ring and put together a list of the players that I think, realistically, would serve Hodgson best in France this summer.
GOALKEEPERS: JOE HART (Manchester City), FRASER FORSTER (Southampton), TOM HEATON (Burnley)
Had Jack Butland not suffered a fractured ankle in England’s 3-2 victory over Germany in March, the goalkeepers would be a no-brainer. They still are to an extent; Joe Hart has looked solid for Manchester City this season, despite the shaky defence playing in front of him. Fraser Forster’s return from injury coincided with Southampton’s upturn in fortune at the turn of the year – no doubt helped by the six clean sheets in a row he kept over January and February. Tom Heaton gets the nod as the third choice, purely for his contribution to Burnley’s immediate bounce back to the Premier League as champions in The Championship; his winning mentality will do the squad no harm.
DEFENDERS: KYLE WALKER (Tottenham Hotspur), NATHANIEL CLYNE (Liverpool), DANNY ROSE (Tottenham Hotspur), RYAN BERTRAND (Southampton), GARY CAHILL (Chelsea), JOHN STONES (Everton), CHRIS SMALLING (Manchester United), PHIL JAGIELKA (Everton)
Full back is an area in which England appear to be rather blessed, especially this season. Kyle Walker and Danny Rose deserve first choice at right back and left back respectively, based on their form throughout the season in an impressive Spurs side. Clyne provides ample cover for right back (and can also do a job at left back), while Bertrand gets the nod over Aaron Cresswell as the second choice left back, due to his international experience. It is for similar reasons that Cahill and Smalling will most likely be England’s first choice centre back pairing; whilst John Stones has shown potential, his form has been criticised in the second half of the season, both for Everton and England. Jagielka also has international experience, but makes the squad to provide cover.
MIDFIELDERS: ERIC DIER (Tottenham Hotspur), JAMES MILNER (Liverpool), DANNY DRINKWATER (Leicester City), JORDAN HENDERSON (Liverpool), DELE ALLI (Tottenham Hotspur), ADAM LALLANA (Liverpool), ROSS BARKLEY (Everton), RAHEEM STERLING (Manchester City)
If England want to seriously challenge in the Euros this summer, striking a balance between defensive-minded and attacking midfielders in the squad will be crucial. Eric Dier has been the lynchpin in Tottenham’s midfield throughout the season, allowing the attacking players to flourish, so his inclusion is a must, as is that of Danny Drinkwater, who has played a similar role for title winners Leicester City (albeit alongside the Player of the Year nominee N’Golo Kante). While not as naturally defensive-minded, Liverpool’s James Milner and Jordan Henderson also deserve places. Hodgson is very much a fan of versatile players, so Milner’s ability to play anywhere across the midfield, or even cover defence, earns him his place. Henderson, meanwhile, is England’s only true “box-to-box” midfielder, and his energy could be crucial. Of the more attack-minded midfielders, Dele Alli is, without doubt, the first place booked. His creativity within the Spurs side, along with his understanding with several other players included in this squad, guarantees his spot. Liverpool’s Adam Lallana is another versatile midfielder who Hodgson thinks highly of; his high work-rate, pushed further this season under Jurgen Klopp, will also help confirm his place. Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling make up the attacking midfielders, despite failing to catch the eye for long periods of the season; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury and Fabian Delph’s failure to gain first team football at Manchester City contribute to this. Jack Wilshere misses out due to his injury issues throughout the season.
FORWARDS: HARRY KANE (Tottenham Hotspur), JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City), WAYNE ROONEY (Manchester United), DANIEL STURRIDGE (Liverpool)
Similarly to the goalkeepers, the forwards are fairly straightforward choices for Hodgson. Kane and Vardy have both had exceptional seasons, scoring 49 Premier League goals between them. Wayne Rooney is captain and the country’s leading goalscorer; his place in the squad is assured, regardless of his club form. The only slight issue Hodgson faced was whether Daniel Sturridge or Danny Welbeck took the final place; Welbeck’s knee injury sustained playing against Manchester City in Arsenal’s penultimate Premier League match made the manager’s mind up for him. Assuming Sturridge can keep fit, he is a dangerous striker and well worth his place in the squad.
These are merely my opinions, and the group of players I believe will fare England best this summer. Jack Wilshere may still make the squad, there could be a place for Jermain Defoe, or Andy Carroll, or even 18 year old Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford. Hodgson may opt to take only seven defenders in order to allow for a fifth forward in the squad. All will become clear tomorrow, when Hodgson’s squad, after being postponed from last Thursday, is announced.