The announcement of Roy Hodgson’s provisional Euro 2016 squad last Monday was widely greeted as a popular, promising set of players, with only a few question marks. Eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of Jack Wilshere, given his lack of first team football this season, along with the places of Manchester City’s Fabian Delph, and young Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford. However, Hodgson’s loyalty to Wilshere is well known and, on his day, he is one of England’s most dangerous midfielders. Delph, meanwhile, is unlikely to make the final 23 man squad given his failure to make a strong impact on City’s midfield, while Rashford’s strong finish to the season makes his selection justifiable; whether he makes the final 23 or not remains to be seen.
The squad’s first warm-up match, a friendly against Turkey at the Etihad Stadium, took place with many members of the squad unavailable, having featured for their clubs in cup finals, including the captain, Wayne Rooney. It gave Hodgson the opportunity to experiment with his other options, seeing starts for Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. Both scored in a 2-1 victory, which saw Kane combine with Tottenham teammate Deli Alli to open the scoring after just three minutes. Despite Kane missing a second half penalty, Vardy wrapped up the victory with just over five minutes left to play; not that surprising to see the Premier League’s two highest English goalscorers on the score sheet.
The problems, however, appeared noticeable in the defence. With Chris Smalling unavailable, after representing Manchester United in the FA Cup final the day before, Gary Cahill was partnered by John Stones. Uncharacteristically, it was a mistake from goalkeeper Joe Hart, unnecessarily rushing off his goal line, that handed Turkey their 13th minute equaliser. Such a mistake from such a usually reliable goalkeeper begs the question as to how much trust he has in the defence in front of him. Moreover, it really makes you wonder whether Hodgson may come to regret naming only three out-and-out centre backs (Smalling, Cahill and Stones) in the squad. Whilst Eric Dier can cover if necessary, his presence in the midfield would be missed, without doubt, if that situation arises.
The area to focus on, though, is the excitement that is England’s attack. With Dier holding at the base of the midfield, the creativity of Wilshere and Alli can flourish, and the lethal finishing of Kane and Vardy can be maximised. Add Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford (all missing today) into the equation, and England’s attack has the ability to worry defences much less shaky than their own.