England Euro 2016 Squad - Analysis and Upcoming Fixtures
Owing to the marketing of the English Premier League and its resulting popularity, England are always one of the most followed sides in any International competition. Unfortunately, their performances in major competitions over the past decade have almost been non-existent.
Roy Hodson's men (boys) will have different ideas this time around. The team's core is of confident young players with little or no experience of major international competition to haunt them. Thus, they have a clean slate to write their own story. Before I tear apart the squad limb from limb, here's the confirmed 23-man squad flying to France for the Three Lions.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Defenders: Ryan Betrand (Southampton), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool).
Midfielders: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
The goalkeeping position seems to be in good hands (see what I did there?) with Joe Hart in pole position to start between the sticks, and in Fraser Foster, they have a more than able goalkeeper on the bench. Tom Heaton will travel to enjoy the beautiful French landscape and taste their world renowned asparagus.
The defence will be a worry for Roy Hodson, the certain starter in defence, Chris Smalling, who is coming off the best season of his career, is still susceptible to the odd lapses of concentration and partnering him will (most probably) be Gary Cahill, fresh off a below average season at Chelsea.
The full-back positions are still up for grabs (and that is definitely not a good thing a week before a major competition). So take a coin and toss between one of Kyle Walker and Nathaniel Clyne, and Ryan Bertrand and Danny Rose on the other side.
The midfield may not boast the illustrious names of yesteryears but are still more than a capable bunch. Eric Dier should start at the base of the midfield, ahead of Jordan Henderson and James Milner, his form in the tournament will be key to England’s progression. If he replicates the form he has shown for Spurs this season, be prepared for those Pirlo comparisons.
I fancy Wayne Rooney to start in midfield, and try to switch every third ball to the right. Being the captain and the only one to have considerable big match experience among the team, he will need to guide the youngsters through difficult spans during games. He is still capable of that odd moment of brilliance as he showed in the friendly against Australia.
The final position in midfield will be a headache for Roy, go for a Jack Wilshere still getting into full match fitness or the excellent Dele Alli. (I didn't forget about Ross Barkley, he just won't start). Dele Alli, on paper, gives more than Jack, but I doubt Roy sees it the same way.
Sterling is sure to start and seems like the only English player with genuine pace and the ability to beat his man regularly. He has had a forgettable season with City, but will still be key for England to provide inspiration from wide areas.
The rest of the two positions in evidence of the previous international games will belong to Kane and Vardy, and both have both been in great form this season. This is the only time I might get a chance to say two in-form players will start for England.
England Coach: Roy Hodson
Honestly, after his terrible stint as Liverpool manager, I had filed him in the Sam Allardyce section. I raise my hands up and say I was wrong. The biggest positive of Roy Hodson's tenure has been he has more often than not he has given a chance to in-form players, be it Jamie Vardy or erm, Ryan Mason.
The England side under him has performed very well on occasions, especially after the 2014 World Cup. His career has till now been defined by Fulham's run to the Europa League Final. Can he do one better and go all the way with England?
Formations and Tactics
The English have in previous generations relied on their 'own' 4-4-2 formations, even in situations when they had to play Paul Scholes out wide. Roy Hodson though, most of his tenure has relied on two formations...
The Classic 4-3-3 never gets old. This formation most probably doesn't suit England the best, but it is still way-way better than 4-4-2. This system relies on the full-backs to push forward to provide width, and the front three playing narrow.
Quick switches in play, inspiration from midfield and midfielders trying to get at the end of things arriving late into the box have been the recipe for success so far for the English Team. Now go on and do it against a team which isn't San Marino.
This is definitely England's best bet and will likely allow Roy to field his best players at their best positions. The centre-backs and the base of the diamond will hold positions to halt opposition counter attacks and cover for full-backs. The two strikers will play either side of the tip-of-the diamond, and there are two box to box midfielders to aid in both directions.
Road to Euro 2016 Group Stages
England has been nothing short of brilliant in their qualifying campaign. Thier record reads played 10, won 10. Granted their group had no European heavyweights, but winning each of your games is no mean feat and will give the Three Lions a lof of confidence.
It will be important, though, for them to carry the form into the Group Stages, or they risk the record becoming 'just' a qualifying record, instead of being an example for future generations.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: Youth. Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, John Stones and Marcus Rashford are the players in the England Squad under the age of 22. The value of youth cannot be underrated in the England System, with the catastrophe that was their previous campaigns in international competitions, the youth reinvigorates everyone, and adds a tinge of fearlessness and adventure.
Weaknesses: Their defence. On paper, their defence looks solid enough, but as soon as you zoom in, you notice, that Chris Smalling despite having a very good campaign is prone to lapses in concentration and is woeful at bringing the ball out of the back.
Gary Cahill has had a bad season with Chelsea and has had constant injuries which have hindered his game. The Tottenham full-backs Walker and Rose are defensively naive at times, Clyne hasn't performed well in the Three Lions shirt, and Ryan Bertrand, is well, Ryan Bertrand.
Our Prediction (How far can England go in the competition?):
One thing is for sure if England doesn't qualify from a group which consists of a Russian Team on transition, Wales and Slovakia. It will be nothing short of incompetence from their side.
I fancy them to qualify from the group, either in first or second place. First place would allow them to play the Round of 16 against a third place side, and second place will lead them to play a game against one of Portugal, Austria, Hungary, and Iceland.
That makes their path to Quarters not easy, something of a synonym to easy. What they do after the quarters is a story for some other day.
Upcoming Fixtures for England
3rd June- England vs Portugal (12:15 am IST, Wembley)-Friendly
June 12-England v Russia (12:30 am IST, Stade Velodrome, Marseille)
June 16-England v Wales (6:30 pm IST, Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens)
June 21-Slovakia v England (12:30 am IST, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard)