What should England’s plan for Euro 2016 be?
With a squad hit by injuries (and presumably instructions, explicit or otherwise, from clubs about the availability of their players) Roy Hodgson’s England managed to put in two reasonably good performances in the international break with two largely different starting line-ups, albeit in friendlies.
The team against France was highlighted for its youth, but what will – or should be – the plan of action for the European Championships themselves?
The Rooney problem
First thing’s first, it has to be acknowledged that the current captain cannot clearly be able to get a starting place on merit alone. He is neither the best main striker nor second striker/number 10 available, and experimenting with him in central midfield, just so that the captain is in the team, is a risk at a major tournament. It’s a desperately sad third act to a largely successful and promising career that it is being sad for club and country: he shouldn’t be in the team, but he will be.
Present or future success?
This is the main issue. With players at international level playing so little together, sacrificing some possibility of success in the present may increase chances in the future. Rooney is a factor in this question too. Given that his quality of play has already started to deteriorate quite heavily, his last international tournament is likely to be the 2018 World Cup, and even featuring significantly in this looks like it would be a push. He would therefore be taking a place that could be occupied by a younger and more promising player, most obviously Harry Kane up front and any one of a number of attacking midfielders in a number 10 role.
Joe Hart, who will be only 29 come the summer, is a fair inclusion in goal as keepers usually have a longer playing cycle than outfield players, and it would be especially useful to have an experienced man between the posts if a young defence is being played. At centre-back, it looks as though Chris Smalling is nailed on for a place, but who will join him: Stones, Jones, or Cahill? Jones partnered him in the friendly against Spain, which may give some hints, but is arguably performing the worst for his club of the three (particularly once Cahill’s international experience is added as a factor). Cahill though will be 30 at the Euros, and would be lucky to still be being considered in 2018, so should he be nudged out of the starting line-up in the summer?
Elsewhere on the pitch, the battles between experience and higher youthful ability ceilings are less pronounced, Michael Carrick’s possible inclusion being the most obvious question. After that, it’s largely a question of formations, form, and personal preference. But, on the youth question, which of the two line-ups below would you choose for France: the 2016 challengers or the looking to the future XI? (the second names in positions are likely substitutions).
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