It is timeless. It is inexhaustible. It is the great pub debate for any football fan in this country. Who should play for England?
One thing Roy has brought to the table for any such debate is a squad that doesn’t necessarily have the 7 or 8 ‘automatic’ starters like the England team of a decade ago. Perhaps the only two names who would always start (rightly or wrongly) would be Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney but even injury has dictated that come Saturday evening against Germany, it is almost anyone’s guess what Roy might send out to take down the old foe.
So here is me throwing my tuppence into the equation. I know I am not Roy but this is my England XI to take on Germany come Saturday…
GK: Jack Butland
RB: Nathaniel Clyne CB: Gary Cahill CB: Chris Smalling LB: Danny Rose
CDM: Jordan Henderson CDM: James Milner
RM: Dele Alli CAM: Ross Barkley LM: Danny Welbeck
ST: Harry Kane
My greatest issue with friendly matches is that coaches tend to ruin the flow of the game cometh the hour mark with a whole raft of substitutions. None did it better than Sven, who just loved to kill any momentum in a game by changing 6 players in the space of 5 minutes. Hopefully Hodgson will treat this as a competitive fixture and doesn’t go mad on changes. These two games offer an ideal opportunity to look at how clubs combinations work together on the international stage. Milner and Henderson with Alli and Kane, or Drinkwater with Vardy alongside Lallana and Sturridge. Whilst not quite at the same level as Spain with their Barcelona players or Germany with their Bayern Munich players, the transference of these combinations will be crucial to securing any on-field success.
England currently are blessed with three top, top goalkeepers in Hart, Butland and Forster and whilst it would be harsh on Heaton, I hope that Roy will give Butland and Forster a full 90 minutes each in these games. Either, or could start against Germany and the only reason I plumped for Butland is purely down to the face I think he is the next England no.1. I wouldn’t even be surprised flipped a coin on this one. Butland heads, Forster tails and see what happens. It’ll keep both of them on their toes at the very least.
Defence could be England’s biggest worry come the summer. The full-backs really aren’t spectacular and none are inherently good defenders. Indeed they may offer a good attacking threat but goals may not be an issue for this England side if set up correctly. With Bertrand pulling out the squad, Danny Rose gets the nod at left back – unless Roy decides to move a centre back across, but no one jumps out in this instance. Clyne can get the nod for the Germany game, and then Kyle Walker can have the full 90 against Holland. The centre backs are a lot harder to call. Smalling would be my first CB down on the sheet. He has been the best English defender this season and whilst John Stones has a bright future, his form hasn’t been great over recent weeks and with Cahill featuring more prominently in a Chelsea side that still hasn’t lost since December, he could offer a safer pair of hands against Germany.
Henderson and Milner would get the nod in the holding roles. Neither may have the tackling stats or defensive reading of Dier and Drinkwater but both have boundless energy, a knack of getting forward and have nearly a full season under their belts together at Liverpool – such understanding could provide a solid base for the attacking quartet.
It is in the final third that England seem to have developed an abundance of attacking talent. Danny Welbeck looks fit and sharp since returning from injury, and is a favourite of Roy’s. Dele Alli surely will be a starter come the summer and with his link up play with Harry Kane proving so effective at Tottenham this season, I am sure that this is a link that Roy will want to flourish at international level. Ross Barkley would be no.10 going forward into the Euros. Barkley has kicked on once more this season, and his directness is something you don’t see often at international level.
Will Vardy feature? Definitely against Holland, and the same will be of the likes of Drinkwater, Dier and Lallana. For Hodgson, if England perform well in both these games, difficult questions certainly will arise of particularly Wayne Rooney role in this squad and whether he should take both Sterling and Walcott. Neither Sterling nor Walcott have set the world alright this season and this isn’t FIFA16 where you just want to overload the flanks with pace. With the likes of Alli, Welbeck, Lallana and Barkley, the squad seems to have much more balance and crucially creativity than Sterling and Walcott can offer.
Roy’s its over to you, surprise and shock us and if you do happen to read this in the hotel tonight and it solves some selection headaches, mention me on twitter or something, it will do wonders for my ‘followers’. Hopefully.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog