The internationals threw up a number of interesting questions for Roy Hodgson and England and none more so than what to do about Wayne Rooney?
The striker has been out of form and with call for Harry Kane to start in France, the Spurs striker did his chances no harm with a goal against Germany to spark the comeback. But if Kane’s place was already assured, then it is Jamie Vardy who has gatecrashed the party, stamping his place in Roy Hodgson’s starting XI.
Whilst not in the red hot form he was in earlier in the season, Vardy still knows where the goal is and proved it scoring twice with a goals against both Germany and Holland.
With the pair both looking good Rooney, who stated he is enjoying the competition, must be sweating even if a little as his place in Roy Hodgson’s team is under threat for the first time in the 30 year old captain’s career.
No longer the golden boy, there are other more capable strikers in the side so will his experience be enough to keep him in Hodgson’s plans? Football Fanzone’s Jason Cundy doesn’t think so, instead a place on the bench awaits the United star as Vardy and Kane start in France in the summer:
Roy Hodgson must be rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of picking his attacking line given that it is laden with quality.
Back fit, Daniel Sturridge is the most naturally gifted finisher in the side and can create something out of nothing. In the goals again for Liverpool, his performance for England against Holland was somewhat disappointing and simply confirmed that man of the moment Harry Kane must start.
As said Sturridge can create something out of nothing, but the thing is Kane can do so too. His goal against Germany had a touch of Johan Cruyff about it and for me, and most other people, is a guaranteed starter in France given that he is England’s best 9.
There will be some impressive hitmen in France in the summer but Kane can match them all and can go on to be the most feared striker in the tournament.
Another player that impressed is Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and should start alongside Kane. His work rate and pace alone make him worthy of a place in the squad, but when you add goals and a fearless approach to the game despite his relatively short time at the game’s top level, and for me you have Kane’s striker partner.
Danny Welbeck will of course find himself on the plane, he is a favourite of Hodgson but I only see him starting if Hodgson goes with 3 up top because for all his good points Kane, Sturridge and Vardy are all better strikers than him.
Of course if you have a two up front it means that the midfield becomes a diamond but again, England have the personnel to deal with this.
Eric Dier was immense against Germany and showed his importance in his absence against Holland (this is not a slight on Danny Drinkwater who had impressive debut for the national team). For me he has to occupy the place at the bottom of the diamond and he looks like he has played that holding role his whole life.
On the right is his team mate Delli Alli who was also impressive against Germany and for me has confirmed that he should start in France regardless of how England set up. If fit I would play Wilshere on the left because whilst he hasn’t played and proved himself, his ability is undeniable and he has been to the dance before. If the two do play they will need to be intelligent and can’t both given into their instincts to get forward otherwise they will leave Dier and the defence exposed. They will need to be selective with one going and one sitting. If they find themselves being cut out then Dier and the defence will be in big trouble.
This is a pick that some will call controversial but Raheem Sterling should start at the tip of the diamond, even if he hasn’t had his best season at Man City. He is another player who has the ability, was a menace at the World Cup 2 years ago, even if England crashed out in the group stages. Barkley can also play at the tip of the diamond and is a more than capable replacement. Importantly with Kane and Vardy ahead of Sterling, all 3 can implement a pressing game that will make it hard for any team they face.
Of course this is based on the assumption that Wilshere is fit (I would also use him if England went 4-3-3, along with Dier and Alli), he Arsenal midfielder would have to prove this but his time is slowly running out with just 7 league games left. You would ideally expect him to play in 5 and England’s pre tournament friendlies to guarantee his place. If he isn’t then England can reshuffle with the likes of Henderson, Lallana and Milner available, even if they aren’t as talented/exciting as the players I’ve picked. Milner is a perfect example of this, being reliable if not spectacular. He will go because he can play multiple positions and Roy loves him, but he is nowhere near good enough to be starting.
My preferred side is a side with pace, creativity and energy and can take the fight to the opposition something that England will need to do, but more on that later.
Of course this means there is no place for Wayne Rooney, but that should come as no surprise to readers or Rooney himself.
If we look at his club side Manchester United and their last game, Marcus Rashford scored what proved to be the winner in the Manchester Derby but Rooney would not have scored the goal he scored. His work is slow, laboured and he appears to need an extra touch or two before actually pulling the trigger whereas before it was instinctive, the signs of a player lacking confidence.
If you disagree, consider this; in a performance far removed from the showing against Germany, England looked slow and laboured against Holland. The energy and excitement from the Germany game was missing but would Rooney have eased or added to these problems?
He can say he relishes the competition but he will know his place is under threat, captain or not.
As said earlier, England will want to take the game to their opponents and not just because they have the players to do so. For all the talent going forward, they still look uncertain at the back. If you had to pick a weakness in this England it would be in defence.
Holland’s equaliser came from a defensive error and whilst the ref made a mistake for their winner, there was still opportunity to prevent it.
That said I would start John Stones alongside Chris Smalling, even if he was at fault for the equaliser.
For me Stones has a bright future ahead of him and is already a very good defender but hasn’t developed enough in the past 12 months and I fear he won’t under Roberto Martinez. Whilst he takes too many risks, he provides a platform to build from the back that other defenders can’t.
Look at the ball he played in the lead up to England’s goal that bypassed the midfield. He played another brilliant ball later to Theo Walcott that was well defended and England have no other centrebacks that offer this. My advice to him would be make a decision on what he wants to do and do it early. His slip in the lead up to the goal was an example of this as he dwelled on the ball and was caught in possession. He could just have easily played it back to Fraser Forster, created an angle and received it.
I think it is a sign of how confident he is in his ability that he makes these errors but to kick on he will need to rectify this, the way Rio did, even if he was much older than the 21 year old when he did.