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Jason Cundy’s England Euro 2016 preview: Rooney, the defence & youth

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Optimism was at an all time high for England going into Euro 2016 after an impressive win over Germany in Berlin back in March.

Having come through qualifying with a perfect record, a youthful and energetic side came from behind to beat the Germans thanks to a last minute Eric Dier goal.

Expectations were tempered a few days later when Holland handed the side a defeat and in the subsequent friendlies that followed against Turkey and Australia, despite winning Roy Hodgson’s side flattered to deceive.

Things took a turn for the worse in the game against Portugal where, despite facing 10 men for the majority of the game, a mediocre England failed to get out of first gear. Instead of controlling the game, the side found themselves on the back foot and it took a late Chris Smalling goal to spare his country’s blushes.

There are now mixed emotions about England and their chances with some uncertain about Hodgson’s ability to pick the right team/formation to ensure success in France, an amazing turn around in a few month given the excitement in March.

We spoke to Football Fanzone’s Jason Cundy about all things England as Euro 2016 prepares to kickoff:

Understandably optimism isn’t as high as before especially after the disappointing showing against Portugal, but what I will say is these are like pre season friendlies for a club side. Fans can be knee-jerk but you wouldn’t see United, Chelsea or Arsenal fans losing their minds because of mediocre showings ahead of a season kicking off.

England know the spotlight is on them, the performances weren’t great but it won’t make a difference against Russia on Saturday.

One idea is perhaps they didn’t need as many friendlies? The side could have done with more work on the training ground.

There was a positive from the Portugal game, seemingly the worst performance of the warm up games being that they kept a clean sheet. Given the fears about England’s defence this was encouraging. But that said the problems/worries far outweighed this.

Hodgson appeared to be using a 4-4-2 diamond and one of the most alarming things that immediately became apparent was the defensive duties that the forwards were lumbered with. At times it looked like a 4-3-3, with Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy spending too much time tracking back and stopping their fullbacks rather than trying to score goals. Given their performances in front of goal this season, the duo’s main concern should be scoring goals.

It highlighted a problem with the team, that most fans are seemingly worried about; the fact Hodgson appears to be trying to shoe horn all these players into the team and this will certainly create problems.

Someone needs to be dropped to make the team balance and personally for me it would be Vardy and Wayne Rooney then go with Kane alone with Alli behind.

If he is hell bent on playing Rooney then he has to play at #10 and go with Alli in midfield. If he attempts to play all 4, some will be out of position, wasting their talents.

Wayne Rooney

To put it bluntly Wayne Rooney could get Roy Hodgson the sack. He appears to be blinded by Rooney who clearly isn’t up to it, confusing his captain with the player of 5 years ago. The team functions better without him as seen against Germany, they are more fluid and energetic. He is better off the bench but will get played and at #10 to the detriment of a young potential star like Dele Alli.

Alli has shown this season that he could go all the way, some compared him with Bryan Robson and it seemed premature but with a full season under his belt you can see where the comparison has come from.

Rooney would be best off the bench, with Alli starting at #10 but Hodgson won’t and instead with Rooney in, you worry about the side getting out numbered in the middle of the park.

At the top level of the game (Van Gaal’s Man United apart of course) if you dominate possession and the midfield you tend to go on and win.

Defence

The defence is a huge concern. Playing with 2 up top looks good when you have Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ashley Cole at the back. That foursome allows you to commit men forward as well as carry a player or two who aren’t quite there but this defence doesn’t.

Few will have faith in Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Rose, Gary Cahill, who I feel we have seen the best of, and Chris Smalling who had a good start to the season before tailing off and is prone to an error.

You just think the moment they face top level opposition they will come unstuck.

Youth

There was a piece on here about Hodgson having faith in youth and I agree. This is one of the youngest sides at the competition and that works in their favour. 12 months ago Harry Kane and Dele Alli, wouldn’t have imagined being here. Kane maybe because of the season he had just had but he still needed to do it again, with many talking down his chances of repeating his goalscoring feats. Vardy whilst not young is inexperienced and is another wildcard. Dier hadn’t played holding midfield until the back end of last start of the season, the start of this season. And the man of the moment Marcus Rashford was an unknown 5 months ago. These are players that are good enough but also give them the element of surprise.

He has to give youth their shot, when he has they haven’t let him down; just look at the Germany game for example.

He is amassing a good side and come World Cup 2018 as these players begin to peak, whoever takes over will have a good squad to work with.

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