Written by Rhys Paul
Another tournament, another disappointing showing from England. The 2-1 defeat to Iceland in the Round of 16 has already been heralded as the country’s most embarrassing result, but the crushing reality is that the writing had been on the wall throughout the group stage. Monday’s result means that England have still only won 6 knockout games since 1966 and the last of those came a decade ago. Coupled with the 2014 World Cup, this is arguably the worst competitive record the team is currently in the midst of and it is clear something drastic has to change. With Roy Hodgson quitting – the only good thing to have come out of a bad situation – it is time to look at the next glaring issue of the 23-man squad selected for Euro 2016. In a squad riddled with dismal, uninspired performances, I will assess who I believe has a future in the England set-up – whether in the first team or simply the squad – and those who should be altogether dropped.
Easily one of the criminal offenders. He had very little to do in the group games and it was easy to forgive him for Bale’s free-kick once the game was won. However, that mistake against Iceland in the 18th minute proved fatal and simply proved how his arrogance has begun to ruin his once impressive career. The most telling statistic of his performance is that of the five shots England faced in the entire tournament at the time of Sigthorsson’s winner, Hart had conceded four. It is also funny how Hart hasn’t received quite the same amount of stick as Rob Green did for his mistake in the 2010 World Cup despite it being far more damaging. Jack Butland has to be made Number 1 when he is fit again and dropping Hart will hopefully be the wake-up call that the Manchester City keeper needs.
Drop – or, at best, the third choice goalkeeper behind Butland and Forster.
He should probably count himself unlucky he did not replace Hart for the Slovakia game, but no appearances mean no harm was done to his reputation.
Despite only being in the team because of Butland’s injury, Heaton is still more deserving of a place in the England set-up than Hart at this moment in time.
Squad Player – unless Hart improves considerably
Against Russia and Wales, Walker was England’s best player. I had my doubts about him heading into the tournament, but he proved me wrong. He caused all sorts of problems for opposing teams when attacking down the right. Defensively, he did a poor job of marking Ragnar Sigurdsson from the long throw-in and the centre-back subsequently equalised for Iceland. That shouldn’t detract from an otherwise encouraging showing from the Tottenham full-back.
credit Ben Sutherland
The Liverpool right-back only made a single appearance in France and that was as one of six changes for the stalemate with Slovakia. It was always going to be a tough job replacing the impressive Walker, but Clyne did a capable job and was often the biggest threat England possessed when bombing down the right. He has the talent to challenge Walker for a spot in the first team, but for now he will have to settle for being second choice.
It is hard to criticise the defence on the sole basis that we did not expect much from them to begin with. Most will agree this is the weakest our defence has been for some time. Cahill did not have much to do – he was just as guilty as Smalling for allowing Sigthorsson to get his shot away – and the centre-backs were largely untested. One of the more experienced players in the squad, there is no better replacement for Cahill at the moment.
Like Cahill, he had a relatively quiet tournament. Having suffered an injury prior to the tournament, it appeared to disrupt his game somewhat with Smalling looking particularly vulnerable when the ball was on the ground. He won some important headers and the Manchester United defender was generally good in the air. He can do better and he can begin doing so by regaining the fluidity of his game that saw him impress last season.
With no appearances in England’s four games, Stones is another individual who goes unharmed by the team’s performance. If he can cut the mistakes out from his game, he has the potential to cement himself in the first team (most likely at the expense of Cahill) and become a key figure in England’s future.
credit Chris Barnes
One of the few players who can hold their head high. Rose wasn’t quite as impressive as his teammate at right-back, but he did cause his fair share of problems down the left. He goes down too easily for my liking and this was the most frustrating aspects of his game against Iceland – surely he would have contributed more if he stayed on his feet rather than winning Kane another set-piece? He keeps his place courtesy of Euro 2016 campaign, but a lot depends on if he can maintain his form as I believe there are better alternatives out there.
First Team (for now)
Unlike Clyne, he was unable to replicate the same level of performance as the man he was replacing for the Slovakia game. It’s difficult to see the Southampton left-back establishing himself in the first team and he is in the most danger of losing his place to the returning Luke Shaw.
Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below! Be sure to check out parts 2 and 3!
featured image by joshjdss