Written by Rhys Paul
In this second part of my assessment of the England Euro 2016 squad, I will be analysing the impact of the midfielders and whether or not they deserve to keep their place in the side. From the promising youngsters of Alli and Barkley to the controversial selections of Sterling and Wilshere, did any of Roy Hodgson’s midfield selections pay off?
A fantastic free-kick in the opening game topped of an all-round top performance from the holding midfielder. His importance to the side was evident in the fact he started all four matches. He was one of the best players on the pitch in all but the Iceland game, and he deserves to keep his place in the starting eleven for being one of the few players to transfer his club form onto the international stage.
There were high hopes for Alli heading into the tournament and – like England’s expectations – he fell woefully short. The campaign was a huge disappointment and it was suddenly apparent that the former MK Dons man had only made the step-up from League One at the beginning of last season. For whatever reason he failed to link-up with Kane in the same way for England as he did so effectively for Tottenham and this had a negative impact on both players. At 20 years old, he is one for the future without a doubt, but it might be better to ease him into the team rather than throwing him straight in at the deep-end and expecting him to perform immediately.
The ship to the first team appears to have sailed for Henderson. The Liverpool captain made just the one appearance at the Euros – as one of the six changes for the Slovakia game – and there were no calls for him to retain his place afterwards. He works hard for the team, but his style of play all too often causes the tempo of the game to be reduced to a pedestrian pace. It would be unfair to dismiss him entirely given his one appearance, yet he will have to continue settling for a squad role.
I will hold my hands up and say I am a fan of James Milner. I believe every team needs somebody with the attitude and versatility he possesses, particularly as a counterweight to the individual talents in the team. He is a team player first and foremost, but it has got to the point where Milner’s England career is winding down. It is time to find somebody to replace him and there are several, more exciting options already available.
credit Ronnie Macdonald
Having started just one match and played only 141 minutes since August 2015, Wilshere was always a gamble. On his day, Wilshere is England’s best midfielder and he has the ability to control games like nobody else in the squad can. However, his influence depends on his fitness and injuries continue to hamper his career. He never looked fit and this caused him to have little-to-no impact on any game with the Arsenal man frequently giving the ball away. The gamble backfired and he cannot be seriously considered again until he proves his fitness and that will require a significant amount of game time.
Drop (until he gets a good portion of the season under his belt)
Another one of the few bright spots, Hodgson’s decision to drop Lallana ahead of Sterling (and to make way for a striker being played out-of-position) summed up the laughable tactics of Roy. He combines an intense work ethic with a great understanding of the game and this made him a threat in all three group games. I was not expecting much from him, but he did the opposite to the majority of players and actually exceeded expectations.
First Team – but probably going to remain as a squad player
Whilst Barkley was never expected to start, it was surprising not to see the Everton man feature from the bench – especially against Slovakia and Iceland. He is a unique player in the England set-up with age on his side, but he still has to find a way of forcing himself into the starting eleven.
What is there to say? Did not deserve to be called up in the first place and then managed to prove everybody right by performing even worse than expected. He lost the ball nearly as often as he touched it and Hodgson’s decision to stick with him showed how spineless and clueless he was as a manager. Julian Draxler (22) and Kingsley Coman (20) have shown how a young winger should be performing and have shown that Sterling really is not in their league.
Do you agree with these decisions? Who would you like to see come into the squad? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Ronnie Macdonald