Who is in and who is out for Euro 2016
The Telegraph team pick their squads for France
Danny Welbeck’s injury is a late blow and Roy Hodgson can now restrict himself to four forwards and look to strike the right balance in midfield. To take Jordan Henderson after such a long absence would be a gamble, given Hodgson’s liking for Jack Wilshere (another to have returned only recently), so Danny Drinkwater must go, at the very least as back-up to Eric Dier. James Milner is no championship starter but can cover most positions. Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli are the best options in the attacking areas. Centre-half is Hodgson’s big concern. On recent form, there is no case for including John Stones, but the hope must be that Hodgson and Gary Neville can strip his mind of all the bad habits he has developed. Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling are the obvious starters, with Phil Jagielka as back-up if Stones fails to deliver. The front four are Hodgson’s greatest strength. Daniel Sturridge was great against Villarreal and Jamie Vardy is indefatigable. Tottenham’s Harry Kane may need lifting but his talent and enthusiasm should kick in.
The first big decision would be to leave out Kyle Walker, but there is cover for Nathaniel Clyne at right-back with John Stones and even Chris Smalling. Eric Dier can also play centre-back and Hodgson needs to save a place to take five strikers. I would risk Jack Wilshere because he gives something different. But Roy Hodgson cannot afford to take two recently injured players, so Jordan Henderson misses out. Danny Drinkwater deserves to go ahead of Fabian Delph. The midfield choices are weighted in favour of more centrally focused players but I would expect Hodgson to use Danny Welbeck, Jamie Vardy and possibly even Daniel Sturridge in the wide attacking positions. No place for Theo Walcott. He will have known that the pressure was on to deliver and he has not done enough. Andros Townsend also gets a mention as his club form has been excellent. I would expect both to be on standby, along with Henderson, Delph, Fraser Forster, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe. The squad seems thinnest at centre-back, with Phil Jones due a callup if injuries strike.
England’s starting XI is fairly settled, although Jack Wilshere would warrant a place in it when fully fit. But he has not played enough this season, so should miss out. Given a manager should not need 23 players, there is an argument for taking him, but there are others with stronger cases who offer something else. I do not believe in the argument that you have to take players with tournament experience or that players deserve to go through loyalty or because they have ‘not let the country down’. Decades of serial failure show that to be nonsense. So there should be room for some wild cards, players in form who are also strong characters and would, crucially, fit in easily. England have a young squad, so a couple of older players with different experience would add to it. For those reasons I would include West Ham captain Mark Noble, a leader and a fine midfielder, and Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe, who has found a new lease of life this season and offers something different as an attacking option. If Jordan Henderson is not fully fit he, too, should be left out. There are enough options.
It is a gamble to take only one specialist right-back – and Kyle Walker would be unfortunate to miss out – but Chris Smalling could also cover that position and Eric Dier offers an additional centreback possibility. The left-backs, Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand, both also have added experience in a leftsided attacking role. Jack Wilshere is almost certain to be included, but James Milner and Danny Drinkwater have been more reliable and effective over the past 18 months. Michael Carrick remains the best back-up in the holding-midfield role that should be filled by Dier. Dele Alli, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling provide different options among the offensive midfielders and, in Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott, England would also have strikers who could play in a deeper or wider role. Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane are obvious selections but the injury to Danny Welbeck should open a door for Theo Walcott. Most opposition defences would still be happier not to see him on the bench.
Wayne Rooney has indicated a willingness to start out wide or in midfield for England — and I would take him up on that option. I list the captain among my midfielders instead of Jordan Henderson, who has been out through injury. I believe Rooney would be a far more effective option starting in either a three-man midfield or as one of the wide forwards. That allows me to pick both Andros Townsend and Theo Walcott, who can make an impact off the substitutes’ bench and offer Roy Hodgson different options. There is no place for James Milner, as Townsend and Walcott can both play on the right, while there are enough central options to leave out the Liverpool midfielder. At the back, I have included Phil Jagielka and instead dropped Nathaniel Clyne, because there are enough players who can cover right-back if Kyle Walker picks up an injury or suspension. Aaron Cresswell gets the nod as my secondchoice left-back, thanks to his superb form for West Ham. I would include Clyne, Henderson, Milner, Jermain Defoe and Leighton Baines on my standby list in case of any late injuries.
Aaron Cresswell’s form has been excellent and merits a left-back place with Danny Rose. Eric Dier is the outstanding holding midfielder but I still rate Michael Carrick highly and would take him. Mark Noble is close but I understand why Roy Hodgson seems to be inclined to gamble on the fitness of Jack Wilshere, who can play that holding role but also break forward. James Milner’s versatility is valuable and he has had a good season at Liverpool, although I would have Dele Alli starting with Dier. I am also a big fan of Ross Barkley and I think that Andros Townsend is worth including because he gives you genuine width. I would take him ahead of Theo Walcott. Raheem Sterling can play in different attacking positions and the four main strikers largely pick themselves. Wayne Rooney still has a lot to offer and Daniel Sturridge could be used wide as well as centrally in a team with Harry Kane or Jamie Vardy through the middle. I think this squad has a good balance and plenty of goals in it. I don’t see why we can’t win this tournament.