Hodgson is prepared to take gamble on Wilshere
England manager sees midfielder’s comeback Townsend set to receive the nod over Walcott
Roy Hodgson chose to be at the Emirates the day before he announces the England squad for Euro 2016 to run the rule over Jack Wilshere.
The England manager wanted to take in a London game before meeting his coaching staff to finalise the 23-man squad – plus a number of standby players – and elected to go to Arsenal against Aston Villa instead of Chelsea’s home match against Leicester City because he was informed in advance that Wilshere would start.
Hodgson fully intends to include the midfielder in his squad, even though it was Wilshere’s first start for almost a year – his last start was for England in the Euro 2016 qualifier away to Slovenia last June when he scored two goals – since breaking his leg in pre-season training. It shows how important Wilshere is to Hodgson’s plans.
Wilshere has made three recent appearances now for Arsenal and although this was his first start, in a 4-0 victory over relegated Villa, he did not last the 90 minutes and was substituted after 69 minutes after a performance in which he looked short of fitness.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger conceded that Wilshere needed to play more games and argued that he would be sharp enough if he featured in two of England’s three warm-up matches before going to France. It appears Hodgson agrees with that assessment.
Hodgson will meet his assistants Ray Lewington and Gary Neville and consider the opinion of the Football Association’s medical staff – who have reviewed the fitness of the likes of Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, who made his comeback for Liverpool in their draw at West Bromwich Albion, and Daniel Sturridge – before naming his squad this morning at Wembley Stadium.
The injury to Danny Welbeck has affected Hodgson’s plans. The Arsenal striker would have been in his starting XI before he damaged his knee and underwent surgery, ruling him out for up to nine months. Hodgson had intended to name his squad last Thursday but because of the fitness doubts delayed it. It is understood the manager still has concerns over the fitness of a number of players in his squad.
Hodgson will name a handful of standby players – he wants to name 23, still, rather than an enlarged squad – and it has already been revealed that Manchester United’s 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford will train with England, although the manager has previously ruled out taking him to France.
Rashford was unable to be included in the Under-21 squad for the forthcoming Toulon tournament, which starts on Thursday, because he will be involved in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
One of the biggest choices Hodgson faces appears to be between Andros Townsend and Theo Walcott. Indications are that Townsend is more likely to be selected as he again impressed in Newcastle United’s shock 5-1 demolition of his former club, Tottenham Hotspur, while Walcott did not make the Arsenal squad as he is suffering from a hamstring injury.
If Townsend is included it will complete a remarkable comeback by the winger who was bombed out of Spurs in the January transfer window and has not featured for England since coming on as a substitute in the Euro 2016 qualifier away to Lithuania last October.
Hodgson has to decide the makeup of his squad. Indications are that he is set to take seven defenders. He has been considering choosing just three central defenders, with Phil Jagielka’s place most under threat. If Jagielka is chosen then a full-back could be omitted.
Henderson’s return is timely after he damaged a knee against Borussia Dortmund last month, putting his England place in doubt.
England have three preparation games ahead of the tournament. They face Turkey next Sunday at the Etihad Stadium before playing Australia at the Stadium of Light and a send-off game against Portugal at Wembley.
Wilshere was substituted after a performance where he looked short of fitness