Alright, I know this is a travel blog, but I’ve been getting tempted to visit France during the summer to watch the Euro’s and seeing an England team which doesn’t exhaust you is a rare feeling. For half of my life the discussion has been on how to get Gerrard and Lampard playing well together, how to improve Rooney’s form and why the hell we bottle it against big opponents.
For the first time in a VERY long time, I actually have belief we could produce something magic at this summers tournament. So have a read of my predicted squad and let me know who you think should make the 23 man list.
There is no doubting Joe Hart is our number one. He will still be our number one at World Cup 2018 providing he avoids injury, however the emergence of two incredibly high quality goalkeepers is a huge boost. I was always a massive fan of Fraser Forster while he was in Scotland, however now he has proven to the naysayers that he has the talent to produce the goods in the premier league. We have also seen the emergence of Jack Butland, who has flourished since taking the number one spot from Begovic, as he left for Chelsea.
Unlike previous tournaments, where I felt nervous looking at our bench (none of Ben Foster, Paul Robinson or Scott Carson ever gave me any hope), we have three world class goalkeepers.
Arguably our weakest part of the team. In fact, who am I kidding, it is definitely our weakest part of the team. It was difficult finding the right defensive partnership to replace Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, with Jagielka and Cahill filling the void for a set period of time. They were great defenders, but never good enough to hold the fort forever and are starting to show their age.
John Stones is a very exciting prospect and could compete with Cahill for a central position, while the other central spot will be taken by the much-improved Chris Smalling. I was possibly Smalling’s biggest hater only 2 years ago, but I have to hold my hands up and admit he has seen a transformation, becoming United’s best defender,
On the left hand side, we would ideally have Luke Shaw, however I don’t think he will recover in time and he hasn’t been called up to Hodgeson’s 40 man meetup, therefore I can’t see him getting into the squad. He will get a couple of games before the end of the year, but not enough for a full recovery from a broken leg. Leighton Baines should however hold this position, although he is starting to show his age.
The backup leftback position will be fought between Ryan Bertrand and Kieran Gibbs, although my money is on Bertrand. He has shown the most natural talent and has performed amazingly for Southampton (named in the PFA team of the year in 2015).
We have a great rightback in Nathaniel Clyne, however our cover is pretty poor, so Phil Jones will most likely make the squad as he can cover both Clyne and the centre half positions.
Where I feel we have gone wrong in so many previous tournaments is failing to use a proper defensive midfielder. You cannot play two attacking midfielders alongside each other, while trying to push one to stay defensive, it simply doesn’t work. We should have chosen either Gerrard or Lampard. The beauty this time around is Eric Dier is not just performing amazingly in this position; he is also playing alongside Dele Alli. They have built a telepathic partnership, which has resulted in Alli being the second top teenage scorer in the top European leagues!
This is why I have the controversial opinion of dropping Ross Barkley to the bench, with Alli leading our midfield.
Supporting the central roles, the next two will probably be Henderson and Milner. Let me be clear, this isn’t my England team, this is the team I think will make it into Hodgeson’s team. I personally would swap one of Milner or Henderson for Drinkwater, as I think he has done an amazing job at Leicester this year. Unfortunately for him, it might have come too little too late to make the squad, so he might want to focus on making the World Cup team.
We will have Sterling as our number one winger, who was one of the only players to perform at the last World Cup. We will also probably see Lallana make the team, even if he has been underperforming for Liverpool.
There are three certainties, which are Kane, Vardy and Rooney. I would personally have Vardy and Kane alongside each other and I find it ludicrous to even consider Rooney getting in the team over these two, however I don’t think Hodgeson would be brave enough to drop the England captain.
If you added that up as I went along, that was 20 of the 23 picked, leaving three positions still available.
Theo Walcott: He is 90% certain to make it into the team, as he can cover as the fourth placed striker or he can play on the wing. His pace will be a huge benefit to the team, however he has to ensure he avoids injury as he has been plagued with it during his career.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: He has so much potential, however he simply doesn’t contribute enough goals and assists. He is fast and can be an amazing super-sub, however I think he will struggle to make the squad, as he seems like a less effective version of Walcott.
Jack Wilshire: I personally wouldn’t bring him. This is another controversial opinion as I know 80% of people would bring him as he is so incredibly talented, but that talent will mean nothing if he spends the entire time on the sickbed. He can’t handle football every three days and probably won’t be at 100% when the tournament comes around.
Daniel Sturridge: He would walk into almost every team in the world if he didn’t constantly suffer with injuries. Unfortunately, I can’t see him being in shape for the summer. It is hard to tell how much he is holding himself back psychologically, but he simply doesn’t have the legs for it. Liverpool are probably better off selling him this summer.
Danny Welbeck: He may not score many at club level but he has definitely knocked a few in for England. He also offers something else, providing some great support and build-up play. With the emergence of Vardy and Kane however he might struggle to break in.
Jermaine Defoe: I bet many of you didn’t expect to see him make the list, however he has already scored 10 goals in the premier league this year. That makes him the third top English goalscorer this year in the top leagues. I don’t think he will break through at 33, but I would like to see him on the plane.
Michael Carrick: He was always our answer to the defensive midfield position, working as a playmaker and knocking some pin-perfect balls forward, however he has now reached the age where he probably shouldn’t be our anchor.
Andy Carroll: Another player who has been dealt a heavy blow with injuries, Carroll showed so much promise, while offering a ‘plan B’ to what we already have.
Andros Townsend: He would have to really hit the ground running at Newcastle, as he has dropped way out of the team. It should be remembered however that he works his magic the moment he wears the three lions shirt.
Fabian Delph: His move to Man City means he won’t get as much game time, however it also offers him the opportunity to prove he can have an effect in a big team. He has a fair chance of making it, but he will be battling with Henderson for the role.
Jonjo Shelvey: I like Jonjo, but not enough to think he would realistically make the team. He is a top talent, but simply not good enough to break into our squad, unless injuries come around.
Kyle Walker: As I mentioned, Phil Jones will probably be the backup for right-back, meaning Kyle shouldn’t be on the plane, but Hodgeson has given him a number of opportunities in the past, so who knows.
Aaron Lennon: Surely it’s too little too late for Lennon. Well not according to Martinez, who thinks both him and Cleverley should be brought up. I will chuckle silently, but there are still a few months left to make an impression.