Connect in the back of the net

England manager Roy Hodgson recently announced his 26-man provisional squad, and as always, surprise inclusions and exclusions were largely deliberated. Many observers, especially West Ham United faithful, have been voicing their unrest over Mark Noble being snubbed in favour of Jack Wilshere.

The fact that the Arsenal midfielder has only played a handful of youth and senior games this season adds weight to their argument, but Three Lions would be making a blunder if they were to not just start to France without Arsenal’s number 10 on the plane but also if the gaffer fielded a lineup without him.

The Irons skipper enjoyed an outstanding season or arguably, the season of his life, but so did Reading’s 25-year-old central midfielder in Oliver Norwood, who garnered the second best WhoScored overall player ratings in the Championship last season. However, his heroics in a lesser team that hardly demands the type of performances that could earn a national call-up has gone under the radar and rightfully so.

Similarly, the 29-year-old was an integral part of Slaven Bilic’s system that has guided the London club to a seventh finish in the English top-flight, ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea, but he simply did not boast the edge essential to displace Fabian Delph, never mind the Arsenal talisman.

 

What does Jack Wilshere bring to the plate?

Although both defence and midfield are travesties in the current England squad, the latter lacks the variety as James Milner, Daniel Drinkwater, and Jordan Henderson all appear similar and one-dimensional on paper.

Barring Dele Alli, none possesses the ball playing ability, and most are widely known to prefer back passes and sideway passes rather than penetrative play. Although Tottenham’s Alli plays similar to him, his temperament and lack of international experience may render his attacking prowess redundant.

The 24-year-old midfielder can break through tackles and play the ball the ball through the centre. He hardly fears taking defenders on despite the same being one of the major reasons why he has spent most his career on the sidelines, and such a midfield presence married with the creativity of Harry Kane and ruthless finishing of Jamie Vardy could do wonders for the national side.

In addition, no other player in the provisional squad is on a par with his natural ability to dictate the tempo or pick an audacious pass as good as he does.

 

Should he board the plane to France?

Contrary to the popular belief, he has played enough games to be fully match-fit in time for England’s European Championship opener against Russia on June 11. Having played 245 minutes in the U-21 Premier League and 141 minutes in the Premier League in 38 days since complete recovery, he has had ample time on the pitch to again get accustomed to the rigours of the game.

In addition, he will also likely play a role in England’s three upcoming friendlies against Turkey, Australia, and Portugal. He should be fit, fresh, and raring to go by the time the Euro 16 tournament kicks off, and the manager will hope to see him pick up where he had left.

None of the Tottenham or Leicester darlings was quite as effective as he was during the qualifiers as he won six Man of the Match awards in seven games he started. Should he recreate his bond with his teammates during the training sessions and friendlies, he will only add more feathers to his cap.

He has already proved his detractors that he is the best midfielder the England manager currently has at his disposal, and failing to start the now-fit most influential ball player in the squad could as well turn out to be a suicide.

 

Written by Praveen Paramasivam

Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen

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