Connect in the back of the net

England have gone eight for eight in qualifying and have comfortably qualified for the 2016 Euros. So Roy Hodgson is now faced with a choice: Pick his first eleven and stick with them, build momentum and get a rhythm or experiment with players, change systems, give debuts to young England prospects and decide the team far closer to the tournament.

Since England have already qualified, we can get an idea of what Roy Hodgson is planning on doing through out the next few games. He has stated he is planning to win all ten qualifying games which suggests he wants to pick his strongest team and not experiment. However, it isn’t as if he would say ‘we want to lose’.

Of course, he could have stated he wanted to experiment once we were safely through, since he hasn’t, it is more likely he is choosing to build a rhythm now.


Should Hodgson pick players based on reputation or form? 

Is this the right course of action? Or is it going to prove to be a mistake?

Well, I think it is a mistake. A staple of past England teams has always been that players have nailed themselves into positions on the pitch regardless of form or performances, that position belonged to them. I’m talking Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard – Rooney. They are well within their rights to earn a spot in the England starting line up but also a little bit untouchable while in their prime.

England don’t have that caliber of player available anymore and so I think that every single player in the current England squad should be told to prove themselves between now and Euro 2016. I think this is the only way to ensure we take the best possible squad. To give it to those who earn it right now.

There are plenty of players such as Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling who are pretty much going to be picked if they are fit because they are at the top clubs in England, and I am not saying they don’t deserve to be. However, if the Euros were in a month and both Welbeck & Wilshere could just become fit in time, would they go? Yes. Should they go? No. Sterling deserves to, based on his current form for Manchester City in my opinion, but the other two do not merit it.


Other options and the need for well-defined roles and duties

People are taking a player like Jack Wilshere at his best and forgetting everything else and we can’t do that, not if he hasn’t played enough football. Having said that, I think Barkley at his best is better than Wilshere at his best anyway.

In some cases players such as Andros Townsend have already earned their England call up and while he is not doing it for his club, if he performs every time he plays for England from here on out, then he should be nailed on for a place in the squad. But let him know that is he is on thin ice. Motivate him, motivate them all.

Here is the problem with the England game against Switzerland. Delph got injured after 12 seconds. The midfield changed to Barkley, Shelvey and Milner. All three had relatively decent games, however, I would like to know exactly what role was given to each within that midfield three. Who was sitting deep? Who was carrying the ball? Who was supporting Rooney? While they were all fairly solid, no one supported Rooney.


Lack of dynamism

We lack dynamism in midfield, someone who perhaps isn’t quite as worried about being caught out defensively. It’s the nature of the England game to be lambasted after just one mistake but it is the nature of the risk taker to not worry about such a thing. I don’t think we know who that risk taker is yet.

As for rhythm, well, we have failed to be in a rhythm for about 20 years, so I don’t know why we would start now, and let’s first assess our best team, and see if that can find a rhythm, because I don’t think we have found it yet. We may be doing well, but we expect to beat the teams we are beating.

In Hodgson’s defence, picking an England 11 is very difficult. There are many players who could make it, so I hope he doesn’t decide on the final 11 now.


This piece was first published at the excellent The Players Only Club here


Written by Jonny Troy

Follow Jonny on Twitter @Jonny_Troy

Check out his excellent football blog, where this piece was originally published: The Players Only Club

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