England’s Euro starting XI

With Roy Hodgson now having announced a 26-man Preliminary England squad for Euro 2016, Toby Jupp picks his Starting XI and who should be left out of the final squad. Agree? Have your say in the poll at the bottom.

For me, it’s Fabian Delph, James Milner and Andros Townsend who miss out. Provided that everyone else is fit (which is anticipated), England would have eight central midfielders in the squad which I believe is at least two too many. Delph and Milner are the least dynamic of what’s remaining, while Townsend has always flattered to deceive in my opinion. This obviously means there is a place for Marcus Rashford. I’m not a Manchester United fan, but I have been impressed by the 18 year old’s raw attributes since breaking into United’s XI in late February – and frankly my question to the sceptics is, who would you bring on to try and change a game, Rashford or Milner?

Had Danny Welbeck been fit, I would have opted for a 4-3-3 but in his absence I have decided on a 4-4-2 diamond as I believe it accommodates our best and most threatening players in the most balanced formation:

Toby's 4-4-2 formation for England's first game against Russia.
Toby’s 4-4-2 formation for England’s first game against Russia.

Joe Hart is an obvious choice in goal (although Fraser Forster and Tom Heaton are both able deputies), with Chris Smalling a clear certainty to start at centre-back. I’ve gambled on John Stones as his partner because it’s a risk worth taking. Gary Cahill is the alternative who has never looked comfortable at the highest level and Stones has the ball-playing qualities that centre backs in all the successful international sides possess. Spurs duo Kyle Walker and Danny Rose get the full back slots, edging out Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne, as the pair have worked brilliantly in-tandem this season and come into the tournament full of confidence and form.

And here begins the controversy. Jack Wilshere. Yes, Jack Wilshere. People will feel like shouting at me for leaving out Eric Dier but Wilshere just is the better player. Say what you like about his injury record, his goalscoring record or his off-the-field problems. On the field he is still the most technically gifted midfielder England have produced in decades and provided he is fit (granted, a sizeable if) he plays at the base of the diamond like he did in qualifying, where his expansive range of passing and driving runs from deep are best suited. In any case, you do not see Dier scoring the brilliant curlers from the edge of the box which Wilshere twice did in the 3-2 win over Slovenia. I have total admiration for what Dier does, but against the likes of Russia and Slovakia is it really what we need?

Danny Drinkwater edges out Jordan Henderson to provide the balance in midfield, accommodating the wizardry duo of Dele Alli and Ross Barkley, both of which I had to find a place for. These two are our match winners and if they can replicate their best form in the White of England, my front duo of Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane will be drooling at the prospect. 49 goals in the Premier League for this duo this season speaks for itself.

The major omissions are probably that of Dier, Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney who most people would probably have starting in their teams. Dier is a class act and a certainty to play in the latter stages of the tournament, should we get there. This team is what I would pick for the opening game against Russia and it depends on the form of Wilshere, Drinkwater and Barkley as to who would make way for Dier. Sterling just hasn’t had a great season in all honesty and doesn’t deserve a starting spot; I would have had Adam Lallana before him. Rooney had a very good cup final for Man United in a deeper role, but it’s not enough to convince me that he’s better than our other options there. Perhaps because of his experience he could be drafted in towards the end of the competition, which could form a diamond of Dier-Wilshere-Rooney-Alli.

This leaves a very strong bench with Daniel Sturridge, Rashford, Lallana, Sterling and of course Rooney providing ample cover for my youthful, exuberant, attacking line-up.