Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Euro 2016: Slagging off Roy for fun and profit


As the countless expression of dismay from journalists, bookies, commentators and other folk on Twitter have demonstrated, getting angry with the England manager's squad selection is both fun an profitable. Roy Hodgson's final roster for Euro 2016 is no exception.

One of the principal sources of ire is that Leicester City's Danny Drinkwater was not selected for the final Finals squad, it seems in favour of the perennially injured Jack Wilshere. The two players play in the same position and in theory perform the same duties or at least they would if one of them did not spend more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. On paper, on grass, by the numbers and by common sense generally, Drinkwater is the in-form choice and from a certain perspective, the right choice. If you adopt that perspective then England coach, Roy Hodgson’s selection of Wilshere is counter-intuitive to say the least.

It is Hodgson's judgement that Wilshere is a better player that Drinkwater and he is not alone in this judgement. Wilshere, it is argued by his supporters, is one of the most technically skilled players in England. On a recent Sunday Supplement the consensus among those august journalists around the breakfast take was that if he Wilshere is fit, Roy will pick him. Just like Paul Gascoigne in his pomp who often got called up for England despite injury concerns. If you put Drinkwater against Wilshere based on those criteria, there is only one winner.

If this seems harsh then that’s probably because it is. But ultimately, the coach has to make a judgement call. If Hodgson thinks that Wilshere works better in his team then it is his right to pick him. Analysts may disagree and they may be proved right but it’s Roy’s cock on the block which makes it entirely his call.

Besides, I suspect that the truth is that Drinkwater wasn't dropped by Wilshere but for Marcus Rashford. Hodgson, for better or for worse chose to select all five strikers in Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy, Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and the painfully young Rashford and it is the latter who has effectively usurped Drinkwater. The real are of concern for commentators isn’t whether or not he’s bringing enough midfielder but why he has brought five strikers.

If I was to guess I’d say that England are playing a kind of front four in Euro 2016; with either two deep lying midfielders or Wilshere working in tandem with Rooney in the middle of the park, depending on how well or how badly England are doing. The England manager probably figures that he doesn’t need Drinkwater and would rather engage versatile strikers or attacking midfielders instead. This may explain why Ross Barkley made the cut.

Also, look at that midfield: Adam Lallana, Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley. Eric Dier, Jack Wilshere and James Milner. This is pretty much the midfield that got England to the tournament. Had Wilshere been fit that would have been the midfield almost to a tee. Once he decided to take the Arsenal man there really was no one left to drop. Sadly for the Leicester man, he has arrived at the party a little too late. Given that 18 months ago no one would have imagined him in the team, Drinkwater has done brilliantly to reach the point where he is seen as the victim of a selection injustice.