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England team's Euro 2016 hopes pinned on the young, shuttling shoulders of it's full-backs

Friday 3rd June 2016
Much of the commentary surrounding the release of Roy Hodgson's final 23-man panel for this month's European Championships in France has centred on squads attack/defence balance. It's been claimed by many that the squad is top-heavy, including the England manager himself; who assessed his own selection as being, “ tilted towards an offensive approach”.

This viewpoint is centred around the claim that England will take five strikers into the tournament; and only three nominal centre-halves. In this assessment, the squad is undoubtedly overstocked with penalty-box talent, but there's a flaw in it. Wayne Rooney, while listed in many squad dissecting articles as a striker, and having had a cameo there against Australia, is and has been for a long time a number ten. It may seem paradoxical to say that a man that has broken England's all-time scoring record and encroaches on that same milestone in club football can't be pegged as a striker, but there it is. So, with Rooney rightfully repositioned into his attacking midfield berth, England's squad will contain four strikers. In this context, the attack/defence balance doesn't seem so distorted after all.

It is arguable that Hodgson's choice to bring only three designated central defenders in his travelling party plus Eric Dier for cover - who failed to cover himself in glory in that position against Australia recently - is more significant when it is juxtaposed with his selections at full-back. The real imbalance in the squad then, can be seen on the East-West axis rather than the North-South.

In these positions, Hodgson has selected four young, quick upper-level premier league players in Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand, Kyle Walker and Nathaniel Clyne. That choice gives him legs aplenty at his disposal

His choice to prioritise high-grade, specialist cover at full-back as opposed to centre-half looks all the more significant when you look at England's options further up the wing. There is ne'er a traditional wideman to be seen in the squad, with an out-of-sorts if extremely talented Raheem Sterling being the nearest imitation. Even Andros Townsend would have offered some width to the side - momentarily, before he succumbed to the will of the demon that so obviously resides inside his brain, shuttled infield into bodies and blasted the ball into the bleachers - and his choice to omit him and England's other wide options looks instructive.

Having switched between a diamond formation and a 4-3-3 in both of his side's most recent pre-tournament friendlies, it looks as Hodgson's is primed to line his side up primarily in a diamond in France.

This looks a logical decision, with the depth of youthful exuberance in the full-back positions, the England manager can rely on some lung-bursting performances at full-back as his two and three look to get up and down the touchline as readily and frequently as those players must in such a system. It will be interesting to see whether Hodgson takes a leaf out of Mauricio Pochettino's playbook from this season, the otherwise tweak-shy Argentine had a habit of rotating his first choice pairing Danny Rose and Kyle Walker frequently, always ensuring that his narrow 4-2-3-1 formation could be given width by rested, willful runners at the sides of its defence.

England's Euro 2016 fortunes, then, may well depend on this promising quartet of particularly modern full-backs.

David Irwin

21 year old student living in Dublin, Ireland. Liverpool fan from birth and Bohemians fan through geography.


Total articles: 5

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