From rags to embarrassment of riches: Which strikers should Roy Hodgson take to Euro 2016?
England fans are used to getting their hopes up for a major tournament, but in 2016 there seems to be even more reason to be confident than usual. England qualified with a 100% record, and whatever the competition, that’s an achievement not to be sneered at. But more than this, the way the Premier League has unfolded this year can give England fans genuine hope that this year they may actually have a team to compete. In particular, this weekend in the Premier League showed that ‘up front’, England has a myriad of options that could make a real impact at the Euros. But the question is who’ll make the cut?
When Roy Hodgson appeared on Match of the Day on Saturday night, it was noticeable that he failed to mention two big names when discussing his striker options. Then, in predictable fashion, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck returned from injury to star on Super Sunday. Sturridge ran riot in Liverpool’s thrashing of Aston Villa and Danny Welbeck scored the winner in Arsenal’s crucial game with Leicester. Two players who have starred for club and country in the past, but in their time struggling with injuries, other players have stood up to be counted. Hodgson took only four strikers to the World Cup in 2014, and this season has shown that choosing just four could be seriously difficult.
Harry Kane has been leading the line for Spurs in spectacular fashion. Jamie Vardy is the Premier League top scorer. Wayne Rooney has recovered from a seemingly terminal loss of form to perform well even in United’s misfiring attack. There’s also the likes of Raheem Sterling, Theo Walcott (another scorer this weekend) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who offer something different from an out and out striker, and even a young buck like Troy Deeney, who has made a great impression for Watford. Arguably, this is the most talented collection of form attacking players England have had for generations.
Add that to some of the midfield options that have developed this year, Dele Alli and Ross Barkley in particular spring to mind, and there is some genuine reason to believe that this England team could be the most entertaining in decades. Personally, I think you have to take Kane, Rooney and Vardy. Kane and Vardy have been in such rich form that to leave them out when they have dominated the league would be impossible. Rooney is the captain and while he struggled early, on form he still has a touch of class other player’s lack. I’d find a way to take Welbeck and Sturridge too, if they’re fit. They’ve got a proven record in big games for big teams, and as well as talent they bring a certain level of confidence that comes from winning at the top level. Hodgson likely won’t take all 5 however so for the rest of the season we get to see these strikers trying to outscore each other to claim a place in the squad. It should be spectacular viewing.
England fans go through a perpetual cycle around major tournaments. Hope becomes expectation, expectation becomes disappointment. This mad, chaotic Premier League has given Roy Hodgson plenty of weapons, in the form of strikers at the peak of their game. His biggest challenge is ahead, turning this collection of talent into a team in time to compete. But on the evidence of the Premier League, there’s plenty of reason or us to get our hopes up all over again.