We all remember what happened to England this summer at Euro 2016. From top to bottom as a collective unit they were terrible. On an individual basis, nearly every player put forth some of the worst performances of their careers in France. Manager Roy Hodgson resigned from his job, though he would have been fired had he didn’t, but it was clear that more changes needed to be made.
On Sunday new manager Sam Allardyce named his first England squad ahead of an already-important World Cup Qualifier against Slovakia next Sunday. Allardyce made changes to the squad but it’s already fair to ask whether he made the right changes to the squad.
Admittedly, with the first international break coming just three matches in to the new Premier League deciding which players to select is tricky. It’s very hard to take form into account when only three matches have been played, but dropping players based on a poor Euro 2016 could also be foolish.
Raheem Sterling is the obvious example for the latter situation. There is little doubt that Sterling was England’s worst player this summer. If the team was named three weeks ago, Sterling would have been a player to be left off. However since the Premier League season began Sterling hasn’t just been the best English player, he’s possibly been the best player in the Premier League over the first three weeks.
When it comes to the changes Allardyce did make it’s entirely fair to wonder why some players are being given second chances while other aren’t. Many people criticized Roy Hodgson’s inclusion of Jack Wilshere this summer but the truth was when Wilshere was on the field in France he was one of England’s better midfielders. Dropping him seems harsh especially when his Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott was given a recall. Walcott was rightfully left off of England’s Euro 2016 squad and hasn’t done anything to force a recall in Arsenal’s first three games this season.
At this point, Walcott is a known quantity, and that quantity is not very good. Over 10 years with the national team Walcott has made 43 appearances and scored just eight goals. Three of which came in his fourth game when he scored a hat trick against Croatia.
Walcott’s place in the team comes at the expense of Everton youngster Ross Barkley. Barkley didn’t get on the field in France this summer and rightfully so. He was very poor in the second half of last season. However this year this year he’s already gotten off to a much better start, scoring two goals in Everton’s first three matches. He has a much higher ceiling than Walcott leaving his omission questionable in both the long and short term.
The elephant in the room is the inclusion of Wayne Rooney as a midfielder. Rooney was dropped into the midfield by Roy Hodgson as that’s where he finished last season for Louis van Gaal at Manchester United. However this year he is back to playing as a no. 10 for Jose Mourinho.
You won’t find a bigger Rooney defender then me but at this point it is completely fair to question why Rooney is still getting England caps. Yes he’s England’s all time leading goal scorer but does that mean they still need to force him into the team?
Despite what Jose Mourinho says, Rooney’s best position is as a central midfielder, but whether or not he’s good enough to play the position at the international level is a completely different question. Even if his best position was as a striker, he’s no longer a better player than Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge, or even Marcus Rashford, who was dropped to the U-21s.
When they headed into France in June the England team was made up of a bunch of young players who were coming off great seasons. This time around there’s a bunch of question marks hanging over their heads do to their current form. Ultimately that, along with how he squeezes Wayne Rooney into the team, is going to be Sam Allardyce’s biggest challenge.
Goalkeepers: Forster (Southampton), Hart (Man City), Heaton (Burnley)
Defenders: Cahill (Chelsea), Clyne (Liverpool), Jagielka (Everton), Rose (Tottenham), Shaw (Man Utd), Smalling (Man Utd), Stones (Man City), Walker (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Alli (Tottenham), Antonio (West Ham), Dier (Tottenham), Drinkwater (Leicester), Henderson (Liverpool), Lallana (Liverpool), Rooney (Man Utd), Sterling (Man City), Walcott (Arsenal)
Forwards: Kane (Tottenham), Sturridge (Liverpool), Vardy (Leicester)