Roy Hodgson announced the 23-man squad he will be taking with him to Euro 2012 on Wednesday and made some highly contentious decisions, not least in the midfield section of his travelling party.
Focusing centrally, we see the inclusion of Manchester City’s defensively-minded midfielder, Gareth Barry, beating off competition from Manchester United’s Michael Carrick. Barry is likely to start against France in a withdrawn midfield, holding position whilst others drive forward. His experience, (52 caps to Carrick’s 22) was possibly a key factor in Hodgson’s decision to place him in the squad.
We also see the infamous duo of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, two of the remaining players of the so-called ‘Golden Generation’. Hodgson will be as aware as anyone of the well-documented failure of the two undeniably excellent midfielders to link together. After naming Gerrard as his captain, he is likely to start with the Liverpudlian, and is unlikely to become yet another manager who struggles to combine the pair’s greatness, leaving Lampard as an option from the bench.
Scott Parker is also included. Parker is another who is likely to start, alongside Barry in a more defence-orientated role than Gerrard, but with more freedom to get forward and attack than Barry. Parker’s determination and work-rate has won him many plaudits over the last two seasons, and it would have been a major shock had the Spurs man been left out of the squad but injury may yet threaten his participation.
On the wings, the inclusion of Stewart Downing has baffled many onlookers. The left-footer has been out-of-sorts this season, but Hodgson will look for him to recapture the form he showed earlier in his career during his spells with Middlesbrough and Aston Villa that convinced Liverpool to pay £20m for his services.
Whilst the decision to leave out the likes of Aaron Lennon and Daniel Sturridge is being contested, few will argue with the inclusion of Ashley Young. The Manchester United winger may have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons towards the end of the season, but his pace and delivery means he can provide a threat going forward for England, and he is likely to start in the opening fixture.
The same can be said of Arsenal winger Theo Walcott, who produced some blistering performances for the Gunners as they surged to third place. Meanwhile the unknown quantity of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could prove to be an intriguing weapon to England’s armoury, even if he is likely to start on the bench behind Walcott, who was beginning to hit form before his injury in April. Finally, we see the inclusion of Manchester City fringe midfielder James Milner. Milner’s versatility was no doubt the main reason behind his inclusion, with the former Villa man equally as effective on both wings as he is in a central position.
While some will disagree with the selection of England’s Euro 2012 midfielders, Hodgson’s decisions have been made and he has attempted to find a balance between defensive protection and attacking threat.
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