England Are A Mess Heading Into Euro 2016 And Roy Hodgson Is The Man To Blame

Now is the time for England’s manager to be sprinkling the seasoning on his dish, not chucking random ingredients into the pan and hoping they taste OK.

Don’t you think it’s a little bit ridiculous that with just two days left until they begin their tilt at Euro 2016, Roy Hodgson still doesn’t seem to know his best XI, or the healthiest shape to assemble them in?  

I don’t like bashing him, but I can’t quite get my head around why there are still so many important unknowns.

It’s not as if Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane have rocked up in France on a last-minute deal.

The pair of them have been busy scoffing goals for well over a year, so there’s been plenty of opportunity to mould a way of getting both guys, and skipper Wayne Rooney, into the same side without creating some kind of ruinous imbalance.

If they didn’t click, so be it. Yet given their potential goal output it was surely worth giving the trio’s relationship time to breathe in various matches over the last 12 months.

To develop understandings, to fine tune jobs, and to discover the best combinations, players need time together on the field.

Those three had 66 frustrating minutes against Portugal to make it work. And it didn’t.

Kane and Vardy have only spent 256 minutes on the pitch together as England teammates; and unfortunately most of that time has seen Vardy on the wing. Too many chances to get them gelling have been wasted.

What happens now?

Hodgson will probably go back to the 4-3-3 that served his side so well in a one-sided qualifying group. Rooney or Vardy will be shunted towards the wing, and the other man dropped. A pity.

The majority of England fans, myself included, would like to see the ‘Diamond’ given another crack - just not in the ultra-defensive manner it was implemented against the Portuguese.

By asking Kane and Vardy to close down the opposition fullbacks (and Rooney pushing on to occupy the central defenders) the England boss made a super-exciting system look deathly dull.

Without the ball they were solid, but it destroyed all hope of the two front men linking up. Dragged into their own half as a matter of course, Kane and Vardy were nowhere near one another once possession was regained.

You need those two down the centre; five, ten or 20 yards apart – not wasting energy on defensive duties that could be covered by someone else!

England can take the initiative by playing the same shape, but with a polar opposite vibe.

Let the front two occupy the middle ground (opposition centre backs) and get the midfield quartet to shift across behind them instead.

If you’re picking extra forwards, it makes little sense to play in such a circumspect way.

There are so many question marks…

Will Alli and Rooney get in each other’s way at Euro 2016? They’ve barely been on the same pitch at once, so we can’t possibly know. The friendly against Australia was a perfect chance to see how it went, but Alli wasn’t used.

Who’s going to be the left-sided centre-back? Smalling. We think.

Are England going full-on Spurs mode by picking Walker and Rose at full back? Don’t know.

Is Jack Wilshere competing with Eric Dier for the sitting midfielder role, or are the likes of Milner and Henderson his rivals for a place further forward? Not entirely sure.

Is Marcus Rashford’s main chance of involvement as a Danny Welbeck style wide forward - a role he’s barely played in Manchester United’s first team? Possibly.

Might Rooney be shoved back into a more orthodox central midfield position, to release Alli’s attacking urges? Yes, but we haven’t even tried it out yet.

At 68, Roy Hodgson is a highly knowledgeable football man that deserves our respect, but it feels like his preparations for Euro 2016 have been rather directionless.

He has some excellent young players at his disposal, and the nation has a right to feel excited, but I can’t tip them with any kind of confidence. 

He’s had ages to refine a recipe that works, but as the clock ticks down, Roy’s kitchen still looks a bit of a mess.