Wilshere essential for Euro 2016 opener after Portugal cameo
The consensus is that Roy Hodgson may not have had the opportunity to learn much in England’s final friendly before Euro 2016 gets underway.
Bruno Alves’ sending off for attempting to fly kick Harry Kane in the face during the first half virtually ended the competitive nature of the contest, with Portugal changing tact in terms of defending deeper and committing fewer men forward to support lone striker Nani.
Some will argue that the struggles of Kane, Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney working in tandem for the first time as a front three may be a lesson learnt, in that this is not the way to go.
It could also be discussed that tweaks to their defensive duties may be all that is necessary, with Kane and Vardy spending too much time tracking back down the touchlines, rather than influencing play in and around the opposing penalty box.
Aside from the incorporation of three strikers, the substitute appearance of Jack Wilshere was also noteworthy and the Arsenal midfielder made a big case for securing a starting spot in the Group B opener with Russia.
Here is how Twitter reacted to the Arsenal midfielder’s 24-minute cameo:
Jack Wilshere's having a great game
— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) June 2, 2016
One (positive) thing that was confirmed tonight: Jack Wilshere is England's best central midfielder and has to start.
— Ali Tweedale (@alitweedale) June 2, 2016
This is why Wilshere is almost deified in some quarters. An Englishman with a football brain who can manipulate the ball and keep it.
— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) June 2, 2016
Changes proved Wilshere and Sterling have to start. Only two tonight to possess any nous to unlock a defence.
— Jack Coombs (@jackcoombs) June 2, 2016
Alongside the questions over whether Wilshere should start, or whether he is fit to start, is the position he should start in.
England have used him at the base of the midfield most recently, but his lack of experience in this role can leave him exposed from a defensive standpoint. He doesn’t always track runners and people run off the back of him.
Especially with the Three Lions certain to play attack-minded full-backs, the need for the base midfielder to be defensively disciplined and aware heightens. Eric Dier is the only logical option for this duty in the squad.
Therefore, Wilshere has to play down the left side of a midfield diamond or to the left of a midfield three in a 4-3-3 formation. Having a left-footed player performing either role makes sense for a number of reasons, even if Dele Alli drifted wide to good effect on a few occasions in the first half against Portugal.
No England teammate created more scoring opportunities than Wilshere and on a night where many looked unsteady and uninventive in possession, along with the ball being turned over more than it should have been, he stood out further.
Dier, Wilshere and Alli will be considered by many to be undroppable starters, although they could work best in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 set-up with the latter in the most advanced role. Playing them in the three deepest positions of a diamond does stunt their best attributes slightly.
Whatever the system, Wilshere’s added creativity, forward thinking and ball retention skills will be vital at Euro 2016. England are 8/1 to win the tournament after their 1-0 victory over Portugal.
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