The big shocks in the England squad were Marcus Rashford and Andros Townsend being included after both finished the season strongly. However, the inclusion of Ross Barkley hasn’t warranted a mention, as he has been a member of the squad throughout qualification. The Everton midfielder has been touted as one of our most talented players for a long time, but he hasn’t pushed on as expected. This leaves the question about whether he deserves to make the final 23 man squad, especially given that Wayne Rooney is likely to be playing in a deeper role.
He has picked up 21 caps to date, scoring twice for the Three Lions in the process. Barkley has yet to make his mark on the international stage and is far from being considered as a regular starter for the national side. Roy Hodgson considers him as an impact player, who is capable of creating a moment of magic from the bench. This was fine at the World Cup, but England have big issues tactically to sort out before they travel to France.
Hodgson needs to choose between a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2 diamond. The latter suits Barkley a lot better as he would be able to play the number ten role. However, this is the role that will best suit both Rooney and Dele Alli, both of whom are currently ahead of Barkley in the England manager’s thoughts. The main advantage that Barkley has over them is that he is explosive, but his inconsistency remains a problem. If he decides the 4-4-2 diamond best suits England, then it might be better to bring one of Fabian Delph or Danny Drinkwater instead of the Everton man.
At the age of 22, Barkley has a lot of time to grow and will benefit from going to another international tournament. In 2014, he was the most exciting talent to be coming through in this country, and although he hasn’t kicked on as he would have hoped, he has added an intelligence to his game this season. He was excellent in the first half of the season, but faded away in the last few months, getting just one assist from his last ten matches in all competitions. The Everton attacking midfielder is at his best when he is confident, and that is one of the reasons why he might miss out when the full squad is announced.
Over the course of the season, he managed eight goals and eight assists, which is easily his best season to date. The main disappointment with his game this season has been how he has faded away when Everton needed him most. England need dependable characters as well as talented players and Hodgson needs to decide if Barkley fits into the former.
It is a very difficult decision for Roy Hodgson when he has to decide which players to drop ahead of the tournament. He has an excess of midfielders in his squad, and needs to decide which system to play before deciding which players to take to France. Although central midfield isn’t his best position, Barkley may benefit more from England opting to play 4-3-3, and playing as the more offensive of the midfield three. In the 4-4-2 diamond, Barkley will find Rooney, Alli and possibly even Raheem Sterling ahead of him in his favoured number ten role. Barkley is young and has plenty more tournaments in him, but I think this time, he could be one of the three to miss out.