Arsenal fans on social media are expressing outrage at the non-inclusion of Jack Wilshere and the inclusion of Dier and Rooney. I am mildly surprised, given Jack’s heroics in tournament qualifying but equally not shocked given his lack of football and the emergence of Dier down the road. Hodgson had played Wilshere as a play-maker at the base of a diamond whilst out inured Eric Dier made the DM role his own at Tottenham and is a more conventional safe bet in the role. It is cowardly and unambitious but are we actually surprised? Really?
Add to this, the fact that he was always going to select his captain somehow in the staring 11. Alli, although Gooners will hate to admit it, is a shoe in but for me the surprise inclusion is that of Sterling who had done little all season or in the friendlies to justify the start. It will be very interesting to see how the 11 set up as whether 433 or Diamond the section feels like the manager is forcing his favourites into the 11 rather than selecting a system and then selected the best individual for each role.
Either way, if I was Jack Wilshere I would be quietly confident that the imbalances will fast be in evidence win, lose or draw against Russia tomorrow and I will be called upon sooner rather than later.
Personally I am excited for the start of the Euros and anticipate some cracking action in the coming weeks with many of our players to the fore. I will certainly be having a few bets and at http://www.accumulatortips.org.uk/ you can find all the best Euro offers and there are many for backing your country or top scorers.
Not knowing a huge about Russia with the permission of @teddylister I have borrowed his amusing and informative look at England’s first opponents
Over to Teddy….
As I excitedly tap this out on the opening morning of the tournament, the action really begins tomorrow for England fans with their match against Russia. But like, who even are they?
Most will remember their maraudering progress at Euro 2008, but their eventual third place finish remains their best ever finish at a Euros finals. A few of the stars of that team ended up in London, but Russians are scarce in these parts these days. Whilst any EPL fan recognises almost every player at Euro 2016, what about the diminutive Russians? Behind only England themselves, Russian have the second highest amount of home-league-based players, 22 out of 23, so even the most avid fan can be forgiven for not being on-point with their knowledge of this lot.
So let Teddy fill you in, with notes on their manager, line-up and player to watch. And watch your pals nod with faux-agreement as they pretend they already know all of your insightful remarks you smash out as you enjoy the game… TL x
The biggest news out of the Russian camp is the withdrawal of Igor Denisov, who suffered a hamstring injury in a 1-1 friendly against Serbia. The Dynamo Moscow hard man is nicknamed “Moneysov” by some in Russia due to his previous arguments at clubs over teammate’s wages, and is now the highest paid player in Russia. But despite this he is no prima-donna who certainly lets his play on the pitch do the talking and will be sorely missed in the heart of midfield. Without him they are lacking a true defensive minded midfielder, and his replacement seems an odd one. Although he is also a midfielder, Artur Yusupov himself was not expecting to be anywhere near the tournament this summer. He was staying in the Russian team hotel in Monte Carlo to support his teammates in their warm up match against Serbia. Despite witnessing the injury to Denisov, Yusupov was moments away from leaving to catch his flight home to Moscow before being informed of his call up. Prior to this, he was reported as saying that going to the Euro’s in his shape would be “a bad joke”. Yusupov has since had to borrow boots and kit from compatriot Neustadter.
Denisov is not the only big name to miss this summer through injury. Alan Dzagoev has been a vital player for the Russian national side recently, and finished joint top scorer at Euro 2012, only losing out to Fernando Torres on his superior minute to goal ratio but unfortunately broke his foot whilst leading CSKA Moscow to a league title in May.
Manager: Leonid Slutsky
Leonid Slutsky only took over the role as manager last summer following the sacking of Fabio Capello, and he manages the team alongside CSKA Moscow, who he won the Russian Premier League with this season.
Player/ Players to watch:
Aleksandr Kokorin has the ability to set the tournament alight, but might get lost out wide. For this reason my player to watch is Pavel Mamaev on the back of his extremely impressive season for FC Krasnador, finishing with 10 goals and 13 assists. With only a handful of caps for Russia and lack of coverage on the European stage, Mamaev could be overlooked by scouting teams and unknown by opposing players going into the tournament. His FC Krasnador teammate and Russian Premier League top scorer this season Fyodor Smolov is another player to keep a close eye on for Russia if he is given his chance upfront.
Formation: 4-2-3-1 is expected, but harder to predict since Denisov’s withdrawal.
GK: Igor Akinfeev
Igor has been Russia’s number 1 for a good 10 years now, accumulating over 80 caps, and I do not expect this to change. Akinfeev is also one of the few remaining players that starred in the Euro 2008 tournament where they famously knocked out the Netherlands before losing to eventual winners Spain in the Semi-Final.
RB: Igor Smolnikov
The Zenit right back has been linked with a few Premier League clubs over the last few seasons – mainly Everton – and has seemingly cemented a place as a starting fullback for his national team despite some strong competition for the spot.
CB: Vasili Berezutski
One of two Berezutski’s at the Euro’s – his twin brother Aleksei also made the 23 man squad – and seems a certainty to start at the back. He is chasing down 100 international caps, being only 7 short means a Russian appearance in the final could bring up his 100th. A story written in the stars? Maybe not.
CB: Sergei Ignashevish
Another Euro 2008 hero, 36 year old Ignashevish has racked up a Russian record 115 international caps. At 36, the versatile defender seems to just get better with age and shows no signs of slowing down.
LB: Dmitri Kombarov
He started the final few qualifying fixtures but is no way a certainty for the position, facing strong competition from Georgi Schennikov, who won the Russian Premier League this year with CSKA Moscow. One thing Kombarov does have however is tournament experience. He was Fabio Capello’s first choice during the last World Cup, although it might be worth noting they failed to qualify from the group stages in what seemed a favourable draw.
CM: Denis Glushakov
Glushakov now has the most important role in the team in filling Denisov’s boots. He was a starter under Capello in Brazil two years ago but has since found himself drop to the bench eager for a chance like this.
CM: Aleksandr Golovin
Not a household name and I do not imagine many of the Russian players are, but Golovin has made a name for himself in his domestic league this season. At the age of 20 and the only player under the age of 25 in the squad, there is an air of excitement surrounding young Aleksandr. Maybe I am being a little ambitious thinking he will get the nod in the first and arguably most important game of the group stages, but what what have they got to lose?
RAM: Aleksandr Kokorin
Kokorin adds an injection of pace and skill to the side and maybe one to watch for the competition as a whole. He hasn’t quite settled in to the Zenit starting XI since joining in January but has been a feature for Russia for a number of years. If you cannot wait until Saturday to know more, you can check out Kokorin’s dog Rony on Instagram… Because apparently being the second highest paid player in Russia allows you to find the time to create such things.
CAM: Pavel Mamaev
Off the back of an extremely impressive and rather surprising season for FC Krasnador, Mamaev looks good to take on the creative role for his national side too, capitalising on some poor form from other players.
LAM: Oleg Shatov
Shatov is currently undergoing a vow of silence after being rightly ridiculed for suggesting in an interview that a footballer’s job is one of the hardest in the world. But do not fear! The Zenit man will speak again if Russia go on and win the tournament in France so we shall soon hear his wise words once more… No? Okay then.
ST: Artyom Dyzuba
He will face some stiff competition for the role from Fyodor Smolov, but after scoring 23 goals for Zenit this season – including 6 in the Champions League – Dyzuba has proven himself to the selectors after a rather inconsistent career to date.
Thanks to Teddy whose occasional insights can be found here
Despite the conservative approach I expect England to have too much for the aging Russians and I think Wilshere and Arsenal target Vardy will feature in the match. With 3 points it is highly likely that both will start in the Battle of Britain on the 16th
Until next time…. @goonerdave66