Will this Liverpool or Spurs full-back win England's Euro 2016 battle?
With Euro 2016 rapidly approaching, England boss Roy Hodgson still has some decisions to make over his first-choice starting 11. One of these positions is right-back where Nathaniel Clyne and Kyle Walker both have strong claims to deserve a starting berth. Clyne is probably the man in possession at the moment, but should he be, and is Walker close enough to convince Hodgson otherwise in the two remaining friendlies.
The common view is that Walker is a fantastic asset in an attacking sense, but often leaves himself; and therefore the team, more vulnerable defensively. This is a very similar trait to England predecessor Glen Johnson, who often came in for wide criticism from fans.
On the other hand, Clyne appears to be more defensively reliable, rarely being caught out. However, despite making numerous forward runs, he doesn’t provide as much in an attacking sense and lacks Walker’s ability to go past players in a one-on-one situation.
Both men played 33 Premier League games this season, with Walker enjoying a title charge with Spurs, and Clyne and Liverpool having their best moments in cup competitions by reaching the Capital One Cup and Europa League finals. Ultimately, both men came up short on all of these fronts, meaning they will head to the Euros amid disappointment rather than jubilation.
Confidence is such an important ingredient for success on a football pitch that Hodgson and his staff will need to assess how both players are feeling. However, as professional footballers, one would hope that both will be raring to go with the opportunity to represent their country at an international tournament.
Walker provided more key passes (31 v 24), created more chances (34 v 24) and supplied more assists (3 v 0) than Clyne in the 2015-16 Premier League season, proving his capability in the attacking third of the pitch. Many of these chances would also have been for Harry Kane and Dele Alli, two players who look assured of a position in the England team. That familiarity, along with the probably inclusions of Eric Dier and Danny Rose, could work in the recently turned 26 year-old’s favour.
Walker was also much stronger aerially than his England colleague, wining nearly two thirds of his aerial duels compared to just one third for the Liverpool man. However, Clyne committed 10 less fouls (19 v 29) than the Spurs full-back and only produced 1 defensive error all season compared to Walker’s 5.
With tournament football being such a short burst compared to a 38 game league season, errors can ill afford to be made and could prove to be potentially catastrophic.
The decision over his right-back is a nice headache for Hodgson to have and it may be that choices in other areas of the pitch dictate his choice. John Stones appears to be third choice centre-back at present but should he force his way into the starting 11 through form or injury, the more defensively dependable Clyne may be seen as the smarter option.
Similarly, in central midfield, Eric Dier appears assured of a starting berth but who plays alongside him remains to be seen. Hodgson appears to be a big fan of Jack Wilshire but the Arsenal man will provide very limited support for the back four and therefore, Clyne’s added defensive security may be required.
On the other hand, should the manger decide to partner James Milner or Jordan Henderson with the Spurs anchor-man, he may feel that their extra legs can help to cover any gaps the more-attack minded Walker leaves and that having his full9-back as an attacking threat is a greater asset.
The Three Lions will find teams sitting deep and trying to frustrate them in the group stages, meaning Walker’s attacking qualities could come in useful. However, whilst not as strong as the Spurs man in this department, Clyne is more than capable of joining attacks and providing a useful outlet.
Additionally, should England get to the later stages of the tournament they will start to face stronger teams. England’s weakest part of the team certainly appears to be in defence so playing the better defender in Clyne would appear to be a prudent decision. It would mean that their back-line can get used to playing alongside each other, rather than chopping and changing throughout the tournament.
Therefore, unless Clyne has a poor performance or Walker an outstanding one in either of the two remaining warm-up games, it is likely the Liverpool man will deservedly get the nod for the opening group fixture against Russia on June 11th. However, the door is certainly not shut for the Spurs man and he could certainly find himself called upon at any time in France.
Featured image: All rights reserved by LFC Season 2015-16.
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