England Euro 2016 squad: Danny Drinkwater is unlucky to miss out but Leicester man is no match for Arsenal's Jack Wilshere

 
Joe Hall
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Wilshere is still England's best midfielder when on form (Source: Getty)

Danny Drinkwater played a colossal 3,032 minutes for title winning Leicester City this season, acting as a vital cog in the wheel of sport's greatest underdog story.

Jack Wilshere, on the other hand, featured in just 142 minutes for Arsenal as a calf injury ruled him out for the entirety of the season and left him with little to do but apparently get into scuffles outside nightclubs.

And yet Roy Hodgson has chosen the latter to go to Euro 2016 and left the former polishing his Premier League medal for consolation he after axed the Leicester man from his final squad alongside Andros Townsend and the injured Fabian Delph.

Social media, as it is wont to do over at least one omission whenever Hodgson puts 23 names down onto a piece of paper, exploded at the apparent injustice.

Wilshere's name was trending on Twitter in the United Kingdom on Tuesday night, with his aforementioned lack of game time this season in comparison to Drinkwater's commonly cited as an apparently non-negotiable barrier to his inclusion.

Read more: Learning your England fate can be a weird and horrible process

Yet picking an England squad for a major international tournament is not about naming a Premier League team of the season, nor rewarding impressive performance. It's about picking a squad of 23 players that gives England the best possible chance of success.

There is an argument that such a squad includes Drinkwater. His function in the squad would be similar to a semi-fit Jordan Henderson or James Milner and some may question the wisdom of Hodgson picking five strikers (Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford, Daniel Sturridge, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy), four players capable of occupying the play-maker position (Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney) and just one natural anchorman in midfield (Eric Dier).

The Manchester United graduate has certainly proved himself to be an industrious, reliable and tidy presence in the heart of Leicester's midfield with a good understanding of Vardy, for whom he has laid on five assists.

Yet Hodgson is in possession of four proven goal-scorers and to base his entire England strategy in the hope that Drinkwater and Vardy can rekindle such alchemy without the guile of Riyad Mahrez or the industry of Shinji Okazaki in support would be somewhat limiting.

Despite being named man of the match in his first cap against Holland in March — a decision that appeared to be based on sentiment and the Leicester love-in rather than his solid but not spectacular performance — Drinkwater has done little in his international appearances to date to demonstrate to Hodgson that he can offer more than Milner and Henderson in the England engine room, and has certainly not come close to the dynamic match-winning showings peppered throughout Wilshere's Three Lions career.

And he needed to. Wilshere, Henderson and Milner were instrumental for Hodgson in England's successful qualifying campaign, with only Raheem Sterling amassing more game time than Henderson's 450 minutes and Wilshere's 433 minutes.

In October, after England had secured their place in France with 10 wins out of 10 in qualifying, Hodgson went on record to warn newcomers that he aimed to keep that team together.

Midfielders used by Hodgson in qualifying

Player Club Appearances Minutes
Raheem Sterling Liverpool / Manchester City 8 606
Jordan Henderson Liverpool 6 450
Jack Wilshere Arsenal 5 433
Adam Lallana Liverpool 6 400
Fabian Delph Aston Villa 6 361
Ross Barkley Everton 5 357
James Milner Manchester City / Liverpool 6 355
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Arsenal 7 343
JonJo Shelvey Swansea City 3 237
Andros Townsend Tottenham 3 115
Michael Carrick Manchester United 1 90
Dele Alli Tottenham 2 25

"Now we are going to concentrate on a core group who, if they’re all fit, will be in France," said the England boss

"It won’t be a moment to give someone a chance because he’s scored a goal on a Saturday. People will have to work very hard to break into the group now."

Such a commitment is borne out in the fact that of the seven most commonly selected midfielders in Hodgson's qualifying teams, only an injured Delph misses out on the tournament proper.

Drinkwater was given an opportunity to break into the core group, but did not do enough.

As for Wilshere, even following a season out of the game, there is no English midfielder as capable driving from deep with the ball at his feet or beating opposition defences with vertical passes.

England have only lost one game of the 21 in which the 24-year-old has started, a 2-0 reversal to Chile in 2013. It has undoubtedly been frustrating that injuries have prevented him playing more, but no other central midfielder called up in that time has been able to launch attacks, break the lines or find space with the same skill as the Arsenal No10 has in man-of-the-match performances against Brazil in 2013 and Slovenia last year.

Wilshere proved to Roy Hodgson in those games and others that he is a member of the England squad that gives him the best possible chance of victory. Despite a great domestic season, Drinkwater is yet to do the same.

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