The training squad announced by England manager Roy Hodgson ahead of Euro 2016 is a curious grouping, at once considered to be both top heavy and low on genuine wide-forwards with both the class and recent form to make an impact in France.
Only three centre halves by trade, Gary Cahill, John Stones and Chris Smalling, have been selected, with just one of those having any right to be pleased with his season’s work.
Meanwhile, it took an injury to Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck to truly highlight the Three Lions’ issues on the flanks, where Raheem Sterling has yet to thrill since returning from injury, James Milner has yet to thrill in international football, Jamie Vardy would rather be playing through the middle and Adam Lallana is little more than a perpetual Cruyff turn.
Playing a 3-5-2 might just be an elegant solution to Hodgson’s squad balance issues ahead of the tournament, as it would negate the need to use out of form or ineffectual wingers while also bolstering a potentially-frail defence.
Tottenham full-backs Danny Rose and Kyle Walker seem tailor made for the role of wing-backs, both fit as the butcher’s labradoodle and seen in their best light when on the front foot.
Behind them, Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand has a good deal of experience of playing on the left-hand side of a three-man defence under Ronald Koeman and would enable to Hodgson to add the much sought after left-footed operator to the centre of his rearguard.
In front of the aforementioned trio, a midfield trident of Eric Dier, Jack Wilshere and Dele Alli calls to mind the delightful balance of Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard axis – Dier the enlightened destroyer, Wilshere the playmaker and Alli the all-action box-to-box inspiration.
The identity of the England manager’s front two would perhaps be less clear, but playing a duo would mean more scope to utilise Wayne Rooney or Daniel Sturridge’s guile productively, or the possibility of not having to choose between Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane in the central role.
Of course coaching the Three Lions charges on the finer points of a new system will take time, but after the FA Cup Final, Hodgson will have one of the more prolonged periods he ever gets to spend with his squad to do so.
Renowned for the meticulousness with which he drills his sides and with two friendlies in which to trial the new formation, the manager has the time to make 3-5-2 work.