As the 2016 European Championships kick off in France this weekend, England will be hoping they don’t make a swift exit from this particular european union and remain beyond June 23.
The English Premier League (EPL) is contributing more players to this summer’s tournament than any other league. And the rebranded English Football League (EFL) will proudly provide just as many participants as Spain’s La Liga – France 2016 seemingly a European get-together we’re proud to continue a leading role in.
With more than 100 players, representing 18 of the 24 nations competing, almost one in five of those featuring ply their footballing trade in the English Premier League – one in four if you include players from the Championship, League One and League Two. Germany’s Bundesliga is the second biggest contributor with 56.
The Premier League dominating player representation at major championships is nothing new – the EPL provided the most players at the last Euros in 2012 and again at the subsequent World Cup in Brazil. Many argue that this embarrassment of riches has come at a price though, with the high concentration of overseas players not helping our national team’s chances.
An abundance of foreign talent during the Premier League era has undoubtedly restricted the opportunities of our young players and left a succession of England managers with a reduced pool of top-flight players to choose from. But I take the view that any English player good enough to play regularly for a Premier League club should at least be able to cut it at international level – if not excel. So while Marcus Rashford’s selection after less than 20 senior appearances raised a few eyebrows, I’m sure he won’t look out of place if he sees any action.
As well as supplying the entire England squad – the only nation to be derived from just one league – the EPL also contributes a whole team of players for the Belgian, Welsh and Republic of Ireland squads. Hosts and pre-tournament favourites France will also be relying on nine Premier League players, calling on six during their opening 2-1 win over Romania on Friday night. A late wonder-strike from West Ham’s Dimitri Payet added to a header from Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud as France took a big step closer to the last 16.
Giroud’s Arsenal are one of six English clubs to be ever-present in the Premier League and combined, these teams account for one in ten of the players on show at these Euros. Interestingly, each of the clubs appears to have a favoured european nation that it has sourced a high proportion of its players. So who does transfer history suggest Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham will be hoping for in the Euro 2016 sweepstake?
Arsenal – France
EPL Arsenal, French XI: Warmuz, Sagna, Clichy, Koscielny, Gallas, Vieira, Petit, Pires, Wiltord, Henry, Anelka – Manager: Arsene Wenger
Chelsea – Italy
EPL Chelsea, Italian XI: Cudicini, Panucci, Percassi, Di Cesare, Di Matteo, Ambrosetti, Dalla Bona, Borini, Zola, Casiraghi, Vialli – Managers: Antonio Conte, Claudio Ranieri, Carlo Ancelotti
Liverpool – Germany
EPL Liverpool, German XI: Karius, Babbel, Ziege, Can, Hamann, Sama, Matip, Sahin (both German-born), Yesil, Riedle, Dundee – Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Manchester United – Holland (no way José, the Dutch didn’t even qualify)
EPL United, Dutch XI: van der Sar, Fosu-Mensah, Buttner, Stam, Blind, Jordi (Cruyff), Depay, van Persie, van Nistelrooy, Chong, van Velzen – Manager: Louis van Gaal
Everton – Scotland (got to be in it to win it and the Scots sadly just missed out too)
EPL Everton, Scottish XI: Turner, Cleland, Weir, Gough, Naysmith, Hutchison, Collins, Gemmill, McFadden, Naismith, Ferguson – Managers: David Moyes, Walter Smith
Tottenham – England
EPL Tottenham, England XI: Robinson, Walker, Rose, Campbell, King, Carrick, Anderton, Lennon, Kane, Sheringham, Defoe – Managers: Terry Venables, Glenn Hoddle, Harry Redknapp
Naturally Arsene Wenger’s long tenure in the EPL has seen many French players join him at Arsenal over the years, just as a succession of Italian managers at Chelsea have signed players from their homeland. Expect to see a continuing German theme at Liverpool under Klopp and an influx of Spaniards to Man City under Guardiola.
After an impressive league campaign, there is significant Spurs presence in this England squad, just as there has been a rich tradition of players and managers in the past. In a previous article, I compared England’s qualifying opponents to English Football League sides. And again you’d have to say that our finals draw has been kind, with our Group B finals opponents Russia, Slovakia and Wales perhaps equivalent to mid-table or lower-half Premier League teams.
A win for England against Russia on Saturday would certainly go a long way towards going beyond the group stages and help fuel our already over-inflated expectations – particularly as an opening win is something England has never managed before at the Euros. Come on England, 50 years has been long enough!
Richard Coleman, Pundit Arena