Roy Hodgson has never had it so good in his time as England boss – and he knows it.
After winning all 10 of their Euro 2016 qualifiers, England’s preparations for the tournament in France continue against Germany and Netherlands with an array of attacking options at the manager’s disposal.
“It’s always nice to announce a squad when you have got some riches in front of you,” said Hodgson after announcing his squad. “We have a lot of possibilities – some very good and different strikers – but we need to produce on the pitch.”
Captain and record goalscorer Wayne Rooney is out with a knee problem for the games in Berlin and at Wembley, which gives England’s other forwards an ideal chance to stake their claims for a starting spot with the national side.
Hodgson has confirmed that, fitness permitting, Rooney will be on the plane, but would not guarantee the Manchester United skipper a starting spot, meaning the stakes are high for Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck with two places in the team potentially available.
Even if Rooney does, as expected, take his place in the starting line-up in France, the position in front of him – that of an out-and-out number nine – remains up for grabs.
There are also potential wildcard selections not in the current squad. Could Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe and Marcus Rashford make an impact if selected and how do their records compare to those already in the reckoning?
Here, we look at Hodgson’s impressive array of striking options for France and rank their chances of joining Rooney in the team using Opta data.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane sits in pole position to be England’s number nine in France after overcoming a slow start to 2015-16 to sit top of the Premier League goalscoring charts.
Kane has 24 goals in all competitions this season – more than any of his rivals for a starting spot – and has a better shooting accuracy (64.5 per cent) than Sturridge, Vardy and Welbeck.
5 – Harry Kane has become the 5th Englishman to score 20+ goals in consecutive PL seasons (Cole, Ferdinand, Fowler & Shearer). Glory.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 20, 2016
He comes into the Germany and Netherlands games on brilliant form, having netted five times in his last three league outings, but must use these two fixtures to underline his international credentials.
Kane’s minutes-per-goal rate is worse for England (164) than his numbers at club level (142) this season, but his sample size is relatively small at eight caps.
Vardy has only scored three league goals in 2016, but he has still enjoyed a stunning season for shock Premier League leaders Leicester City and only Kane sits above him in the scoring charts.
The 29-year-old’s all-round game could be a factor in Hodgson’s thinking too – he has assisted six goals in addition to the 19 he has scored this term.
Rival Kane has scored 24 and assisted two. The Spurs man has been invovled in just one more goal than Vardy, despite playing 10 games more this season (43 to 33).
Like Kane, though, Vardy remains inexperienced at international level and is yet to score from his four caps – a run he could do with ending in the upcoming double-header to bolster his hopes.
An awful run of luck with injuries have kept Sturridge out of international contention since his last appearance in September 2014.
He is getting a run of Liverpool games at the ideal time, though, and has a better goals-per-minute ratio (132) than Kane, Rooney and Vardy with his club this season.
“I just hope he’s got over the period he’s had over the last year and a half and can be the same player we had in spring 2014,” said Hodgson, who started Sturridge at the point of his attack at the World Cup that year.
But like Kane and Vardy, Sturridge is yet to prove himself as a consistent international goalscorer in the way Rooney has done, with only five goals to his name from 16 caps (a goal every 215 minutes) – giving him plenty to prove in the days ahead.
Welbeck has only made nine appearances for Arsenal in an injury-interrupted season, but he has made a solid start with four goals in that span.
While Welbeck’s goalscoring record at club level has often been criticised, he has been far more prolific for England – which could prove decisive to his chances if he remains fit – along with the fact he has played at Euro 2012 and the last World Cup.
His 14 international goals have come at an average of one every 150 minutes, a rate that betters that of record goalscorer Rooney, as well as Kane and Sturridge.
“I think Danny looks good and sharp – I know that Arsene Wenger is happy with the way he’s come back,” said Hodgson after announcing the squad.
The form of Manchester United’s 18-year-old Marcus Rashford has prompted speculation of a shock call-up after a fine start to his club career. He has netted five times in eight games for Louis van Gaal’s men, but is uncapped with under two months until Hodgson has to pick his squad.
Many think Jermain Defoe’s international career is over at 33, but his record this season compares favourably to the other English strikers. He has the best shooting accuracy of any of the other players profiled (71%) this season. The Sunderland forward is more prolific at international level than any of them having scored once every 123 minutes for England and has played for his country at two major tournaments.
Andy Carroll could represent a ‘Plan B’ in the group of strikers England take to France, but his numbers do not compare favourably with only one goal every 263 minutes at club level this season and an average of 221 for two career international goals. The West Ham striker does have tournament experience, though, having played at Euro 2012, where he scored against Sweden.