The road to Euro 2016 has been a particularly experimental one so far for Roy Hodgson and England. The Three Lions squad looks as fresh-faced as it has in a long time, with many young players currently trying to earn their spot in a re-energized squad. One of those new faces is Eric Dier, who made only his second appearance for his country on Tuesday against France. Already it is becoming clear just how important the 21-year-old is going to be when the squad heads to the European Championships in the summer.
Originally a center-back, Dier has been converted into a defensive midfielder by Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur this year, and now looks likely to continue in that role for his country. Realistically, though, how many alternative defensive midfielders do England actually have? Michael Carrick is the only one that immediately springs to mind, but at 34 years old, and with injuries becoming ever more recurring for the veteran, Carrick is no longer a reliable player at this stage.
Other than Carrick or Dier, the only other option is using a midfielder who is not used to playing in that role to fill in as a defensive player. Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere and James Milner are all capable of adding something to the England midfield when fit and healthy, but none are what you would tag as a defensive midfielder.
Dier offers something that Hodgson is in short supply of and that is going to raise his stock considerably over the next six months or so. However, do England even need a defensive midfielder? If Dele Alli continues to perform as he has of late, then yes — it’s essential. As good as Alli is at bursting forward from midfield to affect the game, the teenager does leave gaps for the opposition to exploit on the other end. Whether you’re Spurs or England, next to Alli, you must play a designated defensive midfielder — and Dier is the obvious choice for both teams right now.
A midfield of Henderson and Milner would be balanced enough not to require a holding player. But that midfield would also be starved of some on-ball quality, and in particular Alli’s attacking energy and ability to be a game-changer within the team’s offense. Frankly, if Alli plays, so too must Dier. The way Alli is performing currently, and the way Dier is proving himself the best partner for him, Dier is going to be a necessity for Hodgson by the time Euro 2016 rolls around.