Roy Hodgson believes Jack Wilshere is the key to beating Russia in England's opening Euro 2016 group game on Saturday, reports the Daily Mail.
The 24-year-old has been rekindling his best form with the Three Lions after spending the vast majority of the campaign in Arsenal's treatment room with a broken leg. He started just one Premier League game last season and appeared off the bench twice, playing a total of 142 minutes for the Gunners.
His inclusion in the 23-man pool led to widespread criticism from fans and pundits, especially as it meant Leicester City star Danny Drinkwater was left at home. The midfielder had been an important figure for Claudio Ranieri in their title-winning campaign and many believed he warranted a place over Wilshere.
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However, Hodgson has full faith that Wilshere can prove both his fitness and his worth during Euro 2016 and has been hugely impressed with his performances in England's warm-up games.
That is no truer than the recent tie against Portugal, where Wilshere was brought on from the bench and proceeded to change the game. Not only was England's tempo much improved but Wilshere played a key role in Chris Smalling's late winner.
Hodgson, 68, believes England will benefit from a more penetrative game against Russia and Wilshere's ability to dictate the tempo from midfield will be key to that plan.
Russia go into the tournament with two of their best players, Alan Dzagoev and Igor Denisov, missing from their midfield, giving England a chance to dominate the middle of the park.
Exploiting the weakness has been the focus of training sessions since the Three Lions arrived in France and will be deployed on Saturday evening.
One man who thinks Wilshere should start against Russia is former England captain Terry Butcher, who believes the Arsenal star is capable of unlocking any defence in the competition.
He told Sky Sports: "I would go for Wilshere in there. He is England's best player on his day. He was the top passer in qualification. He has the ability to unlock most teams, especially ones that sit back, as Portugal did in the recent friendly."
But Hodgson has been warned he is taking a huge risk on Wilshere considering he has suffered so many injuries in the last few seasons.
"There's a massive risk in selecting those two," Professor Greg Whyte, director of performance at the Centre for Health and Human Performance in London, told Press Association Sport.
"Why has Wilshere only played 253 minutes? Because he gets injured at the drop of a hat. That's only got to happen in game one and that's him out of the tournament.
"Equally, the England management will have looked at a benefit-to-risk analysis - that he is such a great player that if they can keep him on the pitch, or bring him on for short episodes to change the game, then obviously that's going to be a real benefit to the team."
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