Analysis: Why Leighton Baines is facing a battle for a Euro 2016 place

There are three Everton players in Roy Hodgson's latest England squad, but for one Blue it appears there will be a battle to secure a place at this summer's European Championships in France.

Analysis: Why Leighton Baines is facing a battle for a Euro 2016 place
Leighton Baines has won 30 caps for England since making his international debut in March 2010. (Image: Getty Images)

For many years, Leighton Baines had to wait for his England chance as Ashley Cole was ahead of him in the pecking order, but after Cole's international retirement, Baines has been England's first-choice left-back. 

But with Euro 2016 just a few months away, the Everton left-back faces a battle to secure a place on the plane to France. The 31-year-old will not join teammates John StonesPhil Jagielka and Ross Barkley for England's friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands. Instead, Roy Hodgson is taking the opportunity to look at other options ahead of the summer.

Baines' battle for a place on the place to France

Baines had to wait for his England chance and made his full international debut in a friendly against Egypt in March 2010. He then missed out on the Three Lions squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with Stephen Warnock, who had not played in the warm-up games, being preferred.

Baines was first choice for England at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but two years on, the scene looks a lot less clear. Injuries have restricted the 31-year-old to just four international appearances since the tournament in Brazil, the last of which came against Lithuania a year ago.

The 31-year-old has made just 10 Premier League appearances this season and has faced the first serious competition for his long-established left-back spot after struggling with a recurring ankle injury. Baines missed the first fourth months of the season after having surgery in August for a recurring ankle injury.

Leighton Baines faces a battle to secure a Euro 2016 place. | Photo: The FA
Leighton Baines faces a battle to secure a Euro 2016 place. | Photo: The FA

Roy Hodgson is taking the opportunity to look at other options ahead of the summer in his side's two friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands this week, with Tottenham Hotspurs' Danny Rose and Southampton's Ryan Bertrand preferred at left-back in Hodgson's latest squad. While Baines has struggled for consistency and first-team minutes this season because of injury and the form of Bryan Oviedo, Rose and Bertrand have both enjoyed good campaigns and have certainly put their case forward for a place on the plane to France in the summer.

The England boss has also refused to rule out the possibility of Manchester United's Luke Shaw making a late bid for the squad after being sidelined since September with a broken leg. Hodgson has said that, in the case of both Baines and Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs he "knows their qualities", but with nine league games remaining for Baines he still has plenty to play for, including his international future.

The case for Baines' inclusion

Everton's season has so far been frustrating and inconsistent and that is also the same for Baines on a personal level. Disrupted through injury has seen the 31-year-old make just 10 Premier League appearances this season and, after returning to the side in recent weeks, the ankle problem still appears to be troubling him, whether subconsciously or otherwise.

Baines has not been able to discover the consistency that has seen him become one of the most reliable and dependable left-backs in the Premier League, but his experience and qualities can surely not be ignored when Hodgson picks his 25-man squad this summer.

Baines in action in Everton's 2-0 defeat to Arsenal last weekend. | Photo: Getty Images
Baines in action in Everton's 2-0 defeat to Arsenal last weekend. | Photo: Getty Images

There is now a greater emphasis on full-back's attacking abilities, not just defensively, and Baines certainly fits this role as the statistics show. Baines' assist totals are so high due to the nature of his attacking vision and ability when going forward. He is always looking to get forward and that is the same with his passes. He not only has a very good delivery of the ball, but he has elite-vision for spotting gaps and teammates.

Baines is only 5ft 7in but, despite his diminutive stature, he is rarely caught out in the air. The former Wigan Athletic left-back is also disciplined and prefers to intercept and block the ball rather than going into full-blooded tackles. There is no doubt that Baines is facing a battle for a place in Roy Hodgson's squad this summer, but Baines will be hoping that he will have done enough to prove why he is England's number-one choice.