England qualified for the 2018 World Cup in less than convincing circumstances thanks to a dull 1-0 win against Slovenia. So going forward to next summer’s tournament in Russia, what is England’s best XI? We take a look at the stats.
Gareth Southgate has maintained England’s unbeaten record in qualifying since taking over, but the Football on offer from the former Middlesbrough boss has been less than inspiring. If you are reading Mr Southgate, this is statistically your best starting line up on current form.
The goalkeeping department is one where England are actually fairly strong, with five of six goalkeepers all battling to be a part of next summer’s squad. Joe Hart, Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford are the keepers in the current squad, with Ben Foster, Fraser Forster and Tom Heaton all looking to make the plane.
Joe Hart has been the preferred choice between the sticks under Southgate, but is it the right choice? Well, in honesty, he is not, not according to this season’s stats anyway.
Despite keeping the joint highest amount of clean sheets (3) compared to the other challengers, Hart has in fact conceded more goals than anyone else (13). He also has the least Saves/Goal ratio of 1:08 per match. Interestingly the best goalkeeper according tot the statistics is a man how isn’t even in the latest England squad, Southampton’s Fraser Forster.
The former Celtic stopper has also kept three clean sheets in his seven appearances, but has only conceded seven goals. He has also made a high of 18 saves this season, giving him a saves/goals ratio of 2.57, far higher than any of his fellow competitors.
At right back, there are only really three options going forward, one of which is injured at the moment. However it looks like it will be a battle between Kyle Walker, Kieran Tripper and Nathaniel Clyne. Going from last seasons stats (to make it a fair comparison to all) Kyle Walker seems to just have the edge, closely followed by the man who replaced him at Spurs, Tripper.
At left back, we compared Ryan Bertrand, Aaron Cresswell and Leighton Baines’ current start to the season to that of the injured Danny Rose last season. Unsurprisingly, Rose is the prime contender, making more tackles, interceptions and completing more take-ons than his rivals on average. Aaron Creswell has however been created more chances on average.
England has always been blessed with some good central defenders, but the days of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Sol Campbell and the likes are long gone.
Looking at the start of this season, we’ve compared Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Michael Keane and this is where we get our second surprise selection.
The best defender out of those five is surprisingly Everton’s Michael Keane. The former Burnley man has won the most tackles and aerial duels, as well making the most interceptions and blocks of all the five defenders.
The second best is a close run race between Manchester United’s Phil Jones and Leicester’s Harry Maguire. Maguire has won more tackles than Jones, but has already lost more than him too. He has also made more blocks, whereas Jones has made more interceptions.
On balance, Jones probably just edges it.
That is the end of part one folks, amd we already have the first five names on the teamsheet. What do you think so far? Leave us a comment below.