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The stats-based alternative England XI

Every few weeks or so, an England squad gets announced, sparking mass conversation online.

Gareth Southgate’s selection process often gets called into question, with certain players being selected for seemingly bizarre reasons. Call it what you will – loyalty, consistency, favouritism, bias – it’s a hot topic every international break.

But what if the former Crystal Palace man took a different approach? What if statistics formed the basis of his squad selection?

Here is what England’s starting line-up could look like, based purely on stats (via FBRef).

GK – Wes Foderingham (Sheffield United) – Sheffield United’s return to the Premier League has been nothing short of disastrous so far. After seven games, they find themselves with just one point, having conceded a league-high 19 goals.

And it could have been worse, if not for goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. He leads the league for saves this season with 41, nine clear of Jose Sa in second.

RB – Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United) – Of the players in this team, Kieran Trippier is by far the most experienced on the international stage. The full-back has featured at three major tournaments, most notably scoring the opener in the 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia.

This term, the 33-year-old has been an impressive creative outlet for the Magpies. He has the joint-most assists in the division, while also providing the most key passes and crosses.

CB – Lewis Dunk (Brighton and Hove Albion) – Ball-playing centre-backs have become something of a necessity in the modern game. Lewis Dunk performs this role admirably for Brighton and Hove Albion.

Statistically, Dunk is the most involved player in the Premier League. He boasts the most touches with 731, and the most passes with 678.

CB – Craig Dawson (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – On the other hand, more traditional defenders still have a place in football. Sometimes you want a player to throw themselves in the way of everything – to “die for three points”, as Neil Warnock would put it.

This is where Craig Dawson comes in. The Englishman ranks joint-sixth in the league for blocks, and joint-tenth for clearances.

LB – Alfie Doughty (Luton Town) – Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are both out, leaving Southgate without a natural left-back in his squad. If he’s struggling to think of an alternative, Alfie Doughty could be the man.

The Luton Town man is third in the league for shot-creating actions per 90 minutes, behind only James Maddison and Alex Iwobi. On top of this, he ranks highly for expected assists, progressive carries, blocks, and aerial duels won over the last year compared to other full-backs.

RM – Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United) – Jarrod Bowen was recalled to the England squad this month, having not featured for over a year. With Bukayo Saka’s fitness in doubt, he is likely to get an opportunity to prove himself.

Bowen has been one of the league’s most in-form players this season. He is third in the race for the Golden Boot, ranks fourth for shots on target, and has overperformed his expected goals by 1.5.

CM – Conor Gallagher (Chelsea) – Gareth Southgate loves his defensive midfielders. Declan Rice appears to be his first choice, while Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson also regularly make the squad (to much discontent).

Perhaps there’s a secret fourth option in the running for this role. Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher ranks eighth in the Premier League for tackles, while only Cheick Doucoure and Mario Lemina have racked up more interceptions.

CM – James Maddison (Tottenham Hotspur) – It took a while for James Maddison to break into the England squad, but he has now seemingly earned Southgate’s trust, featuring in every squad since the World Cup. Whether he can make himself a regular starter is another matter.

So far, he has been one of the league’s standouts. The playmaker has the joint-most assists in the English top flight, the second-most shots on target, the second-most key passes, and the joint-most progressive passes.

LM – Raheem Sterling (Chelsea) – Once a vital player in the Three Lions side, Raheem Sterling has fallen out of favour, last featuring in the World Cup defeat to France. However, while he remains at the top level, the door stays open for a possible return.

The winger is still one of the best dribblers around, boasting some impressive numbers. He ranks seventh in the league for successful take-ons, fourth for progressive carries, and second for carries into the penalty box.

ST – Callum Wilson (Newcastle United) – Callum Wilson is no longer be a guaranteed starter at Newcastle United, having to share his minutes with Alexander Isak. Nonetheless, he is still capable of producing the goods.

As a goalscorer, there are few who can match the forward this term. He has the highest minutes-per-goal ratio in the Premier League this campaign, delivering four finishes from just 259 minutes on the pitch.

ST – Carlton Morris (Luton Town) – With Wilson’s pace in behind, a more physical striker could complement him perfectly. Luton’s Carlton Morris leads the league for successful aerial duels so far, six clear of Brentford’s Ethan Pinnock in second.

Not only that, but he has also converted a league-high two penalties from six outings. Spot-kicks have proven to be England’s undoing in each of the last two tournaments, so having another reliable taker would be welcome.

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