England had a strange World Cup. They lost three matches yet returned as heroes, but also didn’t lose any game which really mattered inside 90 minutes. It was certainly a successful tournament from a PR perspective, as the England team reconnected with a fan base which had grown increasingly disconnected. The real question is whether or not they can sustain the love-in for a couple of years until the next European Championships.
Gareth Southgate’s first chance to uphold his newly found superstar status comes over the next week, when England take on Spain in UEFA’s gleaming new Nations League competition, then play a friendly against Switzerland. He has selected his squad, so at Twelve we thought it’d be interesting to pick the best team based on the players’ performance this season.
If we discount the third/fourth place play-off at the World Cup for the pointless sideshow that it is, then England’s last meaningful game was the semi-final against Croatia. Here’s how they lined up.
The team won’t be the same for the forthcoming matches, as Ashley Young isn’t in the squad, and Raheem Sterling has pulled out through injury. However, as Southgate has employed a back three for England’s last 14 matches, and for 16 of his 25 games in charge, it seems safe to assume the formation should be retained.
So who would be in our team? We’ve looked at the Premier League data for 2018/19 (you can see every player’s dashboards here) and would make some changes to the above XI.
For starters, Twelve’s algorithm would put Alex McCarthy of Southampton in goal rather than Jordan Pickford. The Saint appeared in our first team of the week, and has earned the third most defensive points of any player in the squad. He has also amassed more attack points than Jesse Lingard, so if you want to stick with Pickford, maybe play McCarthy in midfield, Gareth?
We’d also give the back line a shake up too. While Slabhead retains his place (in part due to scoring a goal against McCarthy, funnily enough), he’d be joined by James Tarkowski and Joe Gomez under Twelve’s regime. Regular readers will know that the Burnley man is a fixture in our team of the week, but Gomez’ form may have gone under the radar of any non-Liverpool fans. The young centre-back has been the fifth most impressive performer in the squad, and the best for pressuring opponents off-ball.
On to the midfield. On a points per minute basis, Jordan Henderson would retain his place, but Eric Dier has featured more and picked up more in total. But you can basically flip a coin if you’d prefer to.
In the wide areas, Dier’s team mate Kieran Trippier retains his place, while Luke Shaw comes in for his Manchester United colleague on the left. In the centre, Dele Alli comfortably keeps his spot in the team, as he has been the second best performer behind Tarkowski in 2018/19 and has picked up two ‘Team Of The Week’ caps.
Lingard has offered less attacking threat than Southampton’s goalkeeper as we’ve already said, so of the realistic options it looks like Jordan Henderson will keep a place after all and partner Alli. Though with Lallana out and Loftus-Cheek having played 41 minutes this season, that might not be a dazzling achievement.
Finally, Kane remains (not even an algorithm would try to dump him) and Sterling would too if he were fit. But in his absence it’s Marcus Rashford who gets the nod. He hasn’t done a huge amount yet this term, but he has the following weekend off from United duty, so Southgate may as well run him into the ground. Here’s our team in full.
What do you think, Gareth? Or anyone else who is reading this for that matter? Let us know who should be in the England team in the comments below.