Gareth Southgate's England Team

Twelve’s algorithm selects Gareth Southgate’s England team

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.

Read More

Statistics support Swedish fans’ scepticism about Lindelöf

Last week, Noa Bachner wrote that, when it comes to the Swedish national team, the second hottest issue in his mailbag is Victor Nilsson Lindelöf. Many Swedes, it seems, don’t think the Manchester United defender lives up to the hype.

Knowing Swedes as I do (having lived here 11 years) I have come to see that this sentiment is an inevitable part of their national characteristic. The €35 million that took him to Manchester United marks him out as someone who might be getting too big for his boots. With the strange exception awarded to Zlatan (who always has first place in Noa’s inbox), Swedes don’t like it when someone is made out to be exceptional without a really exceptional explanation. And this, to many, is what has happened in Lindelöf’s case.

Noa argues, rather convincingly, that these Swedes are too hard on their star defender. But I decided to run the stats. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t look good for him. Here is his defending.

Read More

England 2-1 Nigeria: Match Review

England began their World Cup preparations with a 2-1 win over Nigeria at Wembley. But the visitors are off to Russia shortly too, so the match was just as important to them, and both sides will have taken some important learning points from the encounter.

Gary Cahill was the official man of the match, and the BBC agreed, but far more important than either of those is the Twelve award. Fortunately for the Chelsea man, he came out on top in our rankings too.

With 1,000 points awarded for a goal, it’s no surprise to see the game’s three scorers taking the top three slots here, as that can often happen. However, you can see from the blue bars in the chart that if we were to exclude goals out of interest, Cahill was still the second best performer in the match, and only a shade behind Kieran Trippier.

The Spurs’ wing back had a good match, assisting the opening goal from a corner. This played a huge part in Trippier amassing the most attacking points of any player.

This illustrates how Twelve rates players on more than chances created when it comes to their attacking output. While Trippier created two chances, his Spurs teammate Dele Alli set up four, but the latter was only fifth in the attacking rankings for this match. The quality of a chance created is usually far more important than the total number of them.

The same appears to be true when it comes to tackles in the defensive stats. Jesse Lingard was on the field for 66 minutes, and in that time he made a remarkable seven tackles. Time for a little context: the most consistently frequent tacklers tend to average around four for every 90 minutes they play. Extrapolate Lingard’s figures to a full match, and you get to 9.5 tackles. He’d struggle to make half a tackle, but you take the point.

But this was also a game in which his side dominated the ball, to the tune of having 59% of the possession. Factor that in to the equation, and it implies the Manchester United man would’ve made 13 tackles in a full match if the possession split was even. Such numberwanging is all hypothetical of course, but it shows the work Lingard was putting in, and England will need that sort of endeavour in Russia if they are to succeed.

However, with tackles carrying a light weighting in the Twelve system, Lingard only ranked 13th for defensive points. The real star in this category was Brighton’s new signing, Leon Balogun. He only played the first half, and as his side were 2-0 down at the break, you may wonder how he amassed the second most defensive points in the match (behind Cahill) and the most on a points per minute basis. But he did.

Balogun’s key contribution was a clearance in the 30th minute, which was worth 138 points. That tally alone would’ve been enough for eighth place in the defensive rankings.

A word also for Francis Uzoho, the young Nigerian goalkeeper. He may have been at fault for Harry Kane’s goal, and was penalised with a defensive error by Opta in their stats, but his overall performance on Twelve’s ratings was strong. The highlight was saving an (Opta-defined) clear-cut chance from Lingard in the 29th minute, which was worth a stunning 745 points.

It may seem odd to end with a negative note on Harry Kane, as he ultimately scored the winning goal, but it was his only shot of the match. Gareth Southgate’s England side have scored 14 goals in matches featuring Kane, and the Tottenham talisman has scored eight of them and assisted another.

The Three Lions understandably rely on him, but his shot numbers have been lower since he last returned from injury. If England are to make a serious impact in Russia, they will need more from their main man.