Sam Allardyce will take charge of his first game as England manager on Sunday when the Three Lions kick-off their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with a trip to Slovakia.
The 61-year-old has already announced his line-up for tomorrow’s match, making three changes to the side which started the 2-1 defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016.
England XI to face Slovakia: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Stones, Rose, Dier, Henderson, Lallana, Rooney, Sterling, Kane
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Ahead of a potentially tough encounter, we’ve constructed their best XI based on some key player statistics from the opening three rounds of Premier League fixtures.
In this team, centre-backs are being judged on attributes such as blocks and tackles, whilst the number of goals and assists help determine who takes the coveted number ten role. So, Allardyce has named his first starting XI but, statistically at least, this is the team he should have picked.
GK – Tom Heaton
Before moving to Torino, Joe Hart didn’t play a single league game for Manchester City, so Burnley’s Tom Heaton is the surprise pick in goal.
The 30-year-old has conceded four goals, as many as Fraser Forster, who recently had to withdraw from the squad through injury. However, unlike the Southampton goalkeeper, Heaton has kept a clean sheet this season.
He’s also made more catches and saved more shots than any other shot-stopper in the English top flight. With much being made at the moment about ’keepers’s footballing abilities, Heaton has also averaged 33.3 passes per match compared to 18 for Forster.
RB – Kyle Walker
There has never been much to choose from between Nathaniel Clyne and Kyle Walker, and they’ve set up a goal each this term, but it’s the latter who is chosen here.
The Liverpool right-back’s tackle success rate is marginally higher and he’s made one more interception than Walker, but he did give the ball away which led to Jurgen Klopp’s side conceding two weeks ago at Burnley.
Walker has delivered more crosses, made more clearances, won more duels and played over twice as many accurate long balls as Clyne.
CB – Gary Cahill & John Stones
With Chris Smalling yet to start under Jose Mourinho, some key stats suggest that Gary Cahill alongside John Stones is England’s strongest central defensive pairing.
Cahill has won the most aerial battles (16), made double the number of interceptions that Phil Jagielka has, and the Chelsea man is the only centre-back selected by “Big Sam” to make a block in the league this term.
Unsurprisingly, Stones has been excellent in possession and committed just one foul so far. The 22-year-old starlet has made 179 passes, one more than Cahill and 28 more than his former Everton teammate Jagielka.
That said, the Toffees captain has made more clearances and tackles than any other central defender in Allardyce’s squad and the veteran may get some minutes in Slovakia.
LB – Danny Rose
Luke Shaw has performed brilliantly since returning from his horrific injury, so it comes as somewhat of a surprise that, statistically, Danny Rose might’ve been even more impressive.
Rose has given away more fouls, but the 26-year-old has made more interceptions, clearances, won over twice as many duels as Shaw and has a significantly higher tackle success rate.
Going forward, the Spurs left-back has supplied one more cross than the Manchester United star, two more passes, and he also scored against Liverpool last weekend.
DM – Eric Dier
Eric Dier’s inclusion in this XI comes down to more than just statistics and is additionally based on how well-suited the 22-year-old is to the defensive midfield position.
Jordan Henderson has been slammed for many of his performances in a holding role this year, despite playing 258 passes and producing 21 accurate long balls.
Compared to Dier, Liverpool’s captain has committed six more fouls, received one more yellow card and crucially only has a 56% tackle success rate, with Tottenham’s midfield enforcer boasting 71% in that regard.
CM – Danny Drinkwater
Drinkwater’s numbers are by far the most impressive of any English central midfielder and the Leicester City stalwart was one of the easiest selections for this team.
The 26-year-old has made 213 passes, a whopping 105 more than Dier, and recovered the ball for the Foxes on 37 different occasions – more than anyone else in the entire England squad.
Drinkwater’s tackle success rate is 57%, but he is yet to pick up a booking this season, he covers a lot of ground during games and he even provided an assist for Jamie Vardy last Saturday.
RM – Michail Antonio
The stats are very close between Antonio and Theo Walcott, but the West Ham powerhouse’s much more effective dribbling means he just gets the nod.
The uncapped winger has scored twice, including the first-ever Premier League goal at the London Stadium, and Walcott himself has bagged a goal and an assist from three starts.
They’ve both crossed the ball eight times, and Walcott has taken three more shots on goal, but the Arsenal wide-man only has a 43% dribble success rate – compared to a much-improved figure of 67% for Antonio.
AM – Wayne Rooney
For all the criticism Wayne Rooney continually seems to receive, the Man United and England captain has started the season pretty well in the number ten role and the numbers back that up.
England’s all-time leading scorer produced a goal and two assists from his first three league games, compared to a goal and an assist for Adam Lallana, while Dele Alli is yet to do either this season.
Rooney has created as many chances as Spurs’ young starlet, but made 47 more passes than the 20-year-old and has produced many more shots on target than both Alli and Lallana.
The Liverpool playmaker has made four more passes than Rooney, but the United forward has delivered 15 crosses (Alli and Lallana have two between them), including the one for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s header against Southampton.
LM – Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling looks rejuvenated under Pep Guardiola after a very poor showing at Euro 2016 and is currently one of the best wingers in Europe.
The 21-year-old has scored two goals from his seven shots, provided one assist and been successful with 61% of his dribbles. Sterling has produced six crosses and created more chances than both Walcott and Antonio.
ST – Jamie Vardy
Vardy was an easy choice upfront since the Leicester star has scored in the Premier League this season and Harry Kane is yet to register, while Daniel Sturridge is struggling just to get into the Liverpool side.
Whilst Kane has an assist to his name, Vardy has taken more shots and had more, big goalscoring opportunities - and his clinical strike against Swansea is enough for him to make this statistical England XI.
What do you think is England's best starting XI? Leave YOUR opinion in the comments box below!
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