Euro 2020: England's best XI vs Croatia, according to 2020/21 stats

  • Kobe Tong

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How should England start for their opening Euro 2020 game with Croatia?

It's the question on the lips of every Three Lions fan right now and with so many top-level talents at Gareth Southgate's disposal, it's difficult to know who exactly will get the nod on Sunday June 13.

However, you can rest assured that Southgate and his team of data analysts will at least factor statistics and numbers into their selection policy to a certain degree.

England's selection headache

And given that we don't have access to the earning workings of Southgate's footballing mind, stats are the area in which we have a certain level of access to England's thought process.

Well, at least that's what we're telling ourselves as we embark on the interesting task of selecting England's starting XI for the Croatia game based on statistics and absolutely nothing else.

To accomplish this, we're turning to the data gurus at WhoScored.com and their average match ratings in league competitions this season for the 26 players who made the final squad.

England Squad Announcement (Football Terrace)

England XI based on stats

From there, we're selecting the players who have the highest rating, which is informed by several key metrics across every single game, within the system we think Southgate might deploy.

Got it? So, without further ado, be sure to check out the starting XI down below because let's just say there are a few surprises along the way:

GK: Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion)

Isn't this a turn up for the books? Perhaps Johnstone's status as the Premier League goalkeeper to have made the most saves last season is the reason behind his unexpected leap up from third-choice to top dog here.

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Euro 2020: News, Groups, Fixtures, Dates, Tickets, Odds And Everything You Need To Know

RB: Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid)

The surprises just keep on coming, don't they? The right-back that many were tipping Southgate to jettison from his provisional 33-man squad is, in fact, the defender to produce the finest data on the way to La Liga glory.

CB: John Stones (Manchester City)

Ok, shocks over because I think every man and his dog would select Stones in their starting XI on the back of a fantastic season at the Etihad Stadium.

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CB: Harry Maguire (Manchester United)

And yup, see above, because if Maguire is indeed fit to play the opening game, then it's an absolute no-brainer to start him against the nation that brought us so much heartbreak in 2018.

LB: Luke Shaw (Manchester United)

Let's be honest here, it wouldn't be surprising to see Southgate keeping the faith with Ben Chilwell against Croatia, but the statistics back up the prevailing opinion of fans that Shaw enjoyed the superior season.

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CM: Declan Rice (West Ham United)

No shocks here because Rice has been in amazing form for the Hammers and will be one of the first names on Southgate's team sheet this summer.

CM: Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United)

Uh oh. True to the worst fears of some England fans, the data points towards a conservative approach in midfield with Phillips outperforming both Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson when it comes to league statistics.

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CAM: Mason Mount (Chelsea)

No qualms here, is there? Mount has been on another level for Chelsea this season and has a Champions League winners' medal to show for it.

RW: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)

There's no place for Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford because Sancho's dazzling end-of-the-season flourish in the Bundesliga, finishing on eight goals and 11 assists, has done enough to bag him a start.

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ST: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Like, duh. As much as we love Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has undoubtedly enjoyed a strong year at Everton, he never stood a chance against arguably the world's most complete number nine with an insane 37 Premier League goal contributions.

LW: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)

A darling of statistics by way of being a Duracell bunny who draws more fouls than we can possibly count, Grealish has looked like a world-beater at times for England and could be a game-changer at Euro 2020.

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A few surprises

I can already picture the anger around the country if Southgate genuinely played Johnstone, Trippier and started both Phillips and Rice in midfield. 

But this is - of course - where it's important to remember that statistics aren't everything in the world of football and Southgate will have far more access to data than us humble journalists anyhow.

However, all that said, the WhoScored.com stats could have done much, much worse because that front three would still cause serious problems for any nation in the competition.

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