England's Best Starting XI | Part 1: Defence | Opta Stats Analysis

England's Best Starting XI | Part 1: Defence | Opta Stats Analysis

With the European Championships in Ukraine and Poland only a few months away and England still without a manager it looks like a daunting task for whoever takes over from Fabio Capello.

To make this task easier we have derived a way to help whoever takes over with their starting line ups for the competition. We have done this by comparing players for each position using Opta statistics from the 2011/2012 season up to and including the matches that took place on Sunday 15th April 2012.

We have then given the player who came out on top in each section of the comparison 5 points, the player who came second 3 points and the player that came third 1 point and then added up the totals.

The first position that will be looked at is the goalkeeper.


The goalkeepers chosen for this comparison are: Joe Hart, Ben Foster, Paul Robinson and John Ruddy due to the fact that these are the only English goalkeepers that start for their respective Premier League teams.

The first two statistics that were compared was how many goals the goalkeepers had conceded this season and how many goals per game they had conceded. As you can see from the table Hart came out on top in both these statistics by conceding 20 less goals this season than his nearest rival Foster and conceding 0.59 less goals per game than the West Brom goalkeeper.

Joe Hart also has the joint best penalty save ratio with Paul Robinson as both goalkeepers have saved 33.33% of the penalties that they have faced this season. This statistic will give England fans a bit of comfort knowing that Hart has saved 1 in 3 of the penalties he has faced this season, especially when it comes to the knockout stages of the competition.

The only area where Foster performs better than the other goalkeepers is coming out for crosses. Foster has caught the ball 53 times from crosses this season which is 7 more times than Ruddy, 18 more times than Hart and 22 more times than Robinson. He has also only missed 1 cross this season which is marginally better than Robinson and Ruddy who have missed 2 crosses and slightly better than Hart who has missed 3 crosses this season.

Therefore, due to fact that Joe Hart comes out 1 point better off then Ben Foster in the comparison and the fact that Hart has kept more clean sheets, conceded less goals and saved more penalties than any of his rivals he is the obvious choice for the number one spot.

Goalkeeper Choice: Joe Hart

Left Back

The results of the left back comparison between Ashley Cole, Kieran Gibbs and Leighton Baines are very interesting as England’s first choice left back at the moment Ashley Cole does not compare very well to the two other left backs in the comparison.

Baines has a greater tackle success rate this season than both Cole and Gibbs but only by the smallest of margins. Baines has won 71.93% of his tackles this season which is 0.14% better than Cole and 7.64% better than Gibbs. Although, Gibbs has won 7% more ground 50-50s than Cole and 10% more than Baines.

Gibbs also comes out on top in the amount of aerial 50-50s he has won as he has won 10% more than Cole and 19% more than Baines.

The only area where Cole comes out on top is in his pass completion as he has completed an impressive 85.43% of his passes this season. This is 5.66% better than his closest rival Gibbs and 13.9% better than Baines.

However, going forward there is one clear winner as Baines has created a chance for his team every 44 minutes which is a very impressive considering it takes Gibbs an extra 63 minutes to create a chance and Cole and extra 73 minutes. Baines crossing accuracy is also very impressive as his cross finds its intended target 28% of the time which is 6% better than Cole and 14% better than Gibbs.

Baines also kept possession of the ball better than his two rivals as he only loses the ball every 103 minutes, which is 10 minutes longer than Cole and an impressive 34 minutes longer than Gibbs.

Therefore, as Baines comes out 2 points better than Gibbs in this comparison he should be considered England’s first choice left back this summer. Although, to be successful Baines has to work on winning more ground and aerial 50-50s as this is the weakest part of his game compared to his rivals. He also needs to continue his good work going forward as he has produced very impressive statistics this season so far.

Left Back Choice: Leighton Baines

Click on the next page (below right or top right) to find out about the statistically chosen Right Back and Centre Backs

Right Back

The results of the right back comparison support Fabio Capello’s choice of making Glen Johnson his first choice right back as he comes out 10 points better off than Micah Richards and 16 points better than Kyle Walker in this comparison.

The results of this comparison may show that Glen Johnson comes out on top but there are only small differences in a lot of the statistics.

This is the case in the amount of ground 50-50s that are won as although Johnson comes out second in this statistic he has only won 1% more ground 50-50s  than Walker and only 1% less than Richards. He also comes out second in tackle success rate but again the differences between him and the player who comes out on top (Walker) is only 6.25%.

The main area where Johnson impresses though is going forward as he creates a chance for his team every 88 minutes which is 9 minutes more often than Walker and an impressive 57 minutes more often than Richards.

Johnson also comes out on top in pass completion rate and crossing accuracy but again only comes out on top by a slight difference, as he has completed 0.69% more passes than his nearest rival Richards and his crosses have found their target 1% more of the time than both Richards and Walker.

So, although Johnson should be considered as England’s first choice right back for the European Championships, based on the Opta Statistics above, Richards or Walker would make a more than adequate replacement.

Right Back Choice: Glen Johnson

Centre Backs

The results of this comparison may surprise some people as based on this seasons statistics former England captain John Terry would not make the starting line-up.

Joleon Lescott comes out as the clear winner from this comparison with 21 points with Rio Ferdinand and John Terry following closely behind on 13 and 10 points.

Lescott has won a very impressive 92.11% of his tackles this season which is 4.61% better than his closest rival in this statistic Chris Smalling and a staggering 21.9% better than John Terry. He has also won 77% of his aerial 50-50s this season which is 1% better than Jagielka, 3% better than Terry and 7% better than Ferdinand. He has also not made a single defensive error this season, which is quite impressive considering Terry makes a defensive error every 780 minutes and Ferdinand makes one every 706 minutes.

Lescott has also conceded the least amount of goals per game this season as well as Man City have only conceded 0.77 goals per game when he has played. This is the best statistic in this comparison with only Jones and Ferdinand coming close, conceding 0.86 and 0.88 goals per game.

John Terry comes out on top in pass completion rate as 90.85% of his passes find a teammate, which is marginally better than Rio Ferdinand who completes 89.81% of his passes and Joleon Lescott who completes 87.92% of his passes.

As well as completing 89.81% of his passes Rio Ferdinand only loses possession of the ball every 423 minutes which is 163 minutes longer than John Terry, 183 minutes longer than Gary Cahill and a staggering 268 minutes longer than Joleon Lescott.

To conclude, Lescott and Ferdinand should beEngland’s first choice centre back partnership for Euro 2012 as they both come out on top in the comparison. Lescott is an obvious choice as he has made more successful tackles than anyone else, won more aerial 50-50s and conceded fewer goals per game than everyone else, while Ferdinand has also won a high percentage of tackles he has made, won 70% of his ground 50-50s and rarely loses possession of the ball.

John Terry comes close to making the starting line up but his tackle success rate of 70.21% and the amount of goals he conceded per game (1.08) lets him down.

Centre Back Choices: Joleon Lescott and Rio Ferdinand

So far the England back four and goalkeeper for Euro 2012 consists of:

England Defence for Euros based on Opta Stats

Stay Tuned in the next few days for Part 2: England’s Midfield

All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.