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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

James Amey
James Amey
Head of the writers here on EPLIndex! Can also be found on Twitter - @jamesamey316
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