Ashley Cole has dominated the England left-back spot for many years, first breaking into the team against Albania in 2001, back when Sven was in charge. Wayne Bridge provided a little competition from 2002 until his last appearance in 2009. Since then we’ve seen Leighton Baines come into his own at Everton, being linked with Manchester United along the way, and begin to provide more competition, yet Ashley Cole is still considered the first choice left back.
Kieran Gibbs has been in and out of the Arsenal team since Cole’s departure, and since last season he has begun to see more and more chances in the first team. Ryan Bertrand and Luke Shaw have also came through the Chelsea and Southampton academies, respectively. Then we have Danny Rose who has slipped under the radar since his incredible volley for Spurs against Arsenal, where he has been on loan at a number of Championship clubs until this season where he’s established himself at Sunderland.
So they will all find themselves comparable to Ashley Cole for that coveted England first choice position. We certainly expect Leighton Baines to begin to prove his worth as left-back for England, especially as he is 28,only four short of Cole, it is only a matter of time as discussed earlier in the week on EPLIndex. So what about the future beyond that with Gibbs, Bertrand, Shaw and Rose and how do they compare to the current England left-back, Ashley Cole?
[box_light]Percentage and Min per stats: The statistics have been used to maintain reliability, so it does not matter if a player has been involved in more games or not. Statistics for Ashley Cole are an average from the 08/09 to the current season, the other players statistics are from this season only, due to lack of appearances in earlier seasons with players like Bertrand, Rose and Shaw which skewed their data. Where there is a blank box in the stats, this indicates that that statistic didn’t happen, for example Danny Rose hasn’t made a mistake which has led to a shot or a goal.[/box_light]
Using a rating system after each category analysis, 5 being the worst and 1 being the bes, we can have some indication at the end who is the best overall (so the lower the score the better), from that we can see who is currently on course to take the left-back spot in the future after Cole and Baines.
English Left-back Defensive Stats
It’s not surprising that Ashley Cole is average with his defensive stats, as he is renowned for his attacking style. It is surprising how well Shaw and Rose are doing compared to Gibbs, who has had a lot more Premier League experience at left-back. Ryan Bertrand’s stats aren’t just worse than the rest, they are very poor.
I must admit, I really like Luke Shaw as a player, it is great to see young English players getting a lot of game time, especially at a club like Southampton who have just been promoted and could have turned to spending their promotion money on seasoned veterans. Shaw has definitely taken his chances and has done incredible defensively, especially for a team who has negative goal difference.
1: Luke Shaw
2: Danny Rose
3: Kieran Gibbs
4: Ashley Cole
5: Ryan Bertrand
English Left-Back Errors Stats
Although Ashley Cole may appear to have made the least mistakes per minute which have led to a shot or goal, Danny Rose hasn’t made one at all. Luke Shaw has done the worst in that respect, committing a mistake every 6 games. Kieran Gibbs has done really well in terms of ball retention, keeping the ball more often than the rest. Despite Shaw’s poor showing in errors leading to shots or goals, he has done really well in terms of committing the least fouls and also with this incredible showing in the defensive stats, he is obviously a great defensive player.
I feel the ‘Min/Error Led to Shot’ stat is the most important here, which is why Cole takes the top spot and Shaw takes 5th, Danny Rose only comes 3rd due to his poor showing in the other categories.
1: Ashley Cole
2: Kieran Gibbs
3: Danny Rose
4: Ryan Bertrand
5: Luke Shaw
English Left-Back Passing Stats
This is where Ashley Cole begins to show his attacking dominance. I found an interesting statistic for Ashley Cole, his crossing accuracy dropped from an average of 21.5% for the seasons of 08/09 – 11/12, to just 9% for this season; guess who left last season, Didier Drogba. Chelsea have lost a massive contributor to their aerial power, and it his shown in Ashley Cole’s massive dip in crossing accuracy.
Cole has done the best here, with the highest passing accuracy and a very good cross accuracy, and although Shaw has more successful throw-ins (an important attribute as a full-back), Cole isn’t too far behind. Luke Shaw is very poor in terms of his passing, yet his crossing is really good. Which you prefer out of passing and crossing is up to you, some may prefer a full-back who keeps the ball in possession, other will prefer one who puts a good cross in after getting down the line.
I feel pass and cross accuracy is the most important here, which is why Gibbs comes in 2nd. Luke Shaw’s impressive crossing stats bring him up to 3rd, but there isn’t much at all between the bottom 3 here, and either of them would be worthy of it.
1: Ashley Cole
2: Kieran Gibbs
3: Luke Shaw
4: Danny Rose
5: Ryan Bertrand
English Left-Back Creativity Stats
With the modern game generally looking towards attacking full-backs, creativity has become an important attribute. They are expected to contribute to team attacks as much as they are to defend.
There isn’t much between Cole and Gibbs here, but I think Gibbs takes the top spot with better chance creation and assists. Ryan Bertrand begins to look more like a decent left-back here, with an average showing in all sub-categories. Luke Shaw’s lack of assists and poor showing in chance creation sees him in 5th, even though he is the best dribbler. It is good to see Shaw coupling great defensive stats with a really good dribbling ability, but for him to really shine as a full-back, he will need to create more chances, hopefully when his end-product improves, his dribbling ability will allow him to get into positions where he can create.
1: Kieran Gibbs
2: Ashley Cole
3: Ryan Bertrand
4: Danny Rose
5: Luke Shaw
So there we have it, a quick look at the main stats for the young English left-backs of the Premier League, with Ashley Cole in there for comparison reasons.
1st: Kieran Gibbs (and Ashley Cole)
2nd: Danny Rose
3rd: Luke Shaw
4th: Ryan Bertrand
Both Gibbs and Cole received the same points, Cole has been bracketed as we are only concentrating on the future left-back. Kieran Gibbs was expected to finish at the top to be honest, with Premier League experience back to the 08/09 season. He definitely has an advantage over the others.
It is amazing to see how well Danny Rose has done, he has slipped under the radar since that goal against Arsenal back in the 09/10 season, but he’s played really well this season for Sunderland. It will be interesting to see where he ends up next season, I would like to see him go back to Spurs and compete for the left-back spot with Assou-Ekotto.
Luke Shaw has done incredibly well in his début season in the Premier League, especially at just 17 years old. With Southampton looking to stay up this season, it will be interesting to see how well he does next year.
So Kieran Gibbs looks the most likely to be challenging for the England left-back spot in the future, especially after Cole and Baines. It is pretty much neck and neck between Shaw and Rose, but next season will be the best indicator of where they are in terms of senior England squad standard. I am hoping that this season will be one that Bertrand builds upon next year, with Cole as his mentor, it shouldn’t be long before he starts to play a lot better. But what do you think? Who do you want to see taking that England left-back spot in the future? Vote in the poll to the right and add an answer if you feel we should take any others into account.
[box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]