Recently, the English national team have been going through a renaissance period. During this summer’s World Cup the country was hit by a wave of optimism as Gareth Southgate led the team to their best placed finish since 1990. Although football didn’t quite make it ‘home’, hope for the future was well and truly restored. England have moved up to 5th in the FIFA World Rankings and last week, the team added to their growing reputation by topping their Nations League group with impressive victories over Spain and Croatia.
Previously I have analysed England squad selection using data from Fantasy Premier League (FPL) (here, here and here). These posts highlight some potential bias towards selection based on reputation rather than form. Gareth Southgate stated from the beginning of his tenure that players "need to be playing regularly" and "be in good form".
Table 1 shows players selected for the England squad that would be included in squad based on FPL points while Table 2 shows the players that would miss out of the squad and their replacements.
Table 1 shows 14 out of 23 players (60%) selected for England’s fixtures would also be included in the squad based on fantasy football points. However, Jack Butland (Stoke) and Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) do not play in the Premier League so have not accumulated any Premier League points. Excluding these places from the analysis means that 66% of the current England squad is made up of the most in form English players in the Premier League.
Southgate seems to have gone for youth at the expense of form in the midfield area. Perhaps coincidentally, this is also one of England’s most problematic areas with a lack of creativity and a dependency on set pieces being identified as potential weakness in the current squad. Overall, Southgate is selecting the best performing players regardless of reputation and this may go a long way in explaining why these players are delivering results.