Defenders: N Clyne, K Walker, S Cook, C Smalling, J Stones, J Tomkins, A Cresswell, R Bertrand, D Rose
I did a bit of full-back trimming to get to that point, so today I’ll concentrate on centre-backs. Remember that I want as much young talent involved as possible while still retaining enough quality to win games. I looked at the fixtures definitely known about (Russia, Wales, Slovakia) and the likely opponents in the Round of 16 (Romania/Poland/Czech Rep/Austria) and decided England need players comfortable in possession for early rounds.
Mark Thompson who runs the ETNAR site is super-determined to look at on-ball stats that are useful for defenders. Mark’s latest work certainly comes in handy here. I can compare each player’s style to fellow Premier League centre-backs. What I’m interested in here is the last 3 columns. It’s all explained on the viz. Essentially, how much ball does this player have, does he keep it short, how comfortable is he with bringing the ball out rather than just wellying it?
You’ll note that I’ve included last season for Tomkins. This is because he’s played a lot at right back this season. It’s going to effect the numbers I’m interested in. Last season he played at right back less, and as you’ll see, he doesn’t quite look so hot on the ball there at centre-back.
However, it’s always useful to recognise that what a player is asked to do is often restrictive. Still, for now, I’m being cautious and concentrating on what I know he can do in the position he’s being considered for.
Tomkins can’t match Smalling and Stones’ numbers here whatever position he plays. Steve Cook isn’t too far behind, though, with his volume of passing and its shortness, but he doesn’t bring it out like Smalling and Stones.
I also have to confess to liking the player characteristics section at Whoscored. Here’s my guys:
When I say I like them, I mean I like the idea of them. I’ve watched most of the games John Stones has played in his senior career (I’m an Everton fan). According to the Whoscored statistical measurements he has ‘no signifcant weaknesses’. One begs to differ. Also, looking at some of the other ‘measurements’ like ‘concentration’…well, Lord knows how they arrive at that statistically.
But let’s ‘concentrate’ on the positive bits. Passing, blocking and all those types of things you can easily compare those to other players. Granted, there’s not a lot of context but you can get some of that from the ‘style of play’ section.
The Whoscored stuff backs up (well it is from the same data source) Mark’s profiles in that Tomkins (goodbye for now James) is not what I want for this England squad at the moment, and also about Stones and Smalling on-the-ball style too. Neither Stones and Smalling appear statistically exceptional in the air. This backs up my eye test on Stones certainly. Steve Cook, however? It gives me another reason to consider him. He can pass it and head it. Maybe not critically important at international level, heading, but I’m looking for some diversity, and he could be used for a specific job if needed.
Worryingly, Stones is the only one meeting criteria right now who is classed as a ‘young talent’. I’m struggling to meet brief already. Follow me on twitter @footballfactman.