I’ve whittled right backs and centre backs down to the following based on minutes played:
Defenders: N Clyne, K Walker, S Cook, C Smalling, J Stones, A Cresswell, R Bertrand, D Rose
Three left-backs left (ahem) to look at. I’m going to keep it really simple to start. At present, I think Rose is above both Cresswell and Bertrand. He’s the youngest of the three, and he’s started over 100 Premier League games now, making him a pretty steady presence over the last 4 seasons. He’s on the ball more than the others too. Although yet to receive a full cap, Rose has the most extensive England u21 experience here and has been to the u21 European Championships 3 times. To me this can only be a good thing. He’s in.
That leaves Cresswell and Bertrand. Both have settled into Premier League regulars over the last two seasons. Both are on the ball a similar amount each week, but my xA numbers tell me that Cresswell is the most directly attacking of the two.
The West Ham man is much more liable to fling it into the box from deeper than Bertrand and more likely to play into feet for attackers to turn and have a pop at goal than the Southampton man. He plays in a team that mixes it up more and as de facto England manager, that ability to have different options is important to me – especially as Rose is the least creative one here.
In part one of this series, the criteria stated that familiarity was important due to the lack of time to gel the squad. Cresswell is struggling here. His only club team mate making the cut so far is Noble. But Noble will be a ‘veteran’ (over 28 yrs old) by June.
Bertrand on the other hand is used to playing in a defensive unit with Fraser Forster who is likely to be a strong wildcard option in goal and with Clyne. He’s also played a lot with midfield options Lallana, Cork and Ward-Prowse.
On top of this, my xG data shows Southampton as a strong defensive unit for the last 2 seasons. West Ham? Not so much. I also know in the back of my mind that if i want a defensively suspect, good on the ball, creative attacking left-back, then Leighton Baines as a fit-again wildcard has been flat out smoking anyone else in that room for a decade. It’s been a difficult choice, but Cresswell is being left behind for now.
After all that, here’s the list of surviving defenders: N Clyne, K Walker, S Cook, C Smalling, J Stones, R Bertrand, D Rose
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