Football Features

The best England XI from Southgate’s current squad based on 2023/24 form

By Harry Edwards

Published: 10:30, 22 March 2024

We’re less than three months away from England’s opening game of Euro 2024.

Time is running out for Gareth Southgate to make the final decisions on his squad for the Euros, with this international break the last time he’ll be able to take a full look. Southgate has called up 26 players in total for England’s two friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, with a couple of players joining the set up for the first time.

Of course, Southgate will only be allowed to name a 23-man squad for the Euros this summer, with the extra allowance from three years ago being dropped. So there are decisions to be made.

Obviously Southgate will have his favourites and there will be names almost certain to be in the squad, whether fans agree or disagree. But, statistically, which is the strongest starting XI? We’ve taken a look at the current England squad and put together a 4-3-3 XI based on their Squawka Score from the 2023/24 season.

How is the XI decided?

Squawka uses Opta data and Twenty3’s Discover tool to generate player ratings in every position. These ratings are calculated using a range of weighted metrics associated with the position (i.e. Virgil van Dijk’s 84% aerial duel success is part of why he’s our highest rated central defender in the Premier League this season with a score of 72%).

To be eligible for a score, players must have managed at least 500 minutes in one of Europe’s top seven leagues this season.

Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford (51%)

It doesn’t feel like there’s much competition for places when it comes to England’s No.1 shirt, with Jordan Pickford holding onto the role for quite some time. When others have come in to replace him, they haven’t really inspired, with Southgate always resorting back to the Everton shot-stopper. Despite Everton’s problems this season, Pickford remains reliable in goal and has eight clean sheets in the Premier League so far.

Right-back: Kyle Walker (69%)

England only have one recognised right-back in their squad for the March international break, so Kyle Walker takes this spot by default. But he’s a reliable man to have. The 33-year-old perhaps isn’t as strong defensively as he used to be, but he’s still tough to beat on his day. And unfortunately for opposition defenders, his day is still fairly often. Like Pickford, Walker is a firm favourite of Southgate’s anyway, so would likely start if out of form.

Both currently injured, Kieran Trippier (74%) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (71%) are the best Premier League right-backs this season so far, according to our Full-back score.

Centre-back: Ezri Konsa (63%)

The first real difference statistically from the XI we’d expect Southgate to choose, Ezri Konsa has been one of England’s best centre-backs this season. He’s been up there for a while, too, but hasn’t really got the recognition from Southgate or many outside the Aston Villa circle. Good with the ball at his feet, Konsa has completed 92.89% of his passes in the Premier League this season, whjile also making 57 clearances and winning possession 57 times in the defensive third.

Centre-back: John Stones (54%)

On of the other side of the defence is the centre-back you’d expect Southgate to start — probably alongside Harry Maguire.

John Stones has been brilliant for Manchester City this season but is awkward to rate given he’s played half the season in midfield.

His rating above, while enough to get him in the XI, doesn’t truly reflect his contributions. Stones is no longer just your average centre-back but a pseudo-midfielder who allows Man City to have more control of the ball. It’s unlikely we’ll see Stones in this role for England, but his versatility without losing quality is wonderful for any manager.

Left-back: Ben Chilwell (62%)

Ben Chilwell is England’s strongest option at left-back in an attacking sense. Across the Premier League, Andy Robertson is the only left-back to average more ‘big chances’ created per 90 minutes played. Chilwell also averages more take-ons attempted (1.88) than any compatriot.

Elsewhere, Joe Gomez is another option for the left-back role if Southgate is looking for balance.

Central midfielder: Declan Rice (67%)

Are you surprised? We’re not. Declan Rice has been one of the best midfielders in the Premier League this season. In fact, he’s the best English midfielder in the competition according to our CM score.

As well as keeping his high standards of tackling and interceptions, Rice has added goals and assists to his arsenal — no pun intended. Rice has scored six goals and provided five assists in the Premier League this season, while also making 55 tackles, 35 interceptions and winning possession 66 times in the middle third. Only two midfielders have completed more passes than him.

AM: James Maddison (77%)

If James Maddison hadn’t suffered an injury in November, the Englishman could have been running away in the race for the Playmaker Award. Already one of England’s most creative players, Maddison took his game up a level after moving to Tottenham, providing five assists in his first eight Premier League games. At the time of his injury, Maddison had also added three goals in the league. It took Maddison just two Premier League games to get back among the assists on his return, setting up Richarlison against Everton, and he’s since added another.  Per 90 minutes, Maddison has averaged 2.69 chances created in the Premier League this season, with 0.43 assists per 90 — the fifth-best in the league.

No. 8: Jude Bellingham (73%)

The boy wonder Jude Bellingham has been dominating in La Liga this season, so of course he was going to find his way into this XI. We were all aware of Bellingham’s quality, even at his young age, but even his most ardent of fans wouldn’t have expected the midfielder to be performing as well as he has for Real Madrid this season. Despite some injury problems over the campaign, Bellingham is still the top scorer in La Liga with 16 goals at an average of 0.77 per 90 minutes. He also leads La Liga for possessions won in the attacking third this season at 27, with only four players managing more across Europe’s top five leagues — Conor Gallagher leads the way with 34.

Right wing: Cole Palmer (72%)

Owing to Bakayo Saka’s injury-enforced withdrawal, Cole Palmer takes the right wing spot in our Squawka Score England XI. It’s a testament to Palmer’s rise this season that it isn’t such a huge step down (Saka rates at 76%). With 11 goals and eight assists for Chelsea in the league this season, Palmer averages 0.98 goal contributions per 90 minutes.

Striker: Harry Kane (81%)

There was only going to be one man here. Harry Kane is very much loving life in the Bundesliga this season, even if may not end his trophy drought. He’s already broken the record for most goals scored in a debut Bundesliga campaign, netting 31 goals in 26 matches, while also adding seven assists. He’s scored more headers than any other Bundesliga player too, with eight in total. Kane has had more shots than any Bundesliga player, and more on target, as well as the highest Expected Goals (25.63) and Expected Goals on Target (26.78). There aren’t many strikers at his level across Europe full stop, let alone English strikers.

Left wing: Phil Foden (76%)

Coming in with a same score as Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden is moved over to the left wing as he likely will be for England. Foden’s quality this season has shone all across the front line, whether that be on the right, left, or as a central attacking midfielder. His stepping up ensured that Man City didn’t miss the injured Erling Haaland as much as they could have. Foden has 11 goals in the Premier League this season with seven assists, and 10 of those strikes have been from open play. He has also created 57 chances, and won possession in the attacking third 27 times. It will be a surprise if he isn’t in the starting XI for Southgate this summer.

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