Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring during the during the FIFA World Cup match between England and Iran at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar, November 2022.

England’s best XI based entirely objectively on 2022-23 form: Pope, Rice, Saka, Rashford…

The end of the 2022-23 season is near, but the football won’t end for the summer without an obligatory international break, of course. England play another two games in their bid to secure EURO 2024 qualification in June, and Gareth Southgate has already named his squad.

As you can imagine, there was plenty of backlash, like there is just about every single time Southgate announces a squad these days. You’d think having taken the Three Lions to a World Cup semi-final and a Euros final that he might just know what he’s doing, but no.

So, with those EURO qualifiers on the horizon and the season almost over, we at Planet Football have pulled together the perfect England XI on paper, comprised of the 11 best-performing players this season, objectively on their output.

GK: Nick Pope

A closely contested position as always, Pope just about claims number one spot following a fantastic season between the sticks for Newcastle.

He’s made the third-most saves out of any English goalkeeper behind Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale, but has played the second-most minutes out of the three and has kept the most clean sheets, conceding just 32 goals in the Premier League at the time of writing. No side has conceded fewer.

The stats were pretty close, but given that Pickford is playing in a team who concede a lot of chances, his save numbers were always going to be inflated. Pope has been exceptional and takes the number one spot.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Another close one, Alexander-Arnold just edges it ahead of Kieran Trippier.

Alexander-Arnold has weighed in with 14 goal contributions across all competitions so far this season, compared to Trippier’s 11. The Newcastle full-back has conceded 10 fewer goals than Alexander-Arnold, but has only kept one clean sheet more and hasn’t boasted the same attacking output.

Liverpool’s No.66 hasn’t quite been as consistent start-to-finish as Trippier, having endured a tough first half of the season, but his move to a quasi-midfield role has coincided with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds ending the 2022-23 campaign incredibly strongly.

Reece James has spent most of the season injured, while Solly March has played a more advanced role and hasn’t often been deployed as a traditional full-back at Brighton.

Trent Alexander-Arnold during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Fulham at Anfield, Liverpool, May 2023.

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CB: Marc Guehi

The young defender has quietly put together a seriously impressive campaign, going from strength to strength at Crystal Palace.

Guehi has one of the fewest times dribbled past statistics, has played more minutes than most of his English colleagues and has made more tackles than most. At just 22 years old, his numbers are incredibly positive in a Palace side that had struggled for most of the season, before Roy Hodgson’s return.

CB: John Stones

Stones continues to get better season upon season and has been of utmost importance to Manchester City in their chase for a treble.

He’s conceded just 25 goals and kept 18 clean sheets, racked up well over 3000 minutes and boasts some impressive passing statistics, a testament to his role as the man stepping into midfield for Pep Guardiola when building up.

LB: Rico Henry

While Luke Shaw has been brilliant for Manchester United, his availability has let him down, while Henry’s numbers have been positive and he has been a consistent figure for Brentford.

He’s also ticked over 3000 minutes and constantly ranks in and around the top three when it comes to tackles, blocks and clearances, with his statistics painting him as an all-rounder in an overperforming Brentford side.

Just two assists isn’t the healthiest number going forward, but it’s still a positive and he makes up for it elsewhere, also boasting a strong average WhoScored rating.

CM: Jude Bellingham

No surprises here – Bellingham has bossed it for Borussia Dortmund.

Fourteen goals and seven assists across all competitions so far this season, the 19-year-old has stepped up tremendously and his stats reflect that. Bellingham also has the most successful dribbles out of all English midfielders he’s competing with, takes the most shots, has won the third-most aerial duels, and does the defensive work too, blocking the joint-most amount of passes and winning the second-most tackles.


CM: Declan Rice

The man who’s made more tackles than Bellingham is Rice, of course.

Captain, leader, legend, West Ham’s midfield general does it from box to box and is constantly available for the Hammers. He’s played the highest amount of accurate long and short passes, made the most interceptions and ranks behind only Bellingham and Eberechi Eze for successful dribbles.

His game has burst into life this season.

CM: James Ward-Prowse

He was run close by a few exciting names across a number of categories, with Eze, Joe Willock and even Angel Gomes emerging as potential candidates, bur Ward-Prowse’s stats are consistently in the top bracket.

While he isn’t the biggest carrier of the ball, the Southampton man has made the third-most tackles behind the two already mentioned and has a knack for clearances, adding some steel to a progressive midfield.

Ward-Prowse has also managed 10 goals this season and is a dab hand from set-pieces.

RW: Bukayo Saka

Sorry, Solly March. But it’s just not meant to be this time round.

The Brighton man has been superb, but Saka has simply been better. Unplayable at times.

14 goals and 11 assists from the right flank in all competitions, the 21-year-old was key in Arsenal so nearly clinching the Premier League title and has added a serious cutting edge to his game in 2022-23. He’s also clear when it comes to key passes, attempted dribbles and successful dribbles – to absolutely no surprise.

ST: Harry Kane

No surprises here – in a terrible season for Tottenham, Kane has still managed to fire them in for fun.

He takes the most shots, he scores the most goals and he even does his defensive work, blocking the most passes and making the second-most tackles of any English striker.

LW: Marcus Rashford

Rashford has spent his season divvying up his time between centre-forward and left wing, but wherever he is deployed, he’s looked menacing.

53 appearances, 29 goals, 11 assists. He’s also played over 4000 minutes in all competitions. Off the back of his worst season ever, Rashford has bounced back like a man possessed and destroyed the competition for the left-wing spot. There’s no debate to be had; nobody has matched those numbers.

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