An England XI based purely on form in 2023: Saka, Bellingham, Balogun…

England are back in action this month with Euro qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine and Gareth Southgate really is spoilt for choice in several positions.

Prior to selecting his starting 11, Southgate was forced to make some big calls as the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben White didn’t make the squad itself.

We’ve gathered all of the data and selected England’s best XI based purely on form in 2023. Note: we have not included players carrying an injury and so Marcus Rashford has been left out.

GK: Aaron Ramsdale

There’s a strong argument to be made for each of England’s goalkeepers, but Ramsdale’s form in 2023 just pips him. He has kept five clean sheets during the calendar year, which is two more than Jordan Pickford. The 24-year-old is also dealing with the pressure of playing between the sticks for the Premier League league leaders.

When taking Nick Pope’s red card into consideration, Ramsdale just about comes out on top in the stats. Although we wouldn’t begrudge Southgate for sticking with Pickford.

RB: Kieran Trippier

Based on WhoScored average match ratings, Trippier has been the best right-back in Europe this season. In 2023 alone, he has created 43 chances at a rate of 3.3 chances created per game.

Along with his excellent creative output, the defender has been an integral part of Newcastle’s stellar defensive record. Eddie Howe’s side have only conceded 19 goals, which is the best record in the Premier League.

White also deserves an honourable mention in this position, despite being left out of the squad, but Trippier’s superior creative numbers give him the edge.

CB: John Stones

Despite a lack of game time compared to other defenders in the squad, Stones still ranks as one of the best. For example, Manchester City have had a far superior defensive record with Stones in the side.

The 28-year-old has featured in six games for City during 2023 and they have kept a clean sheet in five of those matches. With Stones in the side so far this calendar year, City have only conceded 0.33 goals per game.

CB: Ben Mee

The Brentford defender has always been overlooked when it comes to the England squad, but his excellent form in 2023 cannot be ignored. Mee has been at the heart of a Brentford side who have one of the best defensive records in the league.

In 2023, Brentford have kept four clean sheets with Mee in the side and his underlying numbers have also been superb. With 3.2 clearances and 1.4 interceptions per game, he is a worthy inclusion in the XI.

LB: Luke Shaw

Given Ben Chilwell’s recent form, he gives Shaw a run for his money in this position. However, based on the stats the United man still takes the left-back spot. In 2023, Shaw has provided four assists which is more than any other England defender.

He has been given a new lease of life under Erik ten Hag and hopefully, England fans can also see the benefits of this.

RM: Bukayo Saka

He is probably the first name on the teamsheet right now. Arsenal’s starboy is one of only five players in Europe’s top leagues to be in double figures for both goals and assists this season.

In the calendar year so far he has scored six goals and has made four assists. At a rate of 0.63 goal contributions per game, Saka should be the first name on Southgate’s teamsheet.

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka celebrates after the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London

READ: 9 amazing stats that show Bukayo Saka is Arsenal’s starboy

CM: Jude Bellingham

The 19-year-old couldn’t conjure up much in the Champions League against Chelsea, but his underlying numbers in the Bundesliga have remained consistent.

Along with a goal threat, Bellingham also offers a great deal off the ball. In the league, he averages 2.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game. He’s also played a key role in Borussia Dortmund overtaking Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga. Dortmund have won all but two of their matches in all competitions since the World Cup and Bellingham has a strong shout to be their player of the season.

CM: James Ward-Prowse

Given we have seen a dip in form from Declan Rice, the stats suggest Ward-Prowse would be a worthy starter for England. He didn’t make the cut in Southgate’s squad, but we are still throwing him in.

The Southampton captain has scored five goals in 2023, which is more than any other English holding midfielder. His laser-sharp set pieces would also come in handy for the Three Lions.

Ward-Prowse can certainly feel aggrieved to have missed out at the expense of Kalvin Philipps, who has never let Southgate down but has made just two starts for Man City all season.

LM: Solly March

Rashford would have been the obvious inclusion here, but as he is injured we have looked elsewhere. Jack Grealish deserves an honourable mention for his improved form in 2023, but we can’t ignore March right now.

The versatile Brighton winger has scored seven goals this year as well as chipping in with two assists. In 2023 alone, March is averaging a goal contribution every 116.5 minutes which is outstanding. If the 28-year-old keeps this form up, surely Southgate won’t be able to ignore him much longer.

ST: Folarin Balogun

Both Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney deserve honourable mentions, but Balogun has outscored both of them in 2023. The Arsenal man has been having the time of his life in Reims and is well in the Golden Boot race in Ligue 1.

In 2023 alone, the 21-year-old has scored seven goals. He has scored against the likes of PSG and Monaco this year as well as bagging a hat trick against Lorient.

If he continues at his current rate, he’ll be getting a call-up in no time.

ST: Harry Kane 

There’s plenty of competition in the forward department right now, but Kane still justifies his starting spot. The England captain has scored nine goals in 2023 and remains a crucial player for club and country.


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