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The Stats Don’t Lie: Three Players Who Should’ve Been Called Up to the England Squad

After this weekend’s Premier League schedule, attention has turned to the international games which see England take on Chile and Germany at Wembley in two friendly matches. Manager Roy Hodgson named his 28-man-squad recently and we saw Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez called into the side for the first time due to an injury to Danny Welbeck.

These two friendly matches provide the perfect opportunity for Hodgson to experiment with players who are either on the fringes of the squad or whose previous form merited a place. But who should have been included in the squad for the upcoming friendlies according to the stats?

1. Ravel Morrison

The standout surprise name in the squad announcement is Southampton forward Jay Rodriguez. Whilst the 24-year-old may well be a wildcard pick ahead of the World Cup, West Ham’s Ravel Morrison can feel hard done by not to be included.

Rodriguez has found the net on three occasions this season, but Morrison also bagged three goals in eight appearances. Both have added one assist to their statistical analysis, but Morrison is ahead of the Saints’ striker in terms of passing success with 86.9% compared to Rodriguez at 78.2%. Both players have made significant contributions going forward, with Morrison making six key passes compared to Rodriguez’s seven. However, both have shown, like Shaw, a certain rawness as Morrison and Rodriguez have been dispossessed 21 times each. These statistics have resulted in the West Ham man attaining a 6.78 rating and the Saints forward a 6.7.

Morrison was held in high regard at Manchester United, but left the club in search of more first team football and has since performed well at West Ham. He provides that spark of energy which can change a game and Morrison may well find himself as a wildcard pick to the strike force in the World Cup if he continues to develop his game.

2. Luke Shaw

Another potential England candidate is that of Southampton’s Luke Shaw, who has been a key figure in the Saints’ defensive line. Under Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton have performed admirably this season, only losing the once in the 1-0 defeat to Norwich City. Much of their early season success is based on their defensive foundations, conceding a mere five goals – a league best.

Contributing to their solidarity is left-back Luke Shaw, who if media outlets are to be believed is on the radar of Manchester United. At 18 years old, the full-back has the best years of his career well ahead of him and based on his performances thus far he should develop into a flourishing defender.

Hodgson has called up Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines and Kieran Gibbs to his 28-man squad and based on current form Baines seems the likely starter of that trio. But does Shaw deserve a call-up over any of the aforementioned players?

Looking at it from a statistical point of view, Shaw has a pass success rate of 78.4%, the lowest of the four players and the highest amount of times dispossessed (13), we can see he’s not as sharp. However, Shaw has the highest amount of clearances (38) whilst also making three more key passes than Gibbs, having played two less games. Opta rate the performances of Shaw as 7.02, higher than Cole (6.76) but bettered by Baines (7.42) and Gibbs at 7.03.

Let’s face it, Cole is undoubtedly a world-class left-back, but at 32 years of age England now need to look for a replacement. That seems to have come with the emergence of Everton’s Baines, but the question remains as to who will be his understudy. That battle seems to be between Gibbs and Shaw. I personally would have picked Shaw in the squad as the exposure to the international game would stand him in good stead for the rest of his career and since it is a friendly match it’s a win-win situation for all involved.

3. Curtis Davies

If the 66-year-old gaffer is keen to experiment with players, then a strong case can be put forward for the inclusion of Hull City’s Curtis Davies. The central defender has been a huge part of the promising start to life back in the Premier League for the Tigers.

Hull sit comfortably mid-table in 12th position on 14 points from their opening ten games. Davies and Tom Huddlestone have arguably been the standout performers for Steve Bruce’s men, putting in some solid defensive displays.

The stats also make for impressive reading with Hull currently unbeaten at home after having overcome Norwich, West Ham and Sunderland, whilst also earning home draws against Cardiff and Aston Villa. Hull also have a good defensive record, earning three clean sheets and conceding just 10 goals prior to the Southampton drubbing – a stat only bettered by Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Southampton and West Ham.

According to the Opta ratings system, out of all the defenders in the top flight Davies is currently second behind Southampton’s Dejan Lovren (7.63) with an impressive 7.54 rating. Delve deeper into the statistics and the Hull fans crying out for his involvement offers up an interesting debate.

In terms of aerial duels won, the 28-year-old tops the chart at 53 with his nearest rivals being Cardiff’s Ben Turner (47) and retired England international John Terry at 46. In terms of his overall aerial percentage success, Davies sits third with 70.4%, behind Gary Cahill (77.8%) and John Terry (74.5%). Crucially, however, the defender is ahead of Everton’s Phil Jagielka (68.6%) and Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross (67.8%). The defensive colossus also leads the clearances statistics with 61, ahead of Jagielka (58), Turner (58), Terry (50) and Michael Dawson (49).

Would Davies have received an England call-up had he played for a more illustrious club? How often is Hodgson likely to send scouts to Hull City games? Admittedly, the England boss was at the Southampton vs Hull match at the weekend, but that was to watch the Saints trio of Lallana, Lambert and Rodriguez. Davies is unlikely to go to Brazil in 2014, but he could provide more than adequate cover for the defenders and do a sound job if named on the starting team-sheet.

Published on November 14 2013 for The Huffington Post.

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