Who Will Southgate Pick? Experts at Embryo Use Data to Create First XI

The countdown begins until the World Cup games begin. With less than two weeks until the match against Iran game kicks off in Qatar, Three Lions fans are curious to know who the England manager will pick to be part of his squad.

All this got us thinking ‘What would a data-led England team look like?’. So, our data analysts scraped the web and collated data from Europe’s top five leagues to put together a first XI based solely on their stats since England lost the Euros final to Italy.

Using data from the 2021/2022 and the 2022/2023 Premier League seasons (up to game week 10). The Manchester-based digital agency collected stats on every English player who played matches across the five European leagues to help determine who are the strongest players. The footballers were split in accordance to their pitch position e.g. Goalkeeper, Defender, Midfielder and Forward and were ranked in accordance to their skill set and performance during the games.

The data looked into goals, assisted goals, interceptions, passes, clean sheets, and many more Premier League player stats to help determine who is going to help England get to the final.

Unsurprisingly, the likes of Harry Kane, who is just two goals shy of Wayne Rooney’s record as the England men’s top goalscorer, sails into Embryo’s data-driven team and it’s fully expected he’ll be leading the team out in Qatar, against Iran. Others such as Jordan Pickford have the stats to justify their selection.

On the flip side, Embryo’s data-driven England XI has thrown up a few surprise inclusions such as Fikayo Tomori, the centre-back currently playing for AC Milan, who is rated as the best English defender, according to our stats.

James Ward-Prowse, despite being on the fringes of the England team is another starter in Embryo’s XI, his eleven goals, the most recent of which came against Spurs in a 4-1 defeat, and 2258 passes puts him ahead of the likes of Phil Foden, Mason Mount, and Bukayo Saka.

The Players Most Likely to be Picked for the England Squad according to Embryo:

GK: Jordan Pickford (Everton)

DEF: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

DEF: Chris Smalling (Roma)

DEF: Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan)

DEF: Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton)

MID: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund)

MID: James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

MID: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

FW: Harry Kane (Spurs)

FW: Ivan Toney (Brentford)

FW: Tammy Abraham (Roma)

“Creating a data-based starting XI has thrown up some real surprises, and given even more justification as to why the likes of Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane should start, in real life, in Qatar,” says Content & Marketing Executive, Charlie Meyler.

He added: “Based on our data, Tomori, Ward-Prowse, and Abraham’s places are all but assured but the likelihood of them actually starting is small.

“At the very least, our data highlights a clear Premier League top-6 bias that hinders the opportunities for those playing abroad or for the remaining 14 Prem teams.”

As well as the first XI, Embryo also included those who just missed out on a starting spot and placed them on our subs bench.

These included familiar names such as Phil Foden and Mason Mount, as well as some surprises like Matt Targett and Dwight McNeil.

Players most likely to be benched, according to Embryo’s findings

Subs (15 are allowed on the bench in Qatar):

  1. Nick Pope (Newcastle)
  2. Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
  3. Tyrick Mitchell (Crystal Palace)
  4. James Tarkowski (Everton)
  5. Matt Targett (Newcastle United)
  6. Reece James (Chelsea)
  7. Ben White (Arsenal)
  8. Marc Guéhi (Crystal Palace)
  9. James Maddison (Leicester City)
  10. Phil Foden (Man City)
  11. Mason Mount (Chelsea)
  12. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
  13. Dwight McNeil (Everton)
  14. Callum Wilson (Newcastle)
  15. Jarrod Bowen (West Ham)

“This data-driven England XI is a really exciting and interesting project delivered by our insights team, the surprise inclusions and exclusions make it a real talking point for fans in the run-up to the tournament,” says MD and Founder of Embryo, Ross Green.

“As for the tournament, no matter which eleven Gareth puts out against Iran, Wales, and the US, everyone at Embryo will be cheering them on. In fact, we’re all going to watch them against the USA, in Manchester, on 25th November!” added Green.

About the World Cup Football Campaign:

To come up with this lineup Embryo divided all 139 English players into their respective categories – goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders, and forwards – and picked five stats per category that they felt were the most relevant.

Goalkeepers were judged on:

  • Saves
  • Clean Sheets
  • Goals Conceded
  • Errors Leading to Goals
  • Penalties Saved

Defenders were rated based on:

  • Defensive Clean Sheets
  • Tackles
  • Interceptions
  • Clearances
  • Blocked Shots

Those in midfield were rated on:

  • Goals
  • Assists
  • Passes
  • Big Chances Created
  • Duels Won

Finally, the forwards were judged on:

  • Goals
  • Assists
  • Shots on Target
  • Penalties Scored
  • Headers

Once we had all the data we then created a formula which gave us one number, which allowed us to pick the final XI.

The raw data can be accessed here.

Time stamps

Data is accurate as of Wednesday 12 October.

Data Sources


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