England, despite the aberration against Iceland at EURO 2016, have some top players.
The Three Lions have an exciting young squad that should still be given time to grow especially when you look at what they can do at club level.
Harry Kane, despite a slow start this season, scores goals for fun and has all the attributes to bully international defences for years to come.
Meanwhile, Eric Dier has the makings of being a top holding midfielder – something the national team have really lacked for years.
You’ve got Raheem Sterling who, despite the absolute hammering he took last season, looks like a player reborn under Pep Guardiola and has the ability to take anyone on.
Then at the back you’ve got John Stones who seems to be the epitome of modern defending with the way he marauds forward which, if he can combine it with improved defensive awareness, will allow him to become one of the best.
England’s spine looks pretty strong for the years ahead. But what about in the attacking midfield role? Wayne Rooney currently occupies it but that isn’t his best position arguably and furthermore, he won’t be in the set up for much longer anyway.
There’s two real pretenders to the crown – Dele Alli and Ross Barkley. Jack Wilshere could be in the discussion but in light of his continued career stalling, he isn’t for now.
So, Alli or Barkley? Well, let’s take a look at what the stats say.
Based on last season, first impressions would tell you Dele Alli should start for England. Tottenham were top drawer whilst in contrast, Ross Barkley played for a struggling Everton team. These impressions were certainly good enough for Roy Hodgson as the Toffees favourite barely got a sniff at the Euro’s but the stats from last year suggest it shouldn’t have been as cut and dry as it was.
Alli scored ten goals to Barkley’s eight as Spurs surged for the title while he also eclipsed Barkley’s eight assists with nine of his own. The former MK Dons man had a 60% shot accuracy too, beating Barkley’s 51% leaving things looking one sided and so far Alli looks like the winner of this duel after a stellar season in front of goal but, there’s more to it.
In terms of forward passes, helping the team get up the pitch, the Everton man trounces Alli with 995 to 661 whilst his overall passing success rate was better too at 86% compared to the Tottenham man’s 76%. Passing and ball retention are huge parts of succeeding at international tournaments and these stats show the Evertonian would have helped England keep the ball better than Alli.
Finally, the most interesting stat from last season was the number of chances created, both players registered a total of 55 in this aspect. This indicates that Alli benefitted from the better players around him as Spurs shone last year while at Everton only Romelu Lukaku reached near the level expected of him and it makes you wonder if Barkley had been in the England set up at EURO 2016, could he have done more than Alli?
Both are top players of course and the Tottenham man rightly deserves to have a chance with England but whether it should come at the cost of Ross Barkley not getting a look in is up for debate.
What Sam Allardyce decides over the coming months only he knows but the suggestion from the stats is that Barkley may score slightly less than Alli but he offers much higher possession stats and that’s where England need to prioritise.
The Three Lions need to keep the ball better, they already have goal-scorers and Barkley offers both – it’s not as if he didn’t score at all last season.
Barkley could be the way forward in the attacking midfield role but what do you think? Alli or Barkley for England? Let us know in the comments below…