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SOUTHGATE SUGGESTION

If England’s starting XI was determined by Dream Team points

After England’s defeat to Hungary in the hugely important and not at all redundant Nations League, Gareth Southgate’s coaching credentials are once again under the microscope.

Many onlookers want the Three Lions gaffer to adopt a bolder philosophy to make use of the plethora of attacking talent available to him.

In Southgate’s defence, his risk-adverse approach is more conducive to international success in recent times and England have performed considerably better in major tournaments under his watch compared to the quarter of a century previous.

But this conversation is likely to persist.

With Harry Kane and company set to take on Germany this evening, we thought we’d use Dream Team points to determine a hypothetical starting XI (ignoring some constraints) that might appease the critics.

GOALKEEPER: Nick Pope

A shot-stopping specialist

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A shot-stopping specialist

Jordan Pickford exhibited his best personal form in club colours for a couple of seasons but Everton’s defence did him no favours and he mustered just 42 points.

However, the same could be said about Pope who was relegated with Burnley but somehow managed to amass 90 points.

Only three keepers made more saves than the Clarets’ No1 in the Premier League this season.

The six custodians above Pope in the Dream Team rankings all represent teams that finished in the top half.

DEFENDERS: Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, John Stones, Craig Dawson

Dream Team points dictate that James should be the avant-garde selection at left-back having racked up 209 points despite missing a significant portion of the campaign through injury.

The Chelsea youngster can’t take his usual place on the right because that spot belongs firmly to Alexander-Arnold, Dream Team’s outright best defender for 2021/22.

Not a left-back

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Not a left-back

Anfield’s homegrown hero banked a whopping 298 points through consistent clean sheets, plentiful assists and eight deserved Star Man awards.

Strangely, this full-back pairing is closer to reality now than it’s ever likely to be given the injuries at left-back but it would still be a huge surprise if James and Alexander-Arnold started together on opposite flanks.

As for the centre-back partnership, we’ve got an amusing contrast of one player who is an established regular under Southgate and one who is uncapped at international level.

Stones and Dawson both finished on 114 points but it’s worth noting the former played considerably fewer games.

At 32, it seems as if the West Ham defender’s hopes of an England call-up are behind him but his Dream Team performance suggests he’s more worthy of a spot in the squad than Conor Coady, Harry Maguire and Marc Guehi.

MIDFIELDERS: James Maddison, Mason Mount, Phil Foden

This is where the methodology’s faults are exposed.

There will be a lot armchair fans looking at this trio and saying ‘Why not? Let’s go for it!’ but the reality is every top team needs a balanced midfield.

Real Madrid have Casemiro, Man City have Rodri, Liverpool have Fabinho and England have Declan Rice to protect the defence and do much of the dirty work.

West Ham’s No41 misses out here because Dream Team generally rewards attack-minded midfielders – Rice mustered a respectable 116 points nonetheless.

England have a host of talented players

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England have a host of talented players

Only Kevin De Bruyne (245) and Riyad Mahrez (230) produced more points than Maddison (228) among midfield assets.

Leicester’s No10 achieved 30 goal contributions and many fans criticised Southgate for omitting him having previously claimed in-form players would be selected.

Mount is very much a favourite of Southgate’s and his impressive record – 11 goals and ten assists in the league this season – means his continued inclusion is generally agreed upon.

The 23-year-old pocketed 194 points when all was said and done, 11 more than Foden who slotted in just below him in the rankings.

Man City’s wonderkid generally plays exclusively in a front three these days and is pencilled in for a century of England caps already barring injury troubles.

FORWARDS/WINGERS: Harry Kane, Jarrod Bowen, Raheem Sterling

Nothing controversial about Kane’s selection.

England’s captain has scored 49 goals in 70 international caps and will be his country’s all-time top scorer by a huge margin by the time he retires.

Leader of the pack

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Leader of the pack

Spurs’ No10 amassed 291 points which was a remarkable effort considering he essentially took the first two months of the season off.

Full disclosure, we’ve bent the rules slightly here as Bowen and Sterling are categorised as midfielders in the realm of Dream Team but that’s only to facilitate proper wingers.

It’s worth noting here that had we opted for a strike partnership then Ivan Toney (171 points) would have partnered Kane – many Brentford supporters believe their man deserves a call-up.

Southgate genuinely did relent to the calls for Bowen to included after a campaign in which he produced 31 goal involvements for a return of 210 Dream Team points.

Sterling is another player who has thrived under Southgate – he’s scored 15 goals in his last 27 appearances for England.

The Man City winger produced another superb Dream Team campaign after a relatively underwhelming start – 196 points says it all.

This XI looks dysfunctional on paper and there’s about as much chance of Bournemouth winning the Premier League next season as Southgate picking it but why is there a part of us that actually wants to see it in action?