England’s place in Russia is confirmed, but Gareth Southgate has several selection dilemmas to consider between now and June 18 when Tunisia lie in wait for the World Cup opener in Volgograd.
Perhaps the biggest headache Southgate has is who he will start as his attacking midfielder – Jesse Lingard or Dele Alli.
Both are fully established England internationals with huge futures ahead of them, and they will come face to face later when Manchester United play Tottenham at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final.
Southgate will no doubt be a spectator, watching Lingard and Alli closely – the game could go a long way to see who the England manager trusts on the big stage this summer.
Here, MM compares the statistics of England’s two number 10s based on their Premier League performances and assess who is in pole position to be in England’s starting XI come June by picking a winner from each category.
- Jesse Ellis Lingard, age 25 (Manchester United and England)
- Bamidele Jermaine Alli, age 22 (Tottenham Hotspur and England)
Goals and assists
For all the money Europe’s top clubs are spending in today’s game, Lingard and Alli came to their respective clubs at a combined cost of £5million. Alli signed for Spurs in 2015 from MK Dons, and Lingard is of course a United youth product.
The 2015/16 season was the breakthrough season for both players, but this year Lingard’s numbers in front of goal have seen him put real pressure on Alli in England’s starting XI.
Like Alli, Lingard has eight Premier league goals this season, and both have 14 to their names in all competitions with five or six games still left to play depending on the result of the semi-final – impressive returns for midfielders/second strikers.
Lingard has also claimed five assists, despite playing just 1,663 minutes of Premier League football this term – starting 18 games while making 12 appearances from the bench.
Alli has been a more permanent fixture in the Spurs side. The man from Milton Keynes has played 2,717 minutes and to vouch for his extra time on the field Alli has double the assists Lingard has.
Although Alli has been directly involved in more goals than his England teammate, when we take into account the number of minutes each player has played, it is Lingard who has been the more impressive in front of goal.
United’s most improved player this season has been directly involved in a goal on average every 128 minutes, while Alli has been involved in one every 151 minutes.
While Alli has fewer goals than last season in the Premier League, his creative play has improved a lot.
Alli managed to create a respectable 52 chances in the 2016/17 campaign, but he has 62 this season with four Premier League games still to play. While Christian Eriksen is Spurs’ chief creator, creating 82 chances, Alli represents another of Harry Kane’s key suppliers – the link up play between the Anglo-Danish trio has been impressive for the last three seasons and counting.
Lingard has created far fewer chances than Alli, but the fact he’s created a chance every 66 minutes in the Premier League this season again shows his improvement.
Alli, though, has created a chance every 44 minutes, and is becoming more and more of a creator for his side.
Pass and shot accuracy
Both Lingard and Alli are regularly in the England squad because they fit Southgate’s way of playing – pass and move. But it is Lingard who comes out on top in this one based on club performance throughout this season.
This season, Lingard’s pass accuracy has been 87 percent, while Alli’s has been 77 percent.
Lingard is also superior to Alli in terms of shot accuracy. United’s home grown talent has a shot accuracy of 53 percent, bettering Alli’s by 20 percent. Perhaps this shows why Lingard has been more clinical in front of goal this season than his opposite number for England.
When his teams recover possession, Jose Mourinho traditionally wants his players to get it up the other end of the field as quickly as possible.
One way of doing this is through Lingard, who has been very effective at travelling with the ball for his side this season. He scored a wonderful goal at Goodison Park in United’s 2-0 victory over Everton on New Years’ Day running with the ball before curling into the top corner. United’s number 14 was also instrumental at the Emirates a month earlier, as United were masters of the counter-attack with Lingard’s dribbling and link-up play causing Arsenal all sorts of problems.
Lingard has completed a successful dribble on average every 66 minutes this season, completing 25 in all. His appearances from the bench add fresh legs, with his energy causing problems for the opposition in the latter part of the games when he has been introduced as a substitute this season.
Alli, despite playing over 1,000 more minutes, has completed three less dribbles than Lingard. Spurs’ midfielder at times holds onto the ball, but his all round game is still improving.
With Lingard over two and a half years older than Alli, he appears more diligent in knowing when to and when not to release the ball.
Discipline & recovering possession
This statistic may surprise some people – Alli is yet to receive a red card this season. His discipline has been largely good in the Premier League, picking up just six yellow cards in 32 matches (although he was lucky to escape one against Manchester City in December for a horrific tackle on Kevin De Bruyne).
Perhaps even more surprising, Lingard has committed just seven fewer fouls than Alli’s 39 this season despite playing far fewer minutes.
Alli has also made 42 tackles compared to Lingard’s 29. Both of these are respectable figures, and winning the ball back high up the pitch whilst playing with energy is an asset Lingard and Alli bring to the table – an asset which will be useful to England this summer.