Originally published in Give Me Sport – 8 April, 2016
The competition for seats on England’s Euro plane is hotting up. The midfield and attack are bristling with talent and Roy Hodgson’s decision consists of who to leave out. The defence, however, is a different matter. A distinctly average back four, in comparison to the rest of the pitch, leaves questions as to who to pick, and who to start.
Ever since Ashley Cole’s departure from the England fold, the left-back position has constantly been in flux. Leighton Baines looked set to stake his claim there, but a poor performance in Brazil 2014, has left question marks over his ability to hold that position down.
Luke Shaw is another potential candidate to dominate the left full-back position but his untimely injury, against PSV Eindhoven, has all-but ruled him out of this summer’s competition. Although he has returned to training recently, Hodgson will still be cautious about rushing him back and may deem it slightly unfair to deprive another defender of a spot in his 23-man squad.
A comparison of English left-backs, this season, throws up an interesting name for contention. If we rule Shaw out, then the likely combatants, fighting for their place, will be Danny Rose, Leighton Baines, Ryan Bertrand, Kieran Gibbs, and…Charlie Daniels.
Based on statistics alone, the Bournemouth defender comes out on top.
With three goals this Premier League campaign, Daniels trounces his opponents – Rose and Gibbs scoring one each with Baines and Bertrand managing none.
It isn’t just goals that Daniels brings going forward. With 13 shots (tied with Rose), five assists, and 103 crosses, meaning the Cherries man is top in all of those categories as well.
Bournemouth’s style of play must be considered, naturally. They do tend to play on the break and whip a lot of crosses into the box yet, even then, 103 is a phenomenal number. Unfortunately, we do not have the total number of crosses that met a striker, but, the point remains – Daniels is a dangerous attacking player. With Harry Kane in the opposition box, and Daniels delivering balls, it could be a promising formula for England down that left flank.
Daniels doesn’t just bring attacking flair. Although he’s pipped to the top number of blocks, by Spurs’ Rose (3:8), and just loses out to clearances, to Bertrand (67:75), he still puts in a solid defensive display. He manages a clean sheet average of 0.23 – an impressive feat considering he plays for a recently promoted side, adapting to the rigours of the Premier League.
Daniels also boasts the least yellow cards of the five – Bertrand losing that competition with six – and the most games under his belt. With 31 games played, missing only one, he looks the most match-ready in comparison to his competition – Baines and Gibbs only managing 26 games, combined!
Danny Rose can pin the ‘fittest team’ badge to his shirt, as Spurs top the league for distance run (as of February 2016). Bournemouth, however, came in at a respectable second position – proving that Daniels has energy in him, to say the least. In addition to that stat, as a lower league journeyman, Daniels, even if he reaches the Euro final, will have still played one less game, 45, than he played last season, in the Championship.
EA’s Player Performance Index also rates Charlie Daniels highly.
He is currently number 29 in the Premier League index – an index that covers wins, percentages, goals, and various other stats to determine the positions. In comparison, Daniels’ nearest contender, Rose, sits at 120th with Bertrand one position behind. Baines manages 320th whilst Gibbs scrapes a measly 367th!
When comparing Daniels to Premier League defenders in general, he fares extremely well. He is currently fourth in EA’s defender index – topped only by England’s own Eric Dier, Wes Morgan, and Toby Alderweireld (in ascending order).
The Bournemouth defender has also seen four Team of the Week performances, double that of Bertrand’s, his nearest contender. When it comes to playing on unknown territory, Daniels manages an impressive 13 average when playing away – a feat only just topped by Rose, with 15.
The index does need to be taken with a pinch of salt. N’Golo Kante, arguably the best midfielder this season, only manages to reach number 49 and Hector Bellerin’s inclusion, as the fifth best defender, is contentious due to Robert Huth’s incredible form.
Regardless, the stats put Daniels on a pretty good footing to stake a claim. Stats aren’t everything, though.
Some may look to Daniels’ career in the lower leagues as a sign that he isn’t international pedigree. In response to that, however, Daniels’ doubters need only look at his potential England teammate, Jamie Vardy, as proof that team ranking can often mask extreme talent. Likewise, Riyad Mahrez, a player bought for only £375,000, is another example of how the brightest talent can emerge from the most unlikely of places.
He may not have played for England before, not even in a friendly. Does that matter, however? Look at Rickie Lambert, for instance, previous England experience counts for nothing – especially when none of the current squad have won anything with the national side anyway.
The fact of the matter is that Daniels has been consistent and strong all season. He looks to have helped the Cherries to safety and can be immensely proud of that. On form alone, he deserves a spot on that plane and if we’re not judging Euro call-ups on form, then what are we judging it on?
It is no secret that ‘smaller’ clubs are overlooked when it comes to international selection – with West Ham fans’ recent protestations about Mark Noble’s absence proof of this. Maybe it is time to give a player like Daniels a chance to shine?
He won’t be the bookies’ favourite to grab a squad number, but he certainly should be up there. It’s a relatively large squad so, Roy, if you’re reading, why not take Rose, Bertrand, and Daniels?
He deserves a place and he won’t let you down. He’s a player that plays with his heart on his sleeve and shows passion aplenty. He’ll give it his all for England and, judging by this season’s stats, is more likely to contribute to goals than the other left-backs.
As Shakira once said: ‘Stats don’t lie’. Or was that hips don’t lie?