England experienced an extremely disappointing World Cup in Brazil; crashing out of the group stages having earned just a single point.
The tournament has provided Roy Hodgson the opportunity however to evaluate his current set of players in a competitive environment against top quality sides, something one would argue the qualifying campaign never seems to offer.
Manchester United and Everton fans will have found particular interest in the battle for the left-back position, with Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw contesting for a starting berth in the Three Lions’ starting eleven. The latter is on the verge of becoming the most expensive teenager in British football, subject of a reported £34 milllion bid from the Red Devils.
Baines was favoured to his junior in the two opening group defeats to Italy and Uruguay, whilst Luke Shaw finally received a chance to impress in England’s last hurrah versus Costa Rica.
Below we look at the two players’ tournament statistics, courtesy of Opta, to decide who is the better option for Hodgson moving forward.
|Team||Pos||Total Tackle / apps||Won Tackle / apps||Tackle Succ (%)||Interception Won / apps||Effective Clearance / apps||Outfielder Block / apps||Aerial Won / apps||Apps||Mins|
Defensively, Luke Shaw succeeded where Baines failed. The Everton man looked out of his depth in England's two group openers; against Italy in particular, he found himself dangerously exposed.
Shaw, on the other hand, emerged unscathed from his taste of World Cup action, thanks to an mature performance against the attacking talent of eventual group winners Costa Rica.
The 18-year-old averaged a greater number of attempted tackles per match, whilst weighing in with two interceptions and two successful aeiral duels. Baines' experience will have provided an added advantage in certain areas of his game. For instance, he completed a higher percentage of the challenges he committed himself to.
|Team||Pos||Goal Assist||Total Att Assist / apps||Total Cross / apps||Accurate Cross / apps||Cross Acc (%)||Pass Acc (%)||Final Third Pass Acc (%)||Touches / apps||Apps||Mins|
However, in an attacking sense, Baines had the more fruitful tournament experience. His defensive frailties did little to halt his advances down the right hand side and he provided decent service for the England front three. He created just under three goal scoring chances per match, whilst playing 12 crosses in total.
Shaw struggled to match Baines' attacking service in his tournament debut, but considering the height of the occasion, he will have been content with his defensive efforts alone. He failed to create a single goal scoring opportunity.
Baines also retains the upper hand in terms of his composure in possession. He holds an advantage when analysing the duo's passing accuracy, particularly in the final third. The 29-year-old also averaged a greater number of touches per match.
Shaw proved sound defensively, yet going forward Baines emerges superior.
Nonetheless, at 18 years of age the Southampton youngster still has a long way to go in terms of developement. With added confidence, and therefore experience, we'll see to him begin to express himself in the final third for the Three Lions, just like we have witnessed at club level.
Shaw's performance against Costa Rica supported the claim that Hodgson should have considered him for a starting role at an earlier stage and the Three Lions manager will do well to remember this in the future.