Why Welbeck MUST start at the World Cup

The Rio Report

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England's first warm-up game for the World Cup takes place this Friday as Peru visit Wembley.

Roy Hodgson will use the occasion to fine-tune his plans for the finals in Brazil and help decide which players to use in his starting XI when the tournament begins in earnest.

But, based on their Premier League performances this season, who actually deserves to start that first game in Manaus when England take on Italy?

We asked Opta to put together a list of the 23 players who merit a place in England's squad based on their statistics in the season just finished. However, these include players who are now injured, so the likes of Jay Rodriguez and Andros Townsend can be discounted immediately.

The general thrust of the squad is the same - aside from the notable inclusion of Ashley Cole over Luke Shaw, nods to Saido Berahino and Leon Osman and a snub for Jack Wilshere - but the competition for first-team places is very intense.

Click the table below to see the stats of England's 23 best performing players in more detail

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Using the stats above, and limiting our selection to the players who did actually make England's World Cup squad, we have put together the XI who should start in Brazil, based on Opta's comprehensive data.

As you can see in the table, only three England players merited a score in excess of 80 this season, so Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge are all immediate inclusions in our XI.

Lampard joins Gerrard in the centre thanks to a high passing accuracy of 82.33% and Raheem Sterling plays further in front after recording nine goals and five assists this season, as well as attempting almost five dribbles per game.

Perhaps the biggest call comes on the left of the attack with Adam Lallana - who scored nine goals and claimed six assists, and is expected by many to start in Brazil - being edged out by Manchester United's Danny Welbeck.

Welbeck was thought to have had a mixed season, and at the weekend hit back at former boss David Moyes for questioning his commitment in training, but Opta's stats show he was the fourth best performing English player in the Premier League this season, with an impressive shot conversion rate and percentage of completed passes in the final third.

Below you can find Opta's suggested XI based on players' stats this season, with Phil Jones also edging out Glen Johnson at right-back - although Chris Smalling's stats were impressive as well.

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