Revealed: The stats that show Harry Kane is not playing as a striker

Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling - Frank Augstein /AP
Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling - Frank Augstein /AP

Gareth Southgate is facing one of his biggest-ever England selection dilemmas over whether or not to recall Raheem Sterling ahead of Sunday’s last-16 World Cup clash against Senegal.

England manager Southgate must decide whether or not to start Sterling, who has been one of his key players for the past four-and-a-half years for a game that could ultimately decide his fate.

While defeat by Senegal would not prompt the Football Association to sack Southgate, it would most likely lead to him vacating his post.

Telegraph Sport has obtained the Fifa data that has been sent to Southgate and his backroom staff, and it does not make encouraging reading for Sterling.

Marcus Rashford netted twice against Wales to put himself in contention to win the World Cup Golden Boot and the stats that Southgate will have received make it even harder to drop the Manchester United forward.

Marcus Rashford - Shaun Botterill /Getty Images
Marcus Rashford - Shaun Botterill /Getty Images

And it comes as former England international Joe Cole called on Southgate to stick with Rashford ahead of Sterling, writing in his Telegraph Sport column on Thursday that he would continue with the same front three who started against Wales.

“On the left side I would stick with Marcus Rashford,” writes Cole. “He looks like a totally different player now to what he was last year. He is happy and confident and sometimes you just have to go with that moment. Two weeks ago you would never have put him ahead of Raheem and Bukayo [Saka] but World Cups change quickly. Alongside Harry Kane and Phil Foden, Rashford gives the front three that pace.”

Foden also scored against Wales and he and Saka, who netted twice in the victory over Iran, can make a better case for selection against Senegal than Sterling, according to the data.

Sterling scored in the first game against Iran, but, like many of his team-mates, struggled to make an impact against the USA before being substituted, and he remained on the bench for the Wales victory.

While he and his staff will no doubt consider all the data at their disposal, Southgate will be mindful of the fact that Sterling has delivered for him at major tournaments in the past and could yet prove himself as the man for the big occasion again.

Sterling has been a key man for Southgate and scored against Iran last week - Matthew Ashton /Getty Images
Sterling has been a key man for Southgate and scored against Iran last week - Matthew Ashton /Getty Images

Fifa send their training centre data, which Telegraph Sport has obtained and broken down, to each nation after every game, along with enhanced dataset, tracking data and eight different video feeds, three of which are dedicated tactical cameras.

Other than casting doubt over Sterling’s place, the data has also highlighted the fact Kane is yet to pose a goal threat for England at the World Cup and has effectively been operating as a false nine.

Having assisted three times, Kane’s position is not under threat and Southgate has proved in the past, as in the case of Harry Maguire, that he is prepared to ignore stats and keep faith with players who have consistently performed for him.

Sterling, who has scored 20 England goals, was a key member of Southgate’s team that reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and was England’s best player in the run to the final of the European Championships, scoring three goals in the tournament.

Telegraph Sport has obtained Fifa’s training centre data for all three of England’s group games to find out what worked, what didn’t, who should be in and who might face a battle to get back into Southgate’s team. And the data, which gets sent directly to each nation to digest, may provide some answers.

Kane has been England’s false nine

Harry Kane became the first England player since David Beckham 20 years ago to assist three goals at a World Cup by setting up Phil Foden against Wales. But the striker got nowhere near scoring himself during the three Group B games, which may be some concern with tougher tests on the horizon. Kane registered a total of four attempts across the Iran, United States and Wales games, with none of them hitting the target. While he is still considered a traditional number nine for England, the evidence would actually suggest he is playing as more of a false nine.

Harry Kane vs Wales - Francois Nel /Getty Images
Harry Kane vs Wales - Francois Nel /Getty Images

Kane has completed 69 sprints in total so far, which is fewer than Foden produced against Wales alone and suggests he has not been looking to get in behind defenders. England’s captain has so far been more comfortable with ball into his feet and looking for a run from a team-mate, as he did for Marcus Rashford against Iran and again in the early stages against Wales. Kane has also pulled wide on a number of occasions, producing brilliant crosses from which Raheem Sterling scored against Iran and Foden netted against Wales. He attempted the same number of crosses as he did efforts on goal in the group stage.

Shots (on target): Kane 4 (0), Rashford 9 (6), Sterling 1 (1), Saka 4 (3), Foden 5 (1).
Sprints: Kane 69, Rashford 77, Sterling 89, Saka 89, Foden 93.
Crosses (completed): Kane 4 (2), Rashford 2 (0), Sterling 0, Saka 2 (1), Foden 8 (3).

Does Southgate stay loyal to Sterling or stick with Rashford and Foden?

Marcus Rashford has put himself firmly in the race for the World Cup golden boot with his three goals so far and it is hard to think of any other nation debating whether or not their leading scorer at the tournament should keep his place. Unsurprisingly, the data supports the fact that Rashford has been England’s best forward player, despite a relatively poor first half against Wales.

Even in England’s first game against Iran, in which Rashford appeared as a 71st minute substitute, he managed two attempts on goal, scoring from one of them. And as a 78th minute substitute against the United States, Rashford was on target with an effort, which was better than Kane, Bukayo Saka or Sterling.

Rashford has clocked higher speeds than Saka and Sterling, who, other than his goal against Iran, is yet to make much of an impact. The Manchester United man also completed two of two tackles against Wales, one of which, on Ben Davies, resulted in Kane crossing for Foden to score.

On numbers alone, Saka has a better case than Sterling to come back in for the last-16 match against Sengal. Foden, however, not only scored against Wales, but was also third in the running stats by covering 10,586 metres, which was far more than Saka’s best of 8,881 against the USA.

Distance covered (m): Rashford 13,213, Foden 14,468, Sterling 15,415, Saka 16,773.
Top speed (km/h): Rashford 34.2, Foden 33.6, Sterling 32.7, Saka 32.3.
Tackles (completed): Rashford 2/2, Foden 1/0, Sterling 3/0, Saka 7/0.
Top passing %: Rashford 100 (v USA), Foden 89 (v Iran), Sterling 95 (v USA), Saka 81 (v Iran).

England’s unsung heroes

Goals and assists are the easiest measure of performances, which would put Rashford and Kane near the top of the list. But two of England’s unsung heroes so far have been John Stones and Declan Rice, who are arguably Southgate’s most important players.

West Ham United captain Rice was one of England’s best passers of the ball in all three of the group games, with Stones alongside him in the top two against Iran and the United States. Stones is the man England use most to build from the back and he found Rice on 22 occasions in the victory over Iran, and 11 times in the draw with the USA. Southgate’s midfield reshuffle against Wales meant that Stones passed to Jordan Henderson 10 times, with Rice collecting the ball from Harry Magure and Luke Shaw more often.

Rice ran the furthest of all of England’s players against Iran and the USA, offered for the ball more than any other player in both of those games and regained possession better than his team-mates in England’s opening game. The USA stifled Rice slightly by asking their forwards to drop deep to mark him, which prompted Southgate to bring in Henderson for the Wales game and give Stones and Maguire two deeper midfielders to look for when passing out from the back.

Top individual distances (m): Rice (v Iran) 12,846, Rice (v USA) 12,086, Bellingham (v Wales) 10,828.
Top England passing %: Iran - Stones 98, Rice 96, USA - Stones 98, Rice 96, Wales - Rice 98, Walker 96.
Most offers: Rice 149 v Iran, Rice 100 v USA, Bellingham 129 v Wales.

Players needed their day off

Southgate rewarded his squad with milkshakes and a day off following the victory over Wales that secured England’s last-16 date with Senegal. While England cruised to victory on Tuesday night, there was evidence that Wednesday’s day of rest came at just the right time. Southgate’s team has covered less ground with each passing match, as the 106.2km they ran against Wales was 13km less than they managed in the thrashing of Iran the previous week.

After three games in nine days the England plays needed their day off on Wednesday fortified by a milkshake - Ina Fassbender /AFP
After three games in nine days the England plays needed their day off on Wednesday fortified by a milkshake - Ina Fassbender /AFP

The speed of running also decreased, as the 15.6km high speed England covered against Iran fell to 12.9km in the victory over Wales. Most encouraging for Southgate was that the quality of his team’s passing remained high throughout the three group games, never dropping below 89 per cent and long balls only accounted for two per cent of England’s passing in the Iran, USA and Wales matches.

Southgate’s decision to freshen up his team for the final group game paid dividends with Henderson and Foden finishing second and third for distance covered and Walker producing the second-best passing accuracy. The introduction of Henderson also seemed to help Bellingham, who ran the furthest of any England player and offered for the ball more than anybody else.

England distances (km): v Iran 119.2, v USA 112.4,  vWales 106.2.
High speed distance covered (km): v Iran 15.6km, v USA 15.3km, v Wales 12.9km.
England passing (percentage): v Iran 90, v USA 89, v Wales 90.
Number of passes (completed): v Iran 809 (730), v USA 550 (488), v Wales 588 (529).