After nine thrilling months of action across both the men and women’s games, we have reached the end of another dramatic season in which Manchester City and Chelsea Ladies both managed ‘the double’. 

Rather than focus on one league like many others, I instead decided to do a combined squad XI containing players from both sides of the ‘Beautiful Game’, before explaining why each player has earned their place on that list below. 

 

Top 2017-18 English Football Squad

This is my chosen 2017-18 English Football Squad XI.

2017-18 XI

Tactics

Formation: 3-3-3-1

Style: Wide Play

Defence: Player to Player

 

Goalkeeper

Nick Pope (Burnley)

Pope.jpg

Without any doubt, Nick Pope was the easiest pick for this line-up after his exceptional season for Burnley. 

After replacing Tom Heaton after the 32 year-old picked up a shoulder injury in September, Pope surprisingly seemed unfazed, making 114 saves which is one less than Manchester United’s David de Gea. 

If compare their head to head stats, Pope is the more superior keeper when it comes to trying to prevent goals and his high claim and sweeper clearing numbers are two notable qualities that has helped him impress. 

Although de Gea has had more throw outs, for me its more to do with Manchester United’s style of play rather than his general ability to earn those amount of throw outs.

Goalkeeping Categories David de Gea Nick Pope
Saves  115 114
Penalties saved 0 1
Punches 6 18
High Claims 12 52
Catches 10 12
Sweeper Clearances 6 26
Throw Outs 147 118
Goal Kicks 290 297

To cap this season off, Pope has ousted Heaton out of the no.1 spot at Turf Moor and claimed his England spot for this summer’s World Cup. 

Now that is an outstanding achievement and demonstrates why Pope features in my squad selection. 

Sub:

Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea Ladies)

Lindahl.jpg

Goalkeeping competition has been so fierce with several outstanding keepers producing pure quality from de Gea to Mary Earps to Ederson and Ellie Roebuck to name but a few.

Hedvig Lindahl of Chelsea Ladies however has been just sensational in helping her team to a domestic double. 

In the WSL, she conceded just eight goals across 11 appearances with a sensational 81% shot saved average.

Those two stats sets her apart from all other goalkeepers and makes her an obvious pick, although Pope just has the edge because of his quality when it comes to high claims. 

That is the defining difference to me due to there not being any in-depth stats for Lindahl but there’s no doubting her talents in earning the sub role ahead of several others. 

 

Defence

Millie Bright (Chelsea Ladies)

John Terry (Aston Villa)

Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)

These three defenders have earned their place in this selection for very different reasons. 

Firstly, we must start with Ryan Sessegnon because his pace and attacking ability has helped terrorise the opposition when trying to get down his left flank all season. 

He also isn’t afraid to play up front down his usual flank and has chipped in with 16 goals this season to help Fulham clinch promotion via the play-offs. 

If want a young talent with plenty of pace and a goal-scoring knack in your team, Ryan Sessegnon is your idea player and that’s why he has earned his spot in my team. 

Although I have put him at left-back, it demonstrates his versatility down that flank and fierce competition for the left winger position in attacking midfield. 

If yet to see Sessegnon in action, watch this best bits video by Spurs90  below.

Millie Bright is very versatile across both fullback positions and 72% of her passes have been accurate, which is impressive compared to other fullbacks in the WSL or men’s game. 

She is also able to create chances like Sessegnon so would bring attacking intent but because the latter works best on left, I have put Bright in the right fullback position given her versatility qualities. 

John Terry meanwhile brings experience and adapted brilliantly to playing Championship football with Aston Villa, after over a decade playing in the Premier League with Chelsea. 

Although injury has hampered him at times this season, Terry still managed 32 appearances and a goal for Villa. 

With Bright and Sessegnon both being young, Terry therefore will be the heart of this defence and leading the way as he so often does. 

Subs:

Steph Houghton (Manchester City Women)

James Milner (Liverpool)

Steph Houghton is my top central defender substitute choice because like Terry, she brings experience and leadership to heart of defence. 

The Sunderland born Lionesses captain has also contributed five goals for club and country, which highlights why she would be a reliable sub for Terry in central defence.

For fullback sub role, I wanted someone who is versatile and can play at both right and left-back, which James Milner fulfils the criteria of. 

What made me select Milner for the bench is his pace, which would add energy in latter stages of a match.

He also has won over three quarters of his tackles, making him someone who you would want in your squad no matter whether its as a starter or sub. 

 

Midfield

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal Women)

Jill Scott (Manchester City Women)

Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

Beth Mead (Arsenal Women)

This midfield selection has plenty of creativity in it because all of the above players have been exceptional in not only making but also scoring goals for their clubs.

Kevin de Bruyne, Jordan Nobbs and Jill Scott have all impressed in central midfield, providing numerous assists for their teammates as well as chipping in themselves with goals wherever they could.

De Bruyne definitely deserves to be named in the XI after providing the most assists this season out of any Premier League player, creating 16 chances for various teammates throughout the campaign. 

This YouTube video by Picket Fence Fever highlights just amazing De Bruyne’s ability is in getting ball forward.

Access to statistics in the women’s game is much harder but Nobbs and Scott have been key to Arsenal and Manchester City Women’s seasons, with their pace and creativity, which is needed if going to excel at top teams.

Scott in particularly has provided just as many goals as De Bruyne so those two City players do provide a real threat in central midfield, and would work well together with Nobbs in the middle of the trio.

Moving into attacking midfield now and Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Beth Mead have been outstanding in that area this season. 

Focusing on the wingers and between them, Sterling and Mead have netted 37 goals (Sterling – 23 & Mead – 14) between them across all competitions this season for their clubs. 

For a pair of wingers across both sides of the sport, that stat is something quite impressive.

Sterling meanwhile has provided 11 assists for his fellow Citizens and although we don’t have the numbers for Mead, there is little doubt that she provided a fair amount at Arsenal this season.

In regards to Mead, I particularly praised her at start of April for her performance against Chelsea Ladies. 

Watch this video by WoSo Comps and you will see just why she impressed me, particularly in that game. 

Coming back to Sterling, he isn’t afraid to also get stuck into defence with 19 tackles and blocks apiece with nine interceptions.

Above all, Sterling and Mead are ideal names for an attacking XI because they can both score and create chances up the flanks. The former is also solid when it comes to defending against the opposition, which is a good quality to have. 

Focusing on the central attacking midfielder role, Dele Alli is the perfect fit after yet another impressive season for Tottenham. 

Although he suffered a mini crisis of confidence mid-season which affected his overall goal total compared to last season – when scored 22 goals across all competitions, Alli’s assist total had increased alongside the amount of chances that he created and through balls. 

Progress has also been made in the total number of duels and aerial battles won therefore making Alli the best available package in his position.

Overall, the reason why I have picked Alli for the attacking midfield role is that he is often at his best when Spurs are attack minded, which is what my XI is. 

Subs:

Fara Williams (Reading WFC)

Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace)

Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)

When it comes to cover for central midfield, I have gone for Fara Williams and Luka Milivojevic for two very different reasons. 

Williams has been fantastic for Reading when it comes to creativity this season, scoring ten goals and helped the Royals to their highest ever WSL finish of fourth. 

Demonstrating her outstanding ability, Williams produced two sensational volleyed goals against Liverpool, including from kick off in their home game against the Reds.

Watch that kick off goal below provided by The Guardian and you will see why Williams is amongst my picks. although I have put her on bench.

The reason why she is on bench is because to me, she is someone who would bring freshness as an impact sub in midfield but it was tough decision between her and the other selected central midfielders.

They had the edge because of their ability to drive the ball forward and get in amongst the assists as well as goals, whereas Williams would be useful in latter stages for reason noted above. 

Milivojevic meanwhile is a reliable midfielder who will keep the ball in middle of pitch and can be relied upon when it comes to scoring penalties, having scored seven from the spot this season. 

As for the winger sub role, Gabriel Jesus stands out above the rest because his versatility down both flanks. 

The Brazilian contributed 13 goals and seven assists but what impresses me is his pass per match average of 21.36 from 833 overall passes. 

That stat highlights his ability to be a team player but he isn’t afraid to get stuck into defence, having made 28 tackles and 11 clearances (four headed) for City in the league this season. 

It is those qualities that made me select him but he is on the bench because Mead and Sterling have impressed more going forwards in my personal opinion and suit my ideal style of play. 

 

Forward

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Salah under lights

Without any doubt, there is one man to lead at the front and that man is Mohamed Salah. 

Having struggled in his first Premier League stint with Chelsea in latter half of 2013-14 season, it’s unbelievable how Salah has performed this time around at Liverpool. 

Records broken and 44 goals in 52 appearances across all competitions, with 25 of this goals coming from left foot highlights why he is the clear option for the striker role. 

27 of the Egyptian’s 44 goals came at home with 20 of those goals coming in the Premier League alone, to highlight his exceptional brilliance for Liverpool compared to his meagre two goals in 10 appearances for Chelsea four seasons ago.

Salah has also been a major team player, creating 12 big chances for teammates although 10 of those eventually became assists.

His team playing ability whilst still being a prolific scorer stands him out from the crowd because he can be relied on to help teammates out rather than be selfish, and that is why he deserves the starting spot in my XI. 

Sub:

Fran Kirby (Chelsea Ladies)

Fran Kirby.png

Fran Kirby might of made the bench but that doesn’t underline her talents, having netted 25 goals for Chelsea this season.

Previously hailed by ex England Lionesses manager, Mark Sampson as ‘Mini Messi’, Kirby has demonstrated fantastic consistency and is able to unlock opponents using just one touch which turned games on their head.

That is why she would be the ideal sub for Salah because she would make an impact and completely change the game’s outcome with her quality. 

She also proved popular when it came to end of season awards so would be hard to ignore her over numerous others, although I nearly selected Jamie Vardy because of his finishing technique.

Kirby however had the better overall package in a striker and just edged it on all roundness. 

 

 

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