Armchair pundits and managerial superstars alike will be agonising over the ins and outs of World Cup squads in the coming weeks, but a bookmaker has used artificial intelligence to pick the optimum England XI, and a certain Burnley bolter has made the cut.
BetBright have turned to the cold and calculating nature of AI to remove the human element from selection to ensure that, if the stats are to be trusted, the England team that takes the field against Tunisia for England's first World Cup match is primed and ready.
Powered by Opta stats, Burnley's Nick Pope makes the cut ahead of the more tipped Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford to take the number one jersey thanks to his 79% save percentage this season, while somewhat controversially, two men unlikely to feature in Gareth Southgate's squad - Jamaal Lascelles and Chris Smalling - are chosen in a back three with Phil Jones.
Manchester City duo Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph at right wing-back and left wing-back respectively make up the back five, with Jesse Lingard and the historically injury-plagued Jack Wilshere joining Dele Alli in a midfield three behind Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, who have scored a combined 48 Premier League goals this season.
With BetBright utilising artificial intelligence to help predict customers' betting habits on its apps, the raw data has proved useful in 21st Century football despite it often flying in the face of the average fan's opinion, as evidenced by a comparative team picked on the back of a poll of 2,000 England fans from across the country.
“The fans have spoken and surprisingly, despite his rocky season, Joe Hart is the fans’ number one, showing that they prefer experience between the sticks this summer," explained Kristen Reid, Head of Sportsbook at BetBright. “However, American sports have been using AI and stats for years with success, so should Gareth Southgate adopt these tactics?
"If so, Nick Pope should be in pole position to start against Tunisia," Kristen added. "Interestingly, the most notable missing player from both squads is Jordan Henderson, who we believe will be starting against Tunisia.”
The fans' poll also saw Danny Rose, Smalling, Gary Cahill, and Walker make up the defence in spite of Southgate's recent preference for a back three. Wilshere and Alli both made the AI and the fans' XIs, with Eric Dier earning the supporters' pick for the final place in midfield behind Kane, Sterling, and Leicester's Jamie Vardy, who looks sure to start from the bench in Russia.
For more information, head to www.betbright.com