Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold should be in the starting eleven for England‘s first group match at the World Cup, according to Paul Merson.
The Sky Sports pundit claims that Iran will play very defensively and, for that reason alone, manager Gareth Southgate must select Alexander-Arnold ahead of Chelsea’s Reece James:
“Whatever happens, Alexander-Arnold must play in the opener. I definitely don’t think he’s a better player than James in terms of being an all-round player. But if you’re talking about a team like Iran who are going to put 10 behind the ball and you need to break them down, Trent has to be in the team for that game.”
Merson’s remarks won’t go down well with most England supporters but, if Southgate wants the most creativity in the team, he should pick Alexander-Arnold.
Considering the fullback’s poor form, though, and Southgate’s tendency to go with players who are stronger defensively, there’s no guarantee that Alexander-Arnold will be in the World Cup squad, let alone in the starting lineup. With Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier also in contention along with James, competition for the right-back slot is fierce.
For Liverpool fans, though, the majority won’t even mind if he isn’t on the plane to Qatar, as he would be well rested for the second half of the season.