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'So happy he's not the coach' - fans react to Paul Merson's England starting XI for Iran World Cup match

Tom Fenton

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'So happy he's not the coach' - fans react to Paul Merson's England starting XI for Iran World Cup match

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Sky Sports

Paul Merson has shown down the years that he isn't short of a controversial opinion or two.

The pundit has got people talking once again with his starting XI for England's first game of the 2022 World Cup against Iran.

The Three Lions will be hoping to get off to the best start possible in Qatar after reaching the Semi-final in their last two major international tournaments.

With Gareth Southgate facing some tricky selection dilemmas, Merson believes he has found some unorthodox solutions - although they're sure to divide opinion.


Here's what the former Arsenal striker went for in his recent Sky Sports column.

GK: Jordan Pickford

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold

CB: Kyle Walker

CB: John Stones

LB: Kieran Trippier

CM: Declan Rice

CM: Mason Mount

CM: Phil Foden

LW: Marcus Rashford

RW: Raheem Sterling

ST: Harry Kane

While some of his picks are impossible to fault, like Harry Kane up top, Declan Rice in midfield and John Stones at the back, others are very bold - to say the least.

Most notably of all, Merson has decided to drop the out-of-favour Harry Maguire and replace him with Kyle Walker, who lines up at Centre-back alongside club-mate Stones.

This means that Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has also been struggling for form of late, fills in at Right-back.

John Stones and Kyle Walker on England duty.
John Stones and Kyle Walker on England duty.

Further up the pitch, the 54-year-old has rewarded Marcus Rashford's for his fine start to the season with a place on the wing for England alongside Kane and Raheem Sterling.

In the engine room, he's gone very attacking, picking Mason Mount and Phil Foden in the Central-midfield positions with Rice playing as the CDM.

Suffice to say, his starting XI didn't go down too well over on Twitter.


One person replied: "Lol so happy he's not the coach", with another adding: "Walker as a CB in a back four and Foden and Mount as 8s...this is so washed."

A third person pointed out that Rashford 'Isn't even in the current squad', while others questions Trent starting over Chelsea's Reece James.

Quite whether this team would lead England to success remains to be seen. All we do know is that, barring an injury crisis, Southgate won't be deploying this starting XI anytime soon.

The Three Lions boss does have some tough decisions to make before November's World Cup clash with Iran, however.

England manager Gareth Southgate
England manager Gareth Southgate

With Kalvin Phillips in a race against time to be fit for the tournament, there could be an extra space in the squad for a midfielder.

Issues persist in defence too, with Maguire unable to break back into the Manchester United starting XI due to Lisandro Martinez's lightning start at Old Trafford.

Let us know what you think of Merson's brave starting XI.

Topics: England, Paul Merson, Gareth Southgate, Kyle Walker, Football World Cup, Premier League, Marcus Rashford

Tom Fenton

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