'You need to': Paul Merson explains why he wouldn't pick Chelsea player to start England's WC opener

Paul Merson has explained why he wouldn’t pick Chelsea’s Reece James in the England XI to start the World Cup.

England are currently preparing for Nations League games during this current international break against Italy and Germany.

Afterwards, the next time the Three Lions link up will be in November for the winter World Cup, with their tournament beginning against Iran in Group B.

Gareth Southgate’s got a strong quartet of Chelsea players in his latest England squad, so let’s hope all have cemented their spot on the plane for the World Cup.

Photo by Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Merson wouldn’t start James

Sky Sports pundit Merson suggests 22-year-old James is an outstanding option for England as the right-back/right wing-back, but he would actually leave him out of the starting line-up on 21 November against Iran.

He thinks Southgate should start Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold as a right-back in a back four.

Merson told Sky Sports: “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.”

Photo by Harriet Lander – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

If Southgate uses a back three with wing-backs, James simply has to start for England.

He’s arguably Chelsea’s best player right now when you see the level of performances he’s consistently putting in, so is definitely good enough to play a massive role for his country at the World Cup.

In fairness, asking for the creativity of a player like Alexander-Arnold is no crime. Liverpool’s 23-year-old full-back has such unbelievable crossing, but you’d have to worry about his defensive instincts if Iran counter-attack.

Graeme Souness recently weighed into the England debate by claiming he would edge with starting James over Alexander-Arnold.

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A sports journalist who graduated from Staffordshire University in 2016 and is a Chelsea supporter. Loves anything football or cricket related when it comes to England.