Paul Merson says England manager Gareth Southgate’s midfield choices 'ridiculous’ | Football news

Paul Merson discusses Declan Rice surpassing Moises Caicedo following their £100m+ moves; Chelsea’s remarkable decline despite spending £1bn across three windows; A slow start to Kai Howard’s career at Arsenal; Man Utd’s latest defeat was against a Big Six rival

By Paul Merson, Football Expert & Columnist @Palmers

11:43, UK, Thursday 07 September 2023

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson gives his thoughts on Gareth Southgate’s eyebrow-raising England selections and Manchester United’s poor form, Chelsea’s recent setback against Nottingham Forest and Declan Rice’s move past Moises Guiseto.

England’s midfield selections are ridiculous

When the team came out, Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of the midfielders. If you’re James Ward-Brows, you’re thinking 'I’ll never play for England’.

You’ve got someone [Jordan Henderson] You’ve got Ward-Browse, who plays in the Saudi league in front of 6,000 people every week, who plays well for West Ham.

Teddy Sheringham believes James Ward-Bros is a great addition to West Ham and will help him compete for his place in the England squad.

He has been one of the game changers, but he doesn’t look inside. This is ridiculous.

Alexander-Arnold is a defender. He played one game in midfield for England against Malta. I mean… Malta. I expect a professional footballer in the Premier League to be able to perform well in midfield against Malta.

What about Calvin Phillips? He doesn’t play football.

When I played, if Cassa [Paul Gascoigne] Hadn’t played, he wouldn’t have been picked – and he was the better player by a million miles.

If Gareth Southgate had torn it up while playing at Aston Villa, but a centre-half who never played for his club had been taken in front of him, he would have been furious. Who wouldn’t?

Gareth would say: 'These players didn’t let me down.’ But the problem is, the day they do, he’s in big trouble. He puts his neck on the line.

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Man Utd should be brave – they are a million miles away from a title challenge

Manchester United are going to draw the games. They try not to lose before winning a match.

I do not understand. If teams are scoring goals, you should go.

I think the manager should be brave. He made the players brave. It is very counter-attacking football. I worry about Man Utd.

The days of Sir Alex Ferguson are long gone. They are as far from winning the league as you will ever see. I know everyone is a long way from Manchester, but they are a million miles away.

You forget they are one of the biggest teams in the world. Man Utd can’t even stump up £7m for Marc Cucurella. They take a player [Sergio Reguilon] Can’t even play for Tottenham.

Ten Hoag’s terrible feat

Manchester United have picked up just two points in eight away games against Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle since Erik ten Hoag’s appointment.

They’ve got the Jadon Sancho thing now too. Just keep it at home.

Rasmus Hojlund was good – a perfect handle. But that was for 20 minutes. I saw 20 minutes of Mikilo Mudric in Liverpool in January and I haven’t seen him since.

Arteta will stick with Howards – and Rice can do it all

Peter Smith joins Ron Walker on 'The Convention’ to explore just how much Kai Howard’s form is an issue for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

I feel for Kai Howards. He is playing in a position that is not easy. He didn’t play well.

Mikel Arteta will stick with him. He was low on confidence, but Arsenal won three and drew one. You paid that money and put yourself out there to pick him up.

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The cream rises to the top. I’m a big fan, but I said when he signed, he’s got a Mesut Ozil look about him.

That is the problem. If it doesn’t go well, he’s not very interested. It’s not like that – it just comes off that way.

With Declan Rice, when you weigh him and Moises Caicedo, it’s very different. Rice gives you everything.

It’s 1-1 and Arsenal need to win the game if they want to keep tabs with Manchester City. He was on and he scored.

On Saturday, with Chelsea trailing 1-0, they beat Caicedo. They are both holding-midfield players but one gives you a lot more.

I shudder to think how much Rice could be worth if he were to throw goals in his game.

If Chelsea’s story was a book, you’d throw it into the ocean!

Paul Merson says Chelsea’s game against Nottingham Forest is 'literary’ as he breaks down teams sitting behind the ball

Chelsea have brought in a million players and you think: 'How do we get a team out of this place?’

Chelsea is about winning trophies. It’s not Tottenham trying to get into the top four, but where it got there – very quickly, as well.

If you were reading this book on vacation, you would have thrown the book into the ocean. You’ll think: 'That’s the biggest piece of rubbish. It won’t happen.’

Chelsea brought in these great youngsters, a team that won the Champions League, and now you look at it and say, 'How did this happen?’ Men in Black – You feel like someone’s flipping a pen: 'What happened?’

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Mauricio Pochettino will understand because he is a good manager, but it will be difficult. If they finish in the top four, they will pull the trees.

They have bought many of the same players. Enzo Fernandez is a class apart – a cut above the rest. But how long will he face this?

There is not enough strategy in the team. You don’t have players putting the ball through the eye of the needle.

Teams will travel to Stamford Bridge and counter-attack with 10 players behind the ball. I said on Saturday that Chelsea would be beaten 1-0. I know how they struggle against teams with 10 men at the back.

They cannot break ranks. It’s like watching Supudio football – no movement. Unless Fernandez finds the killer, no one else will.

Chelsea have spent more than £1bn to sign Todd Bohli-Clearlake Capital under the franchise.

Away from home, teams come to Chelsea. With the pace of Nicholas Jackson and Raheem Sterling and the vision of Fernandes, they can wreak havoc – as they did at West Ham in the first half.

But what happened in the second half? West Ham were sitting deep as they scored and Chelsea might still be playing and they wouldn’t have scored.

Thiago Silva is still one of the best players – he’s 38. You don’t have to stay young forever. Sometimes it is necessary to buy ready-made product.

Bar Ben Chilwell, Sterling and Silva, none are over 25. You need experience.

I don’t know where this is going because all these players are on eight-year contracts. You can go and take the book out to sea to see how it ends.

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