Paul Merson picks attacking England World Cup XI without Bellingham, Maguire

England Italy September 2022

Paul Merson has selected his England XI for the first World Cup game in November and neither Harry Maguire or Jude Bellingham feature.

The Three Lions start their tournament against Iran on November 21 worryingly on the back of some poor form. The drab 1-0 defeat to Italy in Milan on Friday was a fifth straight match without a win.

The Three Lions have also gone five matches without a win for the first time since 2014. And they have also failed to score in three games, the first time this has happened since 2000.

The San Siro defeat also saw England relegated from tier one of the Nations League. And while that is neither here nor there, their form, just 59 days before the World Cup, is a concern for Gareth Southgate.

England, who were finalists at Euro 2020, just over 14 months ago simply cannot buy a goal. They’ve gone over seven and a half hours without scoring a goal in open play. And alarm bells are ringing.

Southgate claimed “I personally thought the performance is a step in the right direction”.

But the uninspiring display was widely criticised, giving Southgate plenty to ponder ahead of their final game before the finals, against Germany on Monday.

Merson, 54, was asked to name his starting XI against Iran by Sky Sports and he left out Maguire and Bellingham. Both started against Italy, but Merson, who named his team before the defeat in Milan, instead paired Kyle Walker with John Stones at centre-back.

Maguire was given a public vote of confidence by Southgate. The Three Lions boss made a point of lavishing praise on the Man Utd man in fact he said was England’s “most important defender”.

Rashford gets nod in attack

He also claimed their was a “big agenda” against the 29-year-old, who put in a solid performance on Friday night.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier are his full-backs. Neither of whom faced Italy. While Declan Rice, Mason Mount and Phil Foden are his midfield three.

Mount was the only one of those three not to face Italy. He did not appear from the bench. But given his recent importance to Southgate’s England he looks like a shoo-in to start.

Whether or not Merson would now find a place for 19-year-old Bellingham after his showing against the Azzurri is unclear. But it’s certainly a bold call leaving out the talented Borussia Dortmund man, who looks like being the driving force for England for the next 10 years.

Captain Harry Kane spearheads Merson’s team with Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford either side of him in attack.

Rashford missed out due to injury, while Sterling started against Roberto Mancini’s men, but made little impact.

READ MORE: Steven Gerrard praise has Jude Bellingham in a frenzy, as Channel 4 interview has hint of what is next