Arsenal legend Paul Merson claims England skipper Harry Kane should have dropped himself during the World Cup group stages as he is now ‘lacking sharpness’ ahead of the last-16 clash with Senegal.
The Tottenham frontman started all three of England’s Group B matches in Qatar, despite some concerns over his fitness and form during the early stages of the competition.
Kane won the Golden Boot in Russia four years ago but is yet to find the net this time around, although he has provided three assists.
The Three Lions talisman suffered an ankle injury in the 6-2 rout after was expected to be rested against USA. However, he started the goalless draw and then the comfortable win over Wales to ensure Gareth Southgate’s men finished top of their group.
England take on a dangerous Senegal side on Sunday but Merson is concerned about Kane.
“Harry Kane just loves to play football but I really think he would have benefited from sitting out against the USA or Wales,’ Merson told the Daily Star. “He is now seriously lacking sharpness.
“He may have the most assists at the World Cup but England need him in the box. There is simply no chance Gareth Southgate’s side will win the tournament without Kane in the goals.
“But I just feel like with his fitness at the moment, he needs to sometimes consider saying: ‘You know what, I can’t play in this game.’
“You only have to look at Tottenham’s recent League Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest to realise Kane wants to play in every football match but now he doesn’t look 100% fit.
“Sometimes you become a better player when you’re not in the team. And that would have been the case against the USA or Wales.
“All of a sudden there are calls for Callum Wilson to start because he looks sharp off the bench. Wilson is a good player but he is nowhere near the level of Kane. It’s just because the captain is struggling.”
Merson predicts tough Senegal test
Meanwhile, Merson has also warned England not to underestimate Senegal, who won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year and finished second in World Cup Group A behind the Netherlands.
Merson added: “I think this is a hard game. I know Senegal are missing their best two players in Sadio Mane and Idrissa Gueye – which is the equivalent of us losing Kane and Declan Rice – but they are still a very decent team.
“I would have rather played against Holland. That might sound daft but this is a difficult, difficult football match. The calibre of opponent has now increased massively and England will need to be on their A game.
“Senegal will be physical and strong but they’re also quick. They’ve got skill. Trust me, don’t underestimate them.
“We have to play the Premier League way, that’s the only way we are going to win the World Cup. If we play quickly, I think we have every chance.”