By Daniel Feliciano

23rd Sep, 2022 | 12:42pm

Paul Merson names West Ham United star Declan Rice in ideal England XI for World Cup clash vs Iran

Paul Merson has named West Ham United captain Declan Rice in his ideal England starting lineup to face Iran in the World Cup opener in November.

The Three Lions will begin their pursuit of a first World Cup win since 1966 when they face Iran in Qatar, as Gareth Southgate looks to begin preparations when they face Italy and Germany in the UEFA Nations League on Friday and Monday respectively.

But writing in his Sky Sports column [22 September], Merson believes that England will only need one holding midfielder for the game with Iran and selected Rice as the man for the position.

“You don’t need two holding midfield players against Iran so there’s no need for both Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips,” he said.

“So I’d play Rice in there, Mason Mount to the side of him with Phil Foden on the other side as we have to get him in the team.”

Merson also selected Jordan Pickford in goal, a back four containing Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Kieran Trippier with a front three of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane.

Guaranteed?

There aren’t many players guaranteed to be in Gareth Southgate’s starting lineup for England, but you have to feel that Rice is among those that are.

He’s been England’s best performing central midfielder for a couple of years now and his tireless running, energy, ability to drive between the lines and leadership are essential to the way Southgate wants to play.

While he’s at his best bombing between the boxes with a bit of freedom, he is also the best defensive midfielder England have and it would be silly not to include him in the team against a nation not known for their footballing ability.

His form so far for West Ham hasn’t been ideal, but hopefully a change of environment for a couple of weeks will refocus and re-energise him so he can come back for a busy period and be back at his best.

England and West Ham are far better when they have Rice in the team and Merson is spot on with his inclusion in the side.