Arsenal icon explains why England will win Euro 2024 with Crystal Palace star in midfield

Jason Soutar
Paul Merson's England team (we assume) has Adam Wharton in midfield

Paul Merson thinks England are the favourites to win Euro 2024 and has urged Gareth Southgate to start Crystal Palace midfielder Adam Wharton in midfield next to Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice.

England go to Germany as one of the favourites but their preparation has been far from ideal, losing 1-0 at home to Iceland in their final pre-tournament friendly.

Southgate is missing a few key players through injury with Harry Maguire unable to make the squad and Luke Shaw battling to be fit to play a part in the Three Lions’ group stage campaign.

It is a very inexperienced squad with only two players boasting more than four international goals (Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane).

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Southgate has so many important decisions to make – mainly in defence and who will play next to Declan Rice – with Marc Guehi likely to start alongside John Stones in the heart of defence.

With Shaw unavailable, an out-of-form Kieran Trippier is expected to start left-back, with Kyle Walker – who we think should be dropped – on the other side.

Former Arsenal midfielder Merson has boldly called for Wharton – who joined Crystal Palace from Championship side Blackburn Rovers in January and made his England debut against Bosnia last week – to start in defensive midfield next to Rice.

The 20-year-old was excellent in the Eagles’ midfield in the second half of the season and has earned his spot in Southgate’s final 26-man squad.

Starting him at Euro 2024 is certainly a bold call. It will be him, Kobbie Mainoo or Conor Gallagher, you’d think.

England will win Euro 2024 – Arsenal icon Paul Merson

However, Merson thinks he can help fire England to glory in Germany, making Southgate’s side his favourites ahead of France, Germany, Portugal and Italy.

Explaining his ‘worries’ before stating his team selection and why England can become European champions, Merson said:

“Gareth Southgate faces a problem of plenty ahead of Euro 2024 as England are blessed with an embarrassment of riches. That said, they have a bit of a disadvantage as Kieran Trippier is likely to play as a left-back as Luke Shaw continues to recover from injury. He’s a fantastic player in his own right but he’s not been in the best of form and it’s not ideal for a right footer to play on the left flank.

“Harry Maguire has been omitted from the final squad, so the central defenders worry me a little bit. I think Marc Guehi will be given a go alongside John Stones for the opening game, with Lewis Dunk and Levi Colwill ready to deputize for the pair if their injury woes deepen.

“I was surprised Fikayo Tomori was left out but how many players can a manager pick? We just have to trust Gareth and let him do his thing as he’s the one who calls the shots.

“Personally, I’d have had Marcus Rashford in the squad as I think he’s an X-factor player who can win you games, but what do I know?

“Although I’m worried defensively, there isn’t a better team in the competition than England. Five players in the front six pick themselves, with Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane and Phil Foden all guaranteed to start.

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“I’d pick Adam Wharton to play alongside Rice and Bellingham in midfield – he’s an outstanding footballer who ticks all the boxes for a player in his position.

“I don’t think there is much of a risk as the kid has looked at home in the Premier League playing against some of the best teams in the country, so I hope Gareth gives him a chance and backs him through the tournament.

“Finally, I know it’s hard to omit a player like Trent Alexander-Arnold from the starting XI for a major tournament, but I’m not sure if he plays as a right back or a midfielder, so he might be an X-factor off the bench.”

It is worth noting that Levi Colwill is not in the England squad.

👉 More: Every Euro 2024 squad | England news | Euro 2024 news