Paul Merson insists Dele Alli should not play versus Panama
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson has urged England manager Gareth Southgate to resist playing Dele Alli against Panama. The Three Lions midfielder is already said to be carrying a groin strain from the 2-1 win over Tunisia and Merson believes the 22-year-old should not be risked against a side whoare likely to defence for most periods of the game.
He told Sky Sports News: “I probably wouldn't have played Dele Alli in that [Tunisia] game and I wouldn't have been fussed about playing him against Panama. Dele Alli needs to be playing in games where the other teams are going to have a go at us and there's grass on the other side. He's very good without the ball and makes good runs, but there's got to be space. In the first two games there will be 10 behind the ball, but against Belgium and in the knockout stages I think Dele Alli will be a better player.”
The Three Lions witnessed Belgium record a comfortable 3-0 win over Panama during their World Cup opener and based on this, they should enjoy the vast advantage over the North American outfit. As such, there have been calls for a couple of offensive changes and Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are among the candidates who could come into the mix.
Loftus-Cheek will most certainly take up a central midfield role under Southgate whilst Rashford could slot into one of the wider positions. Both Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling were guilty of failing to convert goalscoring opportunities against Tunisia but the latter could be the one dropped after losing possession of the ball more regularly than his compatriot.
Sterling has come off a strong season with Manchester City but his international record, however, is not brilliant with no goals scored since October 2015. During this period, Rashford has found better success with three goals contributed in 20 appearances.