Paul Merson has urged England manager Gareth Southgate to recall Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier to his starting line-up for Thursday’s World Cup clash with Belgium.
Jordan Henderson was preferred to Dier in the holding midfield role for England’s opening games against Tunisia and Panama, while Kyle Walker has started on the right of a back three – a position Dier can also play in.
And now, Merson – who made over 300 appearances for the Gunners – has echoed Wenger’s endorsement of Dier.
However, Merson believes Dier should start in midfield rather than defence against Belium in order to protect the back line of Walker, John Stones and Harry Maguire.
“It might seem strange to change a winning team, but as good as we were on Sunday, we will find out how good we really are against Belgium,” Merson wrote in his column for the Daily Star.
“That’s the kind of game where you need Dier. I think he should come in for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who did alright [against Panama] but was nothing special.
“When push comes to shove against the big boys, you need someone like Dier in there protecting the back three.
“That will be important as the tournament goes on. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t play at this World Cup, and I think now is the time to bring him in.”
It would probably be sensible to bring in Dier now so he has a game under his belt ahead of the knockout stages, when injuries and suspensions could mean he is needed.
That said, a midfield parnership of Dier and Henderson can sometimes be a bit too safe – Southgate might prefer to be more expressive against Belgium in a bid to top the group.