England can begin their preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after they booked their spot in the tournament with a 1-0 win over Slovenia on Thursday.
Gareth Southgate’s side will struggle to get far if they fail to up their game after last night’s underwhelming display at Wembley Stadium.
Once again, the Three Lions looked bereft of ideas and creativity.
The British media always managed to hype England up ahead of a major tournament but it’s difficult to see how they can achieve that this time around, even with Harry Kane leading the line.
England fans have been calling out for fresh faces for years now and Russia is as good a time as any to introduce some younger faces.
Paul Merson's 23-man squad
But if Paul Merson gets his wish, we’ll see the same old faces on the plane next summer.
Merson has named the 23-man squad he would take to Russia and his selections haven’t gone down well with fans on Twitter.
Here’s the team, with some words from the Sky Sports pundit on his picks.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford
Merse says: “Hart's experience gets him a spot, we know what he can do. Butland and Pickford need to play against Germany and Brazil and get some big-game experience.
“[Fraser] Forster has not had a great season, [Tom] Heaton is injured and, while I'm a big fan of [Ben] Foster, he's been out of the mix too long.”
Right-backs: Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier
Merse says: “Walker is the best in the business at right wing-back, while Trippier is not far behind him.”
Left-backs: Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand
Merse says: “When Rose gets fit he's as good as anybody in his position and Bertrand is more than capable of matching his levels when called upon.”
Centre-backs: Gary Cahill, John Stones, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Michael Keane
Merse says: “I’m going for five central defenders to provide a number of options for the back three.”
Central midfielders: Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere
Merse says: “I’m throwing a wildcard in with Wilshere. Things may change by the time the squad is officially announced, but this lad is one of few who can makes things happen in a football match - something we were crying out for against Slovenia.
“He can put the ball through the eye of a needle in the tight matches we'll encounter in Russia.”
Attacking midfielders: Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Merse says: “I'm a big fan of [Michael] Antonio, and there have been calls for him to be included, but if he cannot get ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain when he's struggling to get into the Liverpool team, what chance does he have when he finally plays regularly under Jurgen Klopp.
Strikers: Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Andy Carroll
Merse says: “We need someone who provides a different option, and that's where Carroll comes in.
“If we're chasing the game we can pump the ball up to Carroll and there will be drama, trust me.”
Merson's starting XI
Merse’s starting XI (3-4-1-2): Hart; Jones, Stones, Cahill; Walker, Dier, Wilshere, Rose; Alli; Rashford, Kane.
The inclusion of Wilshere, who failed to make an impact at Bournemouth last season and has started two games for Arsenal this campaign, has irked fans on Twitter.
Here’s how they reacted to his squad.
It’s an impossible job, really. Whoever Southgate picks, there will be plenty who disagree.
But one thing that every England fan would love to see in the 23-man squad is something to get excited about.
Adding more youth to Kane and Marcus Rashford would be a good start.
Name your 23-man England squad for the 2018 World Cup in the comments section below!
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