Joe Cole urges England boss Gareth Southgate to drop Chelsea and Man Utd players for Arsenal stars

    Joe Cole has named his England World Cup starting XI
    Joe Cole has named his England World Cup starting XI (Pictures: Getty)

    Joe Cole has urged England boss Gareth Southgate to pick two in-form Arsenal stars in his team for the Three Lions’ opening World Cup game.

    England begin their World Cup campaign on Monday, facing Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

    Southgate’s side will look to go one better in Qatar, having reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and finishing as runners-up at Euro 2020.

    England’s manager has named a 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup but it remains to be seen which players will make the starting XI, with Southgate facing a number of tricky decisions for the opening match against Iran.

    Former England midfielder Cole believes Southgate should go with form over reputation and pick Bukayo Saka instead of Raheem Sterling and Ben White rather than Harry Maguire.

    Sterling is one of the more experienced players in Southgate’s squad and has started five of England’s eight games in 2022.

    But the 27-year-old has endured an underwhelming start to his Chelsea career, scoring just five goals in 19 appearances following a £50m move from Manchester City last summer.

    England are in Qatar ahead of their World Cup opener
    England are in Qatar ahead of their World Cup opener (Picture: Getty)

    Maguire’s place in the England team is also in jeopardy, with the 29-year-old dropped by Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag earlier this season.

    ‘As much as I love Raheem [Sterling], he’s not in form,’ Cole said on William Hill’s Stripped Podcast. ‘Bukayo Saka’s playing for the team at the top of the Premier League.

    ‘It will evolve as the tournament goes on. Five substitutions as well – it’s a game of 16 players effectively so most players will get a chance.

    ‘I would go with [Jordan] Pickford in goal, centre halves I’ll go [John] Stones and [Ben] White in the group stage.

    ‘[Kieran] Trippier right back, [Luke] Shaw left back. Then I’d play a midfield of Declan [Rice], [Jude] Bellingham and Mason [Mount] – Declan holding then the two 10s given licence to go forward.

    ‘Then I’d play Harry Kane up top obviously, then probably start with Phil Foden on the right, then Saka on the left.

    ‘There are four players who are going to play regularly – Pickford, Stones, Rice and Kane. You only take Kane off when the game’s done.

    ‘That will be a problem for the other strikers because they know they’re going there to play second fiddle. Everywhere else is up for grabs.

    Ben White has helped Arsenal go clear in the Premier League title race
    Ben White has helped Arsenal go clear in the Premier League title race (Picture: Getty)

    ‘I hate it when people say Gareth [Southgate] doesn’t know what he’s doing – he’s the most successful England manager since Alf Ramsey, that’s a fact.

    ‘He’s got all the information and he can see how they’re training. So, let’s all get behind Gareth.’

    Leicester City playmaker James Maddison was one of the players sweating over his place in England’s World Cup squad and Cole is pleased to see him included.

    Maddison, 25, has been in superb form for the Foxes, scoring seven goals and supplying four assists in 13 Premier League games this season.

    James Maddison was included in Gareth Southgate's squad
    James Maddison was included in Gareth Southgate’s squad (Picture: Getty)

    Cole added: ‘The big one for me was [James] Maddison. Form wise and quality wise he should be playing, but also because of his personality – he’s an England player.

    ‘He won’t shirk the responsibilities; he’ll get on the ball. There will be times later in the tournament when the game might be in the balance and you need to be brave and accept the ball as a midfield player and he will do that.

    ‘You can play number 10s deeper now and we need to set the tempo of our games. I’m so happy he’s in.’

    After kick-starting their World Cup campaign against Iran, England face USA and Wales as they attempt to progress from Group B.

    MORE : France guide: Can Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema avoid World Cup curse?

    MORE : England World Cup guide: Now or never for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions

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