Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate surprisingly opted to play Atletico Madrid right-back Kieran Trippier at left-back instead of Shaw or Chilwell in England’s 1-0 win over Croatia at Wembley on Sunday.
Shaw came into the Euros off the back of an impressive season for the Red Devils, while Chilwell also enjoyed a superb campaign at Stamford Bridge, helping Chelsea win the Champions League and reach the FA Cup final.
Chilwell was not even included in England’s 23-man squad for the Croatia clash, with Southgate explaining that he saw Trippier’s experience – the former Tottenham star heavily in England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 – as a key attribute for the Euros opener.
‘Fair play to Gareth as he is getting pelters if that does not come off and that is what I like about him,’ former Arsenal and England star Merson told Sky Sports.
‘It’s the confidence he has in his own ability to go: “You know what, I’m going with what I believe and I’m not going to listen to the public. It is my job and I have to do this my way.”
‘If we lose on Sunday, then he is in major trouble, so that was a big gamble.
‘If I’m Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell, though, I might as well go home now with Gareth having gone for a right-footed left-back in Kieran Trippier.
‘I also thought playing a back four was a big gamble, but we can’t get carried away as Croatia were terrible and looked well past their sell-by date. In midfield, Kalvin Phillips’s performance shocked me if I’m being honest.’
Merson expects Southgate to make a number of changes for England’s second group game against Scotland on Friday night, but has warned Jack Grealish that he may not ‘fit into’ the manager’s plans.
A large section of England supporters want Grealish to start at the Euros following his impressive spell at Aston Villa and after he shone in the warm-up games.
Merson added: ‘Gareth has to change it up against Scotland, 100 per cent. He might swap a Phil Foden for a Jadon Sancho, or Marcus Rashford.
‘The problem with playing Grealish, though, is the whole nation wants him to start as he is the ‘new Gazza’. He is a top-drawer player, don’t get me wrong, but I do not think he fits into Gareth’s plans.
‘And if he plays him and he rips it up, then Gareth is under severe pressure again when he does not need to be under that pressure.
‘That is why I do not think he came on against Croatia, as it was made for him with Croatia chasing the game 1-0 down. No one keeps the ball better than Grealish.’
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