Paul Merson backs Ivan Toney over Ollie Watkins for England's EURO 2024 squad

Ivan Toney
Ivan Toney / Matt McNulty/GettyImages

Aston Villa and England fans are buzzing over Paul Merson's call for Brentford's Ivan Toney to get the nod over Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins in England's Euro 2024 squad. The former Arsenal star's argument is not about who is the better all-around player, but rather who has the "X factor" that could make the difference in a tournament setting. That factor, he believes, is Toney's lethal accuracy from the penalty spot. Merson said in his Sky Sports column:

"I don't see the point in taking them both because Harry Kane will play every minute and if he gets injured England won't win the Euros anyway."

With Harry Kane a sure bet to lead the Three Lions, Merson focuses on the impact of the backup striker. He posits that England's history of heartbreaking penalty shootout losses makes having a dead-eye specialist like Toney invaluable. The Brentford frontman boasts a remarkable 29 goals from 31 penalty attempts – a level of consistency Watkins simply has not reached.

Ollie Watkins
England Men Training Session / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Watkins' supporters, however, point to his outstanding season with Aston Villa. With 16 goals and 10 assists this campaign, Watkins has been a force in open play. Yet, Merson argues that in those tense knockout rounds, England may need Toney's singular focus on converting penalties.

Toney's selection is not without controversy. He recently served an eight-month ban for gambling violations. But Merson bets on Toney making a strong comeback, especially with his in-form strike partner Bryan Mbeumo back on the pitch for Brentford.

Rosie Tudball of Aston Villa News stresses Watkins' growth into a well-rounded striker. He is not just a goal poacher, but also a key playmaker. This versatility, some argue, makes him a more valuable asset for England.

As the Euros near, Gareth Southgate faces a tough call. Toney's penalty prowess is a tempting asset, but Watkins offers a broader attacking presence. The debate will surely rage on, fueled by each player's performances leading up to the tournament. Football, after all, is a game of thrilling arguments and strategic dilemmas – and this striker selection perfectly encapsulates that spirit.