Skip to main content

Arsenal legend Paul Merson picks his greatest XI of team-mates – but snubs both Arsene Wenger and George Graham to manage them

Arsenal legends Paul Merson and Ian Wright attend a photocall to launch's World Cup offers at The Mayfair Hotel on May 19, 2010 in London, England.
(Image credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Former Arsenal star Paul Merson has told FourFourTwo his Perfect XI of former teammates. 

Merson came to prominence in the late 80s and was a member of both the 1988/89 and 1990/91 title-winning Gunners sides under George Graham. A star for England as well, the Sky pundit was one of the most talented players of his generation – and played with the cream of the Premier League both domestically and on international duty.

FourFourTwo sat down with him to ask what a team of his best ever team-mates would look like. 

Arsenal legend Paul Merson picks his Perfect XI…

Paul Merson Perfect XI

(Image credit: Future)

GK: David Seaman

“I played with Peter Schmeichel at Aston Villa and he was still class, but David was the one for me. He was so calm. We were well-drilled defensively at Arsenal and he was key to that. However quiet a game he’d had, or however under the cosh we were, you knew you could always rely on him.”

RB: Gary Neville

“People forget just how consistent Gary was. Now he’s on the telly, maybe we forget that for more than a decade he was playing this massive part in Manchester United’s success, and was by far the best right-back in England. Lee Dixon was terrific, but I’d have to go for Gary – especially considering who I’m picking ahead of him.”

CB: Tony Adams

“Colossal both on and off the pitch. I saw him playing from a young age and you knew that this kid – if you could ever call him a kid – was going to the very top. He and I went through similar problems, and the way he’s handled his addictions tells you everything about the man. A great leader.”

CB: Sol Campbell

“We played together for England at the 1998 World Cup, and I could see he was destined to be a world-class defender. Then watching him at Arsenal after a big move from Spurs, you saw this calmness. That wasn’t easy, the hate he got from the fans, but he took it in his stride and became even better. A class act.”

LB: Kenny Sansom

“He was a monster. Stuart Pearce was superb of course, but when I started at Arsenal, Kenny was senior and helped many of us youngsters come through. He had legs like tree trunks and could tackle a brick wall, but my word he could play.”

RM: David Beckham

“I partly picked Gary for just how well he played with Becks – the greatest striker of a dead-ball I’ve ever seen. The stick he received for what was at best a booking against Argentina in 1998 was insane. The way he handled the country being against him was heroic.”

CM: Patrick Vieira

“We couldn’t work him out at first. Surely he was a centre-back, the Arsenal lads said. He was gangly and had an odd body shape, but soon was bossing every midfield. Box to box, brilliant passer, up for the fight, beautiful at tackling. Pivotal to Arsene Wenger’s success.”

CM: Paul Gascoigne 

“The best English footballer I’ve ever seen. To have played with Gazza, as I did for England and Middlesbrough, was to really know how amazing he was. The things he could do with a football would just make you smile. He was my housemate at Boro and it got a bit mad. He was coming to the end of his career then, but his skills were still mental.”

LM: John Barnes

“John was some player. When Arsenal were trying to dethrone Liverpool, he was arguably the best player in Europe. What he was doing week in, week out was up there with anyone, and I mean anyone. He got unfair stick with England, as teams would double up on him.”

ST: Dennis Bergkamp

“Until I started working with Dennis in 1995, I didn’t know footballers could be that good. On the pitch, that touch, that ability to drop deep and find space... wow. Off the pitch, his room-mate Ian Wright used to laugh that he wore perfectly ironed pyjamas and slippers.”

ST: Ian Wright

“It’s hard to leave out Alan Shearer as his numbers were off the scale, but I loved playing off Wrighty. Because of his late route into football, he had an infectious love of playing. It’s easy to take it for granted, but he was so enthusiastic and that bubbled into his game.”

Manager: Harry Redknapp

“If the players weren’t so good, I’d pick George Graham, who was a master organiser. Harry was great with players and would get the best from this XI by letting them enjoy themselves.”


David Rocastle

Alan Shearer

Teddy Sheringham

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1