carra's view | 

I do not agree with England's decision to drop Trent Alexander-Arnold

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold battles for the ball with Wolverhampton Wanderers' Jonny Castro Otto. Photo: PA Wire

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold battles for the ball with Wolverhampton Wanderers' Jonny Castro Otto. Photo: PA Wire

Jamie Carragher

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s omission from the England squad is no surprise to me.

I have had my suspicions for a while that the Liverpool defender is in a fight to make it to the European Championship, but t he decision from Gareth Southgate is controversial but understandable.

I do not agree with it because, in a head-to-head with Kieran Trippier, for me it is a no-brainer – Alexander-Arnold should be picked.

Clearly the England manager has more confidence in his three alternatives. Southgate obviously likes Trippier because he has credit from his performances at the last World Cup, and can also play left wing-back. Kyle Walker’s pace and ability to play centre-back make him a valuable asset.

And then there is the player who made such a big immediate impression on Southgate, Chelsea’s Reece James.

James’s first England performances were outstanding – better than Alexander-Arnold’s in the wing-back role. From that moment, Trent had a direct rival for his position and a serious problem. He has it all to do to change Southgate’s mind.

Southgate has never seemed convinced Alexander-Arnold suits England’s system, or to be more specific, how often he likes to switch between a back four and three centre-backs.

Southgate does not want a playmaker at right-back. He wants a traditional right-back or wing-back.

What we have to realise is that playing for England under Southgate is never going to be the same as for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Since he made his Liverpool debut, Alexander-Arnold has been a midfielder converted into a full-back. He has flourished by growing in a side who want domination with the ball, thriving when Liverpool had their usual back four and covering midfielders who enabled him to play as much like a wide midfielder as a defender.

Strange as it sounds for a full-back, defending has never been his strongest asset. He has sometimes struggled in one-on-one defensive or man-marking situations.

Naturally, when Liverpool’s back four and midfield were destabilised by injuries at the start of this season, that became more apparent.

Southgate knows that when England face tougher nations in a knockout round at the Euros, his side will go long spells without possession. That is why he is more inclined to pick a full-back he believes is more geared to defending than attacking.

I disagree with leaving Trent out of the squad completely because there will still be times when England face sides intent on defending deep, especially in the group stages. That is when Alexander-Arnold’s skills can be invaluable. His set-pieces can also be decisive in close games.

James may be suited to some opponents, Alexander-Arnold to others. That is why I would pick Alexander-Arnold ahead of Trippier.

The irony is that over the course of the past few months, the defensive side of Alexander-Arnold’s game has markedly improved. Some of his recent performances have been his most solid this season.

He could have been named Liverpool’s man of the match against RB Leipzig and Wolves, when the team kept back-to-back clean sheets.

The problem for him is that while Southgate is judging him on defensive basics, the wider public assess his contribution on the attacking statistics, which until this season have been so impressive.

Fans look at 25 league assists between 2018 and 2020 and consider that the benchmark. That is a ridiculously high standard against which to evaluate him – the equivalent of expecting Mohamed Salah to score 40 goals every season because he did it in his debut year at Anfield.

Amid obvious disappointment – and I know how gutted he will be – Alexander-Arnold should be honest enough to admit he has not yet produced his Liverpool form for England. That is as much to do with different requirements in the position for club and country. He will not feel this way today, but Southgate’s decision can do him more good than harm.

It will give his career a jolt and force him to work on those defensive areas which need improvement. Because they do. He has no better manager in the world to turn to than Klopp to guide him through that.

Trent is a fantastic player. Let’s remember, he is still only 22, and if he does not make it this summer he has many major international tournaments ahead of him.

This feels like one of those moments he will look back upon as firing him up to unlock more of his incredible talent.

Today's Headlines

More Soccer

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices