Trent Alexander-Arnold’s level has dropped this season, says England manager Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate has omitted the Liverpool full-back from his squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Thursday 18 March 2021 22:50 GMT
Trent Alexander-Arnold has been part of a struggling Liverpool team
Trent Alexander-Arnold has been part of a struggling Liverpool team (Reuters)

Gareth Southgate says Trent Alexander-Arnold has not replicated his Liverpool heights for England, and said that is something he also needs to look at as regards his own managerial approach. The 22-year-old was surprisingly dropped from the squad for what is the last international break before the build-up to the summer’s European Championships, potentially putting his place in jeopardy. While Southgate did say Alexander-Arnold can play his way back in through his club form, and that recent displays have been encouraging, he pointed to how right-back is the position with most competition in the squad. Southgate argued that all of Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James have all been on superior form.

“The challenge now for Trent is to continue the form he’s starting to show with his club,” the England manager said, before adding a contentious caveat. “I feel like I’ve got to look at myself a bit with Trent. I don’t feel he’s hit that level he’s hit with Liverpool for England, and the other players have, and there’s an element of me having to look at how we do that going forward, because we know some of the qualities that he brings.

“ I think with Trent, we’ve got some players who’ve played exceptionally well for England in the past, and are playing well for their clubs, and that position on the pitch is one where competition is really high. We would be saying the same about the players just behind the centre-forward if we hadn’t lost three or four of them to injury. I think we’re looking at performances with club, and performances with us, Reece James was exceptional with us in the autumn, Kieran has been consistently good for us as well. He’s had a very good season with Atletico [Madrid[, he missed a period, it’s no surprise [Diego] Simeone put him straight back in, and Kyle Walker has also had an exceptional season.

“Look, we could have picked four full-backs, I know people like to make fun of the fact we normally pick for right-backs, but the reality is if we’re not going to put them on the pitch, that’s not going to be a fulfilling experience, just to come, we’re not going to be on the training ground a lot anyway, and the challenge now for Trent is to continue the form he’s starting to show with his club.”

Asked whether time is now limited for Alexander-Arnold to get back in, given that England’s next games after this break will be warm-ups for the Euros, Southgate said: “There is a small opportunity in terms of our matches but there is a quarter of a season at club level. That includes some big Champions League games as well. That door is definitely open – I realistically did not think I would be sitting here today picking a squad with John Stones and Jesse Lingard in it. Trent is closer to this squad than they were to our autumn squads four months ago.”

Southgate said he is also attempting to ensure the England team is comfortable with a number of different formations ahead of the Euros.

“I think what we have felt is that the availability of different players will give us the option to play in a different tactical formation. We are a team that might benefit in different matches from having that opportunity to play different profiles of players in different systems.

“We know that we are comfortable playing a couple of different ways and our players are intelligent enough to do that. That means we can adapt for certain opponents and we need to be able to do that.

“What is clear is that again in the autumn we might have wanted to try certain things but we never had [Marcus] Rashford or [Raheem] Sterling for the majority of the games, for example. And we did not have Foden for some of those games. Again, you are always adapting, and this time we are having to adapt to the loss of other players.”

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England squad in full

Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone, Nick Pope

Defenders: Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker

Midfielders:Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse

Strikers: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Ollie Watkins

Additional report by PA

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