Premier League • England

Pundit and Southgate clash over Alexander-Arnold, as England boss names clearly better right-back

Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool

England manager Gareth Southgate has admitted that Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is lower down his pecking order than Kieran Trippier.

Alexander-Arnold has nailed down his Reds starting role but is yet to convince on the international stage. While Jurgen Klopp values his attacking attributes more, Southgate wants all-rounders at right-back.

And the difficulty for Alexander-Arnold is that England have no shortage of top right-back options. As well as Newcastle’s Trippier, Reece James of Chelsea and Manchester City’s Kyle Walker are also options.

But, amid England’s recent lack of open-play creativity, the spotlight has fallen on Alexander-Arnold’s absence.

The 23-year-old remained on the bench for Friday’s defeat to Italy. Then, he did not even make the squad – but stayed at Wembley – for Monday’s draw with Germany.

Southgate has now categorically admitted that he values Trippier’s “all-round” attributes more. He added that being able to have an honest conversation with Alexander-Arnold is one of the Three Lions’ biggest strengths.

“The other night [in Italy], we didn’t need the left-back cover,” Southgate told The Telegraph.

“But against Germany we did because of the way we went with the team so we needed Chilly [Ben Chilwell] on the bench and we had Kieran who, at the moment, I feel his all-round game is ahead [of Trent].”

Southgate added: “I didn’t want any player to sit in the stand for two matches, so I think the way we manage a group of people has been a big strength for us in the tournaments and we need to do that.”

Pundit tackles Alexander-Arnold criticism

Meanwhile, former Liverpool goalkeeper David James has questioned the criticism around Alexander-Arnold.

There have always been questions around the right-back’s defending, especially in contrast to his attacking qualities. However, James has insisted that he has not seen a drop in overall level from the player.

“Trent will be part of that defence and people will be looking at him in a different view,” the pundit told the Liverpool Echo.

“I don’t see a difference in performance necessarily, what I do see is goals going in, which allows people to be slightly negative.

“And I have to say, if I can say this? I was just out in Asia talking to Liverpool fans and the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson [Becker], three of the best defensive players in the Premier League over many years now, the levels that they have been playing at, for them not to be at their level is still better than most.

“I think that is the key here, we are not talking about players who have suddenly turned into bad players, the level they are still at is better than most of the defenders and most of the goalkeepers in the Premier League. It is never always going to be perfect.”

Liverpool man’s World Cup hopes in doubt

Unless Alexander-Arnold drastically improves his defending in the next six weeks, his World Cup chances look bleak.

Southgate has clearly nailed his colours to the mast over his right-back dilemma, with Trippier, Walker and James ahead of him.

If Southgate did not have such concerns over Alexander-Arnold, he would have got some minutes in the recent international break.

Indeed, England went into the break in poor form and defeat to Italy relegated them to the Nations League B.

That meant Monday’s clash with Germany was a dead rubber. While it was of course crucial to test out formations and tactics one last time before Qatar, Southgate would surely have utilised Alexander-Arnold in some way if he thought he was of use.

There is, of course, the chance for Alexander-Arnold to improve his defending and reach a better all-round level.

But, Southgate looks so set in his ways that it might not even matter.

READ MORE: Ferdinand storms to the defence of Alexander-Arnold, slamming outspoken critic