Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold will finally get a proper England chance – and a run in the team – if he works hard, Stan Collymore claims.
The full-back’s qualities at club level are unquestionable as he has nailed down his role at Anfield. However, he has yet to convince at international level under Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.
That is because questions remain over Alexander-Arnold’s defensive capabilities. Southgate has seemed to prefer Kieran Trippier, Reece James and Kyle Walker ahead of him.
In fact, Southgate categorically admitted earlier this week that he thinks Trippier has a better all-round game than Alexander-Arnold.
The Liverpool man has subsequently faced claims from Gabby Agbonlahor that he should retire altogether from international football. Indeed, Walker is showing no signs of slowing down and James is only 22.
According to former Anfield star Collymore, though, Alexander-Arnold should stick with it and have self-belief.
“Throughout my career, I played with Gareth Southgate twice, once in Crystal Palace’s youth setup, and again at Aston Villa where he was my skipper, and I can tell you for certain that he likes round pegged players for round holes,” the pundit told Caught Offside.
“When it comes to full-backs, Southgate’s first priority is defending and then attacking and unfortunately for Alexander-Arnold, as we all know, his game is very much the opposite of that.
“Alexander-Arnold is going to give his manager a whole host of offensive and creative options, but the biggest concern with him is his ability when going back towards his own goal, and that has been the case for him while playing in a very good Liverpool team, so you can perhaps understand Southgate’s caution.
“I think in Southgate’s mind, he is worried that the likes of John Stones and [Harry] Maguire, who aren’t exactly in the form of their lives, would come under more defensive pressure if Alexander-Arnold were on the right side of the backline.
“However, my advice to Alexander-Arnold would be to keep going. Keep turning up whenever called upon and wait for your chance – because it will come.”
Alexander-Arnold must trust himself
Collymore admitted that it looks “very unlikely” that Alexander-Arnold will play any meaningful part at the Qatar World Cup.
But the pundit added: “He’s only 23 years old, so even after this year’s tournament, he will still have at least two more World Cups ahead of him.
“Whether it is Southgate that gives him that chance or another manager, he will get it and when he gets it, I hope he grabs it with both hands because he is just too good to ignore.”
Alexander-Arnold has proved a poster boy for the modern and changing full-back role.
However, Southgate has stuck to the traditional principles of defending – and the Liverpool man does not fit.
Liverpool star must improve defending
Despite claims from some observers that Southgate is dismissing one of England’s brightest talents, Alexander-Arnold must improve his defending.
Indeed, it is arguably the only thing stopping him from becoming the Three Lions’ No. 1 right-back.
In that sense, it sounds like an easy fix. However, it will be far from that. Alexander-Arnold has made his name for his attacking qualities and there will always be those concerns for his defending.
The good thing for him is, that with him only turning 24 in October, he has time on his side.
There will be plenty more opportunities for him to prove himself on the international stage.
And Southgate may end up being replaced at England, with a new manager potentially favouring him more.