Trent Alexander-Arnold’s omission from the England squad is a hammer blow with the Euros three months away… the Liverpool defender can take inspiration from Luke Shaw and John Stones’ recalls but time is against him
- Trent Alexander-Arnold was left out of the England squad on Thursday
- Kieran Trippier, Reece James and Kyle Walker were picked ahead of him
- Time is against the Liverpool man with the Euros just three months away
It seemed Trent Alexander-Arnold’s season had reached its low point a while ago.
Substituted as Liverpool lost at Southampton in January, he sat rather hollow-eyed on the bench as it emerged that 38 of his passes went astray that night.
Since then, the 22-year-old’s form has improved somewhat, even if Liverpool’s has not.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was left out of the England squad by Gareth Southgate on Thursday
But then came Thursday’s hammer blow, delivered in a morning phone-call from Gareth Southgate. Just three months before the start of the European Championship, Alexander-Arnold was out of the England squad.
And worse was to come. Speaking to the media after his squad was announced for forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland, England boss Southgate outlined just how far down the queue for selection the Liverpool right back could yet fall.
‘Reece James and Kieran Trippier have had exceptional seasons with their clubs and Kyle Walker is in great form with Manchester City,’ said Southgate of the three right backs in his latest squad.
‘We’ve also got other players in the league who are playing well in that position: Matty Cash at Aston Villa and Luke Ayling at Leeds. We’ve got two very good right backs in the Under 21s. It’s a remarkable position of strength.
‘Trent is of course a super talent and I’m certain he plays a big part for England in the future. He misses out this time but we could quite conceivably be here before the summer and he’s with us.’
The size of the challenge for Alexander-Arnold between now and the summer is therefore abundantly clear. He could ‘conceivably’ be with England at the Euros. Equally, it is clear he could not after reservations held by Southgate for some time were finally allowed to tip the balance of his selection decisions.
The Liverpool defender’s form has improved in recent weeks despite a below-par campaign
Alexander-Arnold’s form has not been good this season, despite a recent uptick which was acknowledged by Southgate as he discussed the topic at length over Zoom. ‘He’s getting close now,’ he said.
The full back has looked leggy at times. At Anfield, he has not been alone in that. However, it is true that Southgate has never been quite as blown away by Liverpool’s rampaging right back as the rest of us.
Trippier — once of Tottenham and now playing well for La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid — is the preferred man. Southgate thinks he defends better.
But for Alexander-Arnold not to make the squad at all so close to a big championship is startling.
James of Chelsea is talented but young. Walker played the last World Cup for Southgate as a centre back and then fell out of favour.
So Alexander-Arnold’s demotion down the queue is quite something and was further explained when Southgate added: ‘We are looking at performances with club and with us. Reece James was exceptional with us in the autumn, Kieran has been consistently good for us as well. But I have got to look at myself a bit with Trent because I don’t feel that he has hit that level he’s hit with Liverpool here with England. Other players have.
Kieran Trippier (left) and Reece James (right) are the preferred right back options along with Kyle Walker
‘So there is an element of me having to look at how can we do that moving forward because we know some of the qualities that he brings.’
How Alexander-Arnold improves his performances with England without even being invited on to the training field is a puzzle. What is clearer is that his route back into the party will depend not only on his own improved form at club level but also on a drop-off — or indeed an injury — suffered by one of the others.
More broadly, this is the first England squad not to feature a Liverpool player since 2009. Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson are both injured.
Elsewhere, there is a deserved recall for Manchester United duo Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard, the latter due to good form on loan at West Ham. John Stones — excellent recently for City — is also back but Tottenham’s Harry Winks has paid the price he feared he would for not playing regularly and might now wonder why he didn’t push for a loan as he had planned in January.
Time is against the defender with just three months before the start of the Euros
The inclusion of Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins is indicative of the pathway available. A year ago he was in the Championship with Brentford.
Alexander-Arnold was said to be unhappy with developments and that is a good sign. Southgate, for his part, stressed he could take the return of players such as Shaw and Lingard as an example to follow.
It took them both a while, though. Ahead of the Euros, Alexander-Arnold finds that time is suddenly against him.
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