·20 November 2023
·20 November 2023
Trent Alexander-Arnold has moved into midfield for England under Gareth Southgate.
The Trent Alexander-Arnold midfield peddlers will have enjoyed the WhoScored revelation ahead of the game in Skopje that the Liverpool star is the highest-rated England player in Euro 2024 qualifying. In three starts he had recorded a very impressive 8.08. No other England player came close.
But you would be hard pushed to describe Alexander-Arnold as being key to England’s progress. The rating is deceptive in that he played no part against either Italy or Ukraine, their real challengers for qualification, with his three starts coming against North Macedonia, and Malta home and away. Faced with mediocrity, Alexander-Arnold thrived.
He was one of the two players Gareth Southgate picked out for praise after the win over Malta on Friday, and reasonably so. With space and time on the ball, Alexander-Arnold’s always going to be able to pick a pass and dictate play. But by the England manager’s own admission, it was a game in which his players “didn’t extend themselves”, because they didn’t need to. The same was true when they played North Macedonia at Old Trafford, but not on this occasion, and Trent was found wanting.
“I haven’t had much experience in there so I’m still learning on the job,” Alexander-Arnold said this week about his move into central midfield; that much was clear on Monday. At the first real sign of pressure in the role he hopes to be selected in for Euro 2024 he showed why at his current level of schooling he probably shouldn’t make the squad for Germany. He played like the novice he is.
He gave the ball away on five occasions – three more times than any other England player and more than anyone else on the pitch. He was slow in possession, looked as though he didn’t know where he was supposed to be out of it, and provided very little support for Declan Rice when North Macedonia broke in numbers.
As frustration grew in the second half he dropped deep to collect the ball from Jordan Pickford on one occasion, scuffed a cross-field pass to the opposition, found himself back in possession moments later, only to cede it once again, in 15 seconds of football to sum up a game to forget in his midfield evolution. He was shown a yellow card for throwing the ball away shortly before being replaced, in anger at his own performance perhaps, as much as at the referee’s decision against him.
On this showing Alexander-Arnold’s evolution should not continue into a major tournament. No matter which teams are grouped with England when the draw is made early next month, they will all be better than North Macedonia. And England would surely be better served with James Ward-Prowse as an option against those superior teams than a right-back playing in midfield.
The set-piece delivery certainly wouldn’t suffer with Ward-Prowse in ahead of Alexander-Arnold, and perhaps more due to the pressure he felt in open play on Monday, the Liverpool star’s radar wasn’t quite on point from dead-ball situations either, with England scoring from the first corner he didn’t take after three of his efforts came to nothing. That’s not to say that Alexander-Arnold’s crossing isn’t brilliant – it is – but Phil Foden is just one of the players who would be a more than serviceable stand-in.
Other than Rico Lewis, for whom the concession of the penalty that wasn’t skews the numbers dramatically, no player had a lower rating than Alexander-Arnold’s 6.1 on Monday. From highest to lowest at the first sign of pressure; if Trent is going to Germany, it should be as a right-back.