Germany have an abundance of goalkeepers, France have countless central defenders, Brazil are awash with wide forwards and England have more right backs than they know what to do with. This will force Gareth Southgate to make some difficult decisions when picking his Euro 2020 squad.
Indeed, England have a deeper pool at right back than any other country in international football right now with Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker most recently favoured for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland. The omission of Trent Alexander-Arnold was notable.
Alexander-Arnold is arguably the most naturally talented of the bunch. At his best, he is the most productive full back in the European game (nine goals and 40 assists in 168 games in all competitions), playing a key role for a Liverpool team that has won the Champions League and the Premier League since 2019.
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This season, however, has seen Alexander-Arnold suffer an almighty dip in form. He has been a shadow of himself for large swathes of the campaign, prompting Southgate to reassess his place in the England squad. His omission from the most recent squad wasn’t without justification.
However, Alexander-Arnold served a reminder of why he must be in the England squad for this summer in Liverpool’s impressive 3-0 away win over Arsenal on Saturday. It was the 22-year-old who created the opener for Jurgen Klopp’s side, picking out Diogo Jota for a close range header, and won the ball high up the pitch for the third goal that killed the contest.
Sadio Mane should have given Alexander-Arnold a second assist, glancing wide a header from a wonderful set piece delivery into the box, with the right back among Liverpool’s brightest performers at the Emirates Stadium. This was Alexander-Arnold as back to something close to his best.
Even when he is not performing at this level, Alexander-Arnold is worth having around the England squad. James and Trippier can both cross a ball, but not like the Liverpool right back can. Alexander-Arnold might just be the best, most dangerous crosser of a ball to wear the Three Lions since David Beckham. “Unreal” is how Jota described his delivery for the opener against Arsenal.
For this reason alone, Southgate would be foolish to omit the 22-year-old from this 23-man squad. Alexander-Arnold, particularly his crosses from deep, give England another dimension. Considering how England struggled against teams with a low defensive block at the 2018 World Cup, it would be verging on negligent to leave behind a player who could help break down such opponents.
An argument can be made for a number of different right backs to start for England at Euro 2020. James and Trippier are both enjoying good seasons at club level. Walker is experienced at the top level of the game. Even Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a more defensive-minded figure, has a case for being included in the squad.
Not to have Alexander-Arnold as an option at the very least would limit England. If Southgate is uncomfortable with the Liverpool man’s defensive vulnerability, he could start Trippier, who has improved a lot as a defender under Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, and use Alexander-Arnold when something extra is needed off the bench.
As a footballer, England don’t have many players as naturally talented as Alexander-Arnold. This ability with the ball at his feet has even led some to suggest he could play in the centre of midfield. For now, though, Alexander-Arnold causes the most damage on the right and that’s where Southgate has to change his mind before the summer. England’s Euros could depend on it.
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