Ought to Trent play in midfield for England?
Trent Alexander-Arnold has become a star at Liverpool as a right-back. But with Gareth Southgate switching England to a wing-back formation and Reece James impressing in that position against Denmark, could Alexander-Arnold be the solution to the team’s midfield creativity problem?
That was a suggestion posed by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after watching James shine on his full debut for his country at right wing-back, despite England going down to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday.
Alexander-Arnold watched the loss from the stands, having played just 79 minutes during the international break and not looking at his best at right wing-back against Belgium.
While England have a deep pool of talent in that full-back/wing-back position, they have been criticised for lacking invention in central midfield, with Southgate picking Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips as his midfield pairing against Denmark.
Redknapp believes Alexander-Arnold – who played in central midfield as a youth team player – has the attributes to step inside and reckons the 22-year-old could then take up similar positions to Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.
“I’ll throw one out here now, what if we were to play Trent Alexander-Arnold in that midfield position? Get him on that right side (of the two central midfielders). He could play there easily,” said Redknapp.
“I’m reshaping the team: you could play Declan Rice at the back, Reece James at right (wing)-back, Trent there.
“I think get him on that right-hand side with his quality, his defence, his athleticism. Then you can get both (Alexander-Arnold and James) in the team.
“What I’m trying to see with this England team is getting good players in central positions.
“That position there, Kevin De Bruyne operates in that area because he knows there’s a space that gets vacated for someone like him to do his magic.
“Because he’s got such a good brain, Trent, he could play there. Right-backs are so clever now with what they do they can play any position on the pitch. They see the cross, they can see the pass as well.”
Not suited to wing-back?
Redknapp pointed to Philipp Lahm and David Alaba as examples of full-backs who have been successful in midfield, and argued the role of a wing-back is different to right-back.
“With Trent’s ability as a right-back, it might not actually suit him as a right wing-back,” said Redknapp.
“I was talking to Ashley Cole the other day and said, ‘surely you’d have loved to play as a wing-back’ and he said ‘no, I wouldn’t have liked it. I wanted to come onto things later.’
“He’s such a good footballer, I’ve seen him play centrally sometimes for Liverpool. You could play him anywhere.
“When you think about Alaba when he played at Bayern Munich and Lahm, when he went and played central midfield.
“We haven’t got that many quality players in that central midfield position. I think it’s something you could try and it might work.”
Scott: James and Alexander-Arnold can push each other on
Fellow Sky Sports pundit Alex Scott, who won 140 caps for England Women at right-back, agreed the challenges of full-back and wing-back are different but used the example of Lucy Bronze as a player who excelled at right-back but struggled to have the same impact in midfield.
She believes James’ performances can actually raise Alexander-Arnold’s level higher, too.
“This is a tough one,” she said. “It actually happened with the England women’s team with Lucy Bronze. The best right-back in the world.
“Moved Lucy Bronze into midfield and didn’t work. She was OK in midfield but you’ve taken a world-class right-back and she’s just OK in the game.
“As a right-back, I knew I had the space in front of me. I knew when I had to make those runs onto it. So when you move, it’s a totally different game whether you’re receiving with your back to things, having to play round the corner.
“Actually I think the best thing is they’re pushing each other to be even better, making themselves go to another level.”