Southgate revives midfield experiment with Reds ace
ANDORRA’S closed. Another one opens.
Gareth Southgate has revealed how he has been having long phone conversations with Trent AlexanderArnold on how to make a midfield experiment that lasted just 45 minutes finally work.
Jurgen Klopp has been feted for getting the best from the 24-yearold right-back by pushing him further forward and inside in the Liverpool line-up.
It was an area in which he would often drift into for his club and, with England richly adorned with rightbacks, Southgate decided a home game against minnows Andorra in September 2021 might be the perfect chance to make it formal.
Alexander-Arnold had played in a similar role as a kid, but the system flopped. During one 10-minute spell he had only two touches – and one of those was a throw-in. The experiment was consigned to the dustbin at half-time with the score at 1-0 and, by the end, a rejuvenated side ran out 4-0 winners. Or so it was thought. “All things are possible – I don’t think we should rule anything out,” Southgate said.
“He seems excited by what he’s been doing. I know talking to him that has been the case.We are still in the early stages of it, so there’s work that needs to happen. One of the difficulties when we put him in there before is he’s not doing it every week. To transfer that into a game is hard.That’s a little bit different now. There’s still a lot to learn in terms of receiving it more under pressure.
“Defending in midfield would be slightly different so there is a new aspect of the game to learn and that’s not going to be perfect to start. But he has some attributes that are quite unique.”
Few doubt that the kernel of England’s team for most of the next decade will be formed around Declan Rice. Jude Bellingham will almost certainly be there beside him, leaving space for one more. Jordan Henderson is still capable, but ageing; James Maddison is even more of a liability than AlexanderArnold defensively and Kalvin Phillips is struggling for the game time he needs to justify selection. But the England AlexanderArnold needs to find a way to emulate the Liverpool Alexander-Arnold. “I know England will not have been as fulfilling because he has had unbelievable experiences with Liverpool and we have not been able to give him the same,” Southgate said. “I don’t think we should be sitting here saying, ‘he is a midfield player now’, because we are dealing with a glimpse of that. But it could be really exciting.”