Trent Alexander-Arnold has become a star on Liverpool as a right-back. But with Gareth Southgate switching England to a wing-back formation and Reece James flattering in that position against Denmark, can Alexander-Arnold be the solution to the team’s midfield creativity problem?
That was a suggestion posed by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after viewing James shine on his full first appearance for his country at correct wing-back, despite England going down to some disappointing 1-0 defeat to Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday.
Alexander-Arnold watched the loss through the stands, having played just seventy nine minutes during the international break but not looking at his best at correct wing-back against Belgium.
While England have a deep swimming pool of talent in that full-back/wing-back place, they have been criticised for lacking innovation in central midfield, with Southgate picking Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips as his midfield partnering against Denmark.
Redknapp believes Alexander-Arnold – who played in main midfield as a youth team gamer – has the attributes to action inside and reckons the 22-year-old could then take up similar roles to Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.
“I’ll throw one out here today, what if we were to play Trent Alexander-Arnold in that midfield position? Get your pet on that right side [of the two central midfielders]. He could play there very easily, ” said Redknapp.
“I’m reshaping the team: you can play Declan Rice at the back again, Reece James at right [wing]-back, Trent there.
“I think get your pet on that right-hand side with their 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 Britain team is getting good players within central positions.
“That position there, Kevin De Bruyne operates in that area because he understands there’s a space that gets vacated for someone like him to complete his magic.
“Because he’s got such a good human brain, Trent, he could play there. Right-backs are so clever now with what they are doing they can play any position around the pitch. They see the cross, they could see the pass as well. ”
Not suited to wing-back?
Redknapp pointed to Philipp Lahm and David Alaba because examples of full-backs who have been successful within midfield, and argued the part of a wing-back is different to right-back.
“With Trent’s capability as a right-back, it might not in fact 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 being a wing-back’ and he said ‘no, I actually wouldn’t have liked it. I needed to come onto things later. ‘
“He’s such a great footballer, I’ve seen him enjoy centrally sometimes for Liverpool. You can play him anywhere.
“When you think about Alaba when this individual played at Bayern Munich plus Lahm, when he went plus played central midfield.
“We haven’t got that many high quality players in that central midfield placement. I think it’s something you could try and yes it might work. ”
Scott: James and Alexander-Arnold may push each other on
Fellow Sky Sports activities pundit Alex Scott, who won 140 caps just for England Women at right-back, decided the challenges of full-back plus wing-back are different but used the sort of Lucy Bronze as a player that excelled at right-back but fought to have the same impact in midfield.
She believes James’ performances can actually raise Alexander-Arnold’s degree higher, too.
“This is a hard one, ” she said. “It actually happened with the England ladies team with Lucy Bronze. The very best right-back in the world.
“Moved Lucy Bronze into midfield plus didn’t work. She was OKAY in midfield but you’ve used a world-class right-back and she is just OK in the game.
“As a right-back, I understood I had the space in front of me. We knew when I had to make all those runs onto it. So when you shift, it’s a totally different game whether occur to be receiving with your back to things, needing to play round the corner.
“Actually I think the best thing is they’re pressing each other to be even better, making by themselves go to another level. ”
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