Why Gareth Southgate's Trent Alexander-Arnold experiment for England is doomed to fail

Gareth Southgate should watch footage of Trent Alexander-Arnold playing for Liverpool if he wants to figure out how to get the best out of him for England.

Southgate is clearly trying and deployed him in the midfield holding role alongside Declan Rice in an attempt to get the Liverpool star on the ball. You can understand Southgate’s logic and he wants to get England’s best passer more involved.

The problem against Serbia was that Alexander-Arnold was too advanced up the pitch and therefore unable to play his trademark raking passes. At Liverpool, he plays much deeper in the quarterback role where he comes inside from right-back and sprays the ball all over the pitch.

He demonstrated this to great affect with his assist for Mohamed Salah for Liverpool’s equaliser against Arsenal at Anfield and that ball was one of the passes of the season. Liverpool accept this leaves a hole at right-back and are prepared to take this risk in possession.

If their opponents do break down this flank, the assumption is their right-sided centre-half, be it Ibrahima Konate or Jarell Quansah, will deal with this threat. Liverpool are prepared to take this gamble because they feel it is worth it in terms of the creativity Alexander-Arnold brings.

Despite being injured for most of the second half of the season, he still weighed in with three goals and nine assists. At 25 and now the Reds’ vice-captain, Alexander-Arnold had what many feel was his best campaign for the Anfield club and Southgate wants to tap into this.

why gareth southgate's trent alexander-arnold experiment for england is doomed to fail

Gareth Southgate is trying to recreate the impact Trent Alexander-Arnold has with Liverpool

However with so many other stars at his disposal, he can’t build his team around Alexander-Arnold in the same way Liverpool have.

Southgate wants to play Jude Bellingham as a 10 behind Harry Kane, which means not only does he have to sacrifice a second striker, he has to push Phil Foden on to the left wing. Foden, despite lighting up the Premier League for Manchester City, was negated in this role against Serbia.

But the Footballer of the Year will have to put up with such hardships because Bellingham, at just 20, is England’s main man.

Southgate is a conservative coach and he clearly does not want Alexander-Arnold stepping inside from right-back because he sees that as Kyle Walker’s position. He can’t reshape his midfield anymore to accommodate Alexander-Arnold after bending it to suit Bellingham.

why gareth southgate's trent alexander-arnold experiment for england is doomed to fail

Jude Bellingham of England celebrates

Alexander-Arnold’s defensive qualities are also questioned and Roy Keane says he will be “found out”, while Wayne Rooney says “defensively, he’s all over the place”.

The upshot is this awkward halfway house, where Alexander-Arnold is on the pitch and can play his superb passes. But he’s too far advanced and Southgate can’t play him in his better, deeper, quarterback role.

Maybe this will work for England, but it probably won’t.

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