DANNY MURPHY: Trent Alexander-Arnold’s versatility is a big deal for Gareth Southgate… and one of the main reasons he can thrive in midfield is his bravery
Not only does Trent Alexander-Arnold have the ability to play in midfield, he looks like he wants to.
Body language is important for a footballer and he had a spring in his step against Malta. It might even have been a relief to try another position when his defensive play at right-back came under such scrutiny.
Despite all of Trent’s obvious technical ability, I would say that as a former midfielder, one of the main reasons he can thrive there is his bravery.
He is fearless on the ball, willing to take risks with his passes and crosses to be creative.
He doesn’t fear failure and that suits him as a game changer as there aren’t too many people who have the confidence to try and make an impact knowing that not every action will work out perfectly .
Trent Alexander-Arnold (pictured) stood out from Gareth Southgate’s side on Friday
The Liverpool full-back scored his second goal for England in their 4-0 win over Malta
My hunch is that Jurgen Klopp will still start him next season as a defender who comes into midfield when Liverpool are on the ball, but the English dynamic is a bit different.
If Trent wants an international career, he probably has a better chance of lining up in midfield with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham rather than competing with Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier at right-back.
His assist record is exceptional at club level, but in midfield you have even more chances to run games and create chances.
England always want players in midfield, especially at major tournaments, and the range of passing Trent has in his locker is exceptional.
He can throw the ball with short passes, cross from wide positions or hit Kevin De Bruyne-style defensive splitters with the inside or outside of his foot.
The best midfielders have balance and Rice and Bellingham have the legs and physical attributes that will allow Trent to get the most out of his game.
I’m not surprised this is something Gareth Southgate has reviewed and discussed with players. It is also important to note that football has moved away from pigeon players. If Trent is operating in midfield, that doesn’t mean he can’t play right-back ever again!
John Stones is a great example of someone who has benefited his team, whether at right-back, centre-back or midfield, depending on the opposition and the circumstances. Luke Shaw is a left-back who moved through midfield and even handled Erling Haaland well.
I’ve attended games to see Trent come into midfield for Liverpool and was impressed with his understanding of what was needed. It’s clear that he has the football brain required.
His pass to Bukayo Saka which led to England’s first goal in Malta demonstrated his ability to unblock defences.
For that to work against better opposition at Euro 2024, it will take time on the training ground and that’s something Southgate will want to work on.
He has been playing in a new position all season and returned to midfield on Friday, unlocking the Maltese defense to play Bukayo Saka (fullback) in
And he also scored a spectacular goal for the Three Lions on Friday night from outside the box.
Alexander-Arnold (right) will now be hoping to ask questions of Gareth Southgate (left) as he continues to claim a place in midfield in England’s starting XI.
Stones is another option in midfield, although I would see him more as a Declan Rice, as you wouldn’t want to lose his defensive strength, as he’s not as creative as Trent.
For England to take the final step to winning a trophy, Southgate must strike that fine balance.
You can’t have three Trents in midfield, you want variation – power, communicators, people who stop danger, people who open up teams.
Trent ticks most of the boxes and it’s not hard to put physicality around him to keep up with the runners and provide muscle. It can then offer added value.