Trent Alexander-Arnold stole the show for England last night, after Gareth Southgate’s decision to use the 24-year-old in the centre of midfield.
Traditionally an attacking right back, Alexander-Arnold has been used in a hybrid role more recently by Liverpool, forming part of a midfield pivot when on the front foot. This has inevitably led to calls for the player to be used full-time in the Reds midfield, and his performance in the role will no doubt add to those calls.
Rather than recreate his club hybrid role Southgate gave a number of fans what they have wanted to see by playing Alexander-Arnold purely in the middle of the park, a decision that appeared to reap rewards with the Liverpool player scoring one and playing a key role in England’s other two first half goals.
The England manager was full of praise for the performance.
“Inevitably a lot of what happens is going to be a little bit dependent on his club,” Southgate said.
“The fact that he’s been playing partly in there with the ball, albeit a bit deeper, I think has helped his transition tonight. What was pleasing tonight, he’s getting used to receiving in tight areas with his back to goal, with players behind him. Whereas he’s used to receiving on the touchline, with the play in front of him, and he was very comfortable doing that.”
“Look, I’ve got no questions in my head he can do it. It’s just learning some nuances of the role, without the ball especially very different for him.
Alexander-Arnold himself expressed his determination to use the new role as an opportunity to cement a place in the national team. Whilst making the majority of squads since his breakthrough at Liverpool, many Reds believe his talent to have been criminally underused on the international stage, with the player more frequently found on the subs bench.
“For me, I want to make sure I am playing as many England games as possible – and that has always been the aim,” said Alexander-Arnold.
“I think this is a potential route we can go down that will help me get into the team. It is certainly an avenue that is clearly being explored and is something the manager wants to explore and I want to explore.
“It is one that is exciting for the future, and who knows? I thought my positioning was good, being able to pick up second balls, interceptions were there as well.”
England ultimately ran out 4-0 winners over Malta in what was always going to be a routine victory. To demonstrate the gulf in quality, Malta failed to register a single shot on goal in the entire game. Next up is a similarly simple task as North Macedonia visit Wembley on Monday.
Whether Jurgen Klopp pays any heed to Trent’s performance for England remains to be seen. The right-back appears to have adapted well to his new role in the side and his manager may be keen to continue on that path rather than follow Southgate’s lead. It is worth noting that what may work well against Malta may not work well against some of the best players in the world, and out of Southgate or Klopp I know who I choose to make that call best!