‘Why Alexander-Arnold is a weapon England cannot afford to waste’

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November 5, 2021
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    Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-ArnoldAlexander-Arnold made assists for both Liverpool's goals in their win over Atletico Madrid – in 176 appearances for the Reds in the Premier League and Champions League, he has scored nine goals and made 48 assists

    If anyone needs convincing that Trent Alexander-Arnold should be England's first-choice right-back, his performance against Atletico Madrid is a good place to start.

    I am not one of those who needs reminding of how good Trent is, but he still produces moments like his cross for Liverpool's first goal in their win on Wednesday that just make you go 'wow'.

    That kind of quality is what makes him a very special player indeed – and for me he is the best of a very good bunch that England have in his position.

    It's a close call between him and Chelsea's Reece James but, as good as James is going forward, he just does not have the same absolutely top-class delivery that Trent does. That's what counts for me.

    An assist machine, when he comes from deep

    Match of the Day Top 10: Why isn't Trent Alexander-Arnold a key player for England?

    Of course the way Liverpool play helps Alexander-Arnold flourish – he basically played as a right-sided midfielder in the first half on Wednesday, he was that high up the pitch.

    But people who say he could play in central midfield for England are missing the point. It's a completely different role to the one he is so effective at for his club when he links up with Mohamed Salah down the right.

    With Liverpool, he is always coming on to the ball from a deeper position. It was the same for both the goals he made against Atletico – from there, he sees the big picture all the time.

    If he is in midfield instead, then he is playing on the half-turn a lot of the time when he collects the ball and it's harder to have the same idea of what's happening in front of him.

    Trent Alexander-ArnoldSince his debut in 2018, Alexander-Arnold has played 14 times for the England senior team, including one game in central midfield against Andorra in September. He has scored one goal and made one assist

    I don't think that using him as a midfielder is an experiment worth repeating by Gareth Southgate, who announces his next squad on Thursday, but there are still ways of getting him into an England team that uses a different system to Liverpool.

    Gareth Southgate sometimes plays with wing-backs, and I can only see Alexander-Arnold flourishing there, coming at teams from deep.

    It probably won't make much difference to England who plays right-back in their next two World Cup qualifiers, against Albania and San Marino in the next 11 days. They will win anyway.

    But in the tighter games against better opposition, Trent is a weapon that should not be wasted. He can make the difference with those brilliant runs and crosses that so few other players can produce.

    He is so quick and his ability on the ball is as good as it gets, so I am not surprised he has so many assists for Liverpool – England should really be making the most of his talent to make goals too.

    It's not just about the noise

    Liverpool fans at Anfield against AtleticoThe Liverpool fans made sure there was "tension in the air" at Anfield on Wednesday, says former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson

    Liverpool made it look very easy against Atletico on Wednesday but that was down to a very good all-round team performance. As happens so often at Anfield, the crowd played a big part too.

    You could argue that by now you almost expect a fantastic atmosphere on occasions like this, but it is the way the crowd behaves that is so important, not just the fact they are noisy.

    I've seen it so many times before – Wednesday was not just a European night, it was a European night where the crowd think they are up against a really good side and it could be tight.

    So there is that tension in the air, which I think the top players love because it is another signal that a game is a little bit special, and different from the norm.

    You saw them all respond to that against Atletico, not just Alexander-Arnold – I could go through the whole team and they all impressed me.

    So far, so good for the Reds

    Snapshot of Champions League Group B:1st Liverpool, 2nd FC Porto, 3rd Atletico Madrid & 4th AC MilanLiverpool are through to the last 16 with two group games to spare

    Liverpool have won four out of four games in what looked a tricky group and are guaranteed to finish top.

    Reds boss Jurgen Klopp could not ask for a better outcome than that, and it will allow him to rest players in their final two group games if he needs to.

    It kept their unbeaten start to the season gong too, something I think is hugely important for the team to maintain their current momentum.

    Snapshot showing the top of the Premier League table: 1st Chelsea, 2nd Liverpool, 3rd Man City, 4th West Ham, 5th Man Utd & 6th ArsenalLiverpool are the only unbeaten team in the Premier League this season. In fact, in Europe's top five leagues – England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – German side Freiburg are the only other unbeaten team in all competitions, and they are not involved in any European competition

    Of course there have been a couple of wobbles along the way, especially defensively.

    Atletico's damage-limitation approach after going down to 10 men so early meant we did not see if Liverpool have tightened up at all after leaking goals in their draw against Brighton at the weekend.

    Klopp has got some niggling injuries to contend with too, especially in midfield, so his side are not in an entirely perfect place.

    Let's just remember they haven't lost yet, though. In fact they have not been beaten for 25 games, since 6 April.

    So, while we can talk about areas where they can improve, I don't think they are doing too much wrong – and we saw against Atletico how good they are when they get things right.

    Mark Lawrenson was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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