DANNY MURPHY: Trent Alexander-Arnold ticks all the boxes in midfield

DANNY MURPHY: Trent Alexander-Arnold’s versatility is a big deal for Gareth Southgate… and one of the key reasons he can flourish in midfield is his bravery

  • Trent Alexander-Arnold was a standout performer in England’s 4-0 win vs Malta 
  • The 24-year-old has impressed in his new hybrid midfield position for Liverpool 
  • And he excelled again on Friday night in the same role for Gareth Southgate 

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 have even been a relief to try out another position when his defensive play at right-back has come under such scrutiny.

For all Trent’s obvious technical abilities, I’d say as a former midfielder one of the key reasons he can flourish there is his bravery.

He is fearless on the ball, prepared to take risks with his passing and crossing in order to be creative.

He doesn’t mind failure and that suits him as a game-changer because there aren’t too many who have the self-belief to try to make an impact, knowing that not every action will work out perfectly. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold (pictured) was a standout for Gareth Southgate’s side on Friday

The Liverpool full-back scored his second goal for England during their 4-0 win against Malta

My hunch is that Jurgen Klopp will still start him next season as a defender who steps into midfield when Liverpool are on the ball but the England dynamic is a bit different. 

If Trent wants an international career, he probably has a better chance dovetailing in midfield with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham rather than competing against Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier at right-back.

His record of assists is exceptional at club level but in midfield you have an even greater chance to run matches and create chances.

England are always crying out for players in the middle of the pitch, particularly at major tournaments, and the range of passing Trent possesses in his locker is exceptional.

He can pop the ball around with short passes, cross from wide positions or hit the Kevin De Bruyne-style defence-splitters with the inside or outside of his foot.

The best midfields 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 it is something Gareth Southgate has looked at and discussed with the players. It’s also important to note that football has moved on from pigeon-holing players. If Trent operates in midfield, it doesn’t mean he can never play at right-back again!

John Stones is a great example of someone who has benefited his team whether at right-back, centre-back or midfield, dependent on the opposition and circumstances. Luke Shaw is a left-back who has switched into the middle and even coped well with Erling Haaland.

I’ve been at matches to see Trent step into midfield for Liverpool and was impressed by his understanding of what was required. It’s clear he has the required football brain. 

His pass to Bukayo Saka that led to England’s opening goal in Malta demonstrated his ability to unlock defences.

For it to work against better opposition at Euro 2024 will require time on the training pitch and it’s something Southgate will want to work on.

He has been playing in a new position all season and stepped into midfield again on Friday, unlocking the Malta defence to play Bukayo Saka (back) in 

And he scored a spectacular goal for the Three Lions on Friday night too from outside the area

Alexander-Arnold (right) is now hoping to ask questions of Gareth Southgate (left) as he continues to stake a claim for a place in midfield in England’s starting XI 

Stones is another option in midfield though I’d see him as more of a Declan Rice-type as you wouldn’t want to lose his defensive strength, while he’s not as creative as Trent.

For England to take the final step to win a trophy, Southgate needs to find that right balance. 

You can’t have three Trents in midfield, you want variation — power, communicators, people who stop danger, those who open teams up. 

Trent ticks most of the boxes and it’s not difficult to put physicality around him to track runners and provide muscle. He can then offer the extra value.

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