Trent Alexander-Arnold, a midfielder for Liverpool, should give Gareth Southgate second thoughts following his performance against North Macedonia. On Monday, he appeared every bit the amateur that he is.
The news that the Liverpool star is the highest-rated England player in Euro 2024 qualifying came via WhoScored prior to the game in Skopje, which will have delighted Trent Alexander-Arnold’s midfield peddlers. He has scored an extremely remarkable 8.08 in three starts. No other player from England ever came close.
However, it would be difficult to characterize Alexander-Arnold as being essential to England’s advancement. The rating is misleading because he only made three starts—against North Macedonia and Malta—both at home and away. He did not participate in games against Italy or Ukraine, their true opponents for qualifying. In the face of mediocrity, Alexander-Arnold prospered.
After Friday’s victory over Malta, he was one of the two players that Gareth Southgate singled out for praise, and with good reason. Alexander-Arnold will always be able to choose a pass and control the action when he has time and space on the ball. However, the England manager acknowledged that his team “didn’t extend themselves” in the match because they didn’t have to. Trent was deemed wanting on this occasion, unlike when they played North Macedonia at Old Trafford, where the same was true.
Alexander-Arnold stated this week that he is still learning on the job because he hasn’t got much experience in central midfield; on Monday, he made it evident. He demonstrated why, given his existing educational background, he probably shouldn’t be selected for the German team at the first significant sign of strain in the role he aspires to be selected for at Euro 2024. He performed as if he were an amateur.
He gave up the ball five times, which is three more than any other England player and more than any other player present on the field. He appeared to be unsure of his position, moved slowly when in possession, and offered Declan Rice very little assistance when North Macedonia surged ahead.
He once sank low to retrieve the ball from Jordan Pickford as his frustration mounted in the second half. He then mishandled a crossfield pass to the opposition, got possession back a short while later, only to give it up again in the final 15 seconds of play, capping off a forgettable game for his midfield development. Shortly before being substituted, he threw the ball away, possibly in resentment over both the referee’s decision to disqualify him and his own play. For this, he received a yellow card.
Alexander-Arnold’s development shouldn’t go on after this showing in a significant competition. When the draw is done early in the next month, the teams who are grouped with England will all be superior than North Macedonia. And James Ward-Prowse would undoubtedly be a stronger choice for England against those elite sides than a right-back occupying a midfield position.
Ward-Prowse starting ahead of Alexander-Arnold would not hurt the set-piece delivery in any way, and maybe more importantly because of the pressure he felt in open play on Monday, the Liverpool star’s awareness from dead-ball situations wasn’t quite on point either, as England scored from the first corner he failed to take after three of his attempts were unsuccessful. In spite of the fact that Phil Foden is a talented player and could easily fill in for Alexander-Arnold, the latter’s crossing is still excellent.
Apart from Rico Lewis, whose decision to concede a penalty that wasn’t called wildly distorts the statistics, no player scored worse on Monday than Alexander-Arnold, who got a 6.1. When pressure mounts, go from highest to lowest; Trent should play right back if he is heading to Germany.