When Liverpool host Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield on Saturday, Trent Alexander-Arnold will have some extra focus on him after an international break that didn't see him make the squad for either of England's Nations League matches. Even though Gareth Southgate returned to a 3-4-3 formation, in both Nations League matches, he couldn't find space for Alexander-Arnold using Kyle Walker and Reece James. Alexander-Arnold's club team manager, Jurgen Klopp, thinks that's a big mistake.
"People talk about him not being a good defender, that's not true, he is a good defender, he doesn't always defend good, that's true. He's 23. We're working on it. Whatever team I would have at the moment, I would pick Trent. He is exceptional," Kopp said about Alexander-Arnold ahead of his match against Brighton, "England are blessed with players in this position. Reece James can play 3 at the back, did that well for Chelsea. It's Gareth's decision. He made it. I see it differently. Doesn't mean right or wrong."
Alexander-Arnold is a generational talent in England's golden age of right backs but he is up against Kieran Trippier, James, and Walker. It would make the most sense for Southgate to deploy the versatile James at center back where his comfort on the ball can help paper over the lack of depth in midfield Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, and Mohamed Salah.. Doing that would allow Alexander-Arnold to spray passes to the front three which he does pretty well at Liverpool while supporting
There are times when Alexander-Arnold can be caught out defending but they are more than made up for with the offensive value that he brings to a match. England may play a different system than Liverpool but that doesn't make Alexander-Arnold any less valuable to the Three Lions. So, while Southgate called Trippier a better all around defender, which may be true, it shouldn't be the definitive factor in who starts at right back.
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Then there's the other side of the pitch where Luke Shaw had been playing but has lost his starting role at Manchester United. Trippier's best role to the national team is to hold down the for there and play when Southgate wants a more defensive option or spell Bukayo Saka who can start there when a more aggressive lineup is needed.
So Klopp's right. Alexander-Arnold is a good defender and a great attacker, buta at the same time he can't get drawn into a war of words with the England manager. And, let's face it, Klopp benefits from having a well rested and motivated Alexander-Arnold ahead of a busy period of soccer before the World Cup. As Klopp said, "Trent came back not in a party mood, but he accepts the manager's decision because he is extremely bright."
The next nine days will see Liverpool face Brighton, Rangers, and Arsenal in critical matches to prepare for a looming date with Manchester City in mid October. The Reds are nine points off of the top of the Premier League but they have a game in hand over Arsenal and Manchester City after postponements due to the death Queen Elizabeth. With what's over the horizon for the Reds, Klopp having an extra way to motivate Alexander-Arnold and the team could see them in a very different position by the World Cup while Alexander-Arnold puts on performances that are too good to ignore for the national team.