Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive vulnerabilities make him impossible to select in a World Cup knockout match, says Gary Neville.
With England manager Gareth Southgate naming his World Cup squad on Thursday, it remains unclear whether Liverpool defender Alexander-Arnold will be on the plane to Qatar.
The full spectrum of Alexander-Arnold’s strengths and weaknesses, from raking diagonal passes to toiling one-on-one battles with Ryan Sessegnon and Ivan Perisic, were displayed in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory at Tottenham on Sunday.
Neville believes Alexander-Arnold has the attributes to become the greatest right-back the game has ever seen but all of that potential is outweighed by glaring defensive deficiencies, which could affect his World Cup inclusion.
“It’s a really tough one with Alexander-Arnold,” Neville told Sky Sports. “His brilliance going forward is out of this world.
“But we’re talking about knockout football. Whether England win or lose in a World Cup is going to be down to moments. A mistake – concentration. In this moment in time, I can’t see how Gareth can go into a knockout game in a World Cup playing Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“I want this player to be the greatest right-back of all time because he’s got the ability to do that. But at times at Tottenham, he looked like he could cost Liverpool dearly.
“In a World Cup, I think he’s giving away a penalty [for his challenge on Sessegnon]. I don’t think Gareth will trust him in a knockout game. Which means, will he then take him? If he’s got four brilliant right-backs, will he go?”
Alexander-Arnold the joker in the England pack?
Neville believes Alexander-Arnold could be included in Southgate’s 26-man squad as a ‘joker in the pack’, a player who does not start but provides an option if England need a goal.
“I look at the right-back list,” Neville added. “If Reece James is fit you definitely take him. Kyle Walker if he’s fit. I think Ben White has to go because of his flexibility to play right-back, or in a back three. Trippier will always go because Gareth loves him.
“Does Gareth want to take Trent as a joker if England need a goal? He won’t start him, but will he take him as someone to bring off the bench if England need a goal? That’s the decision Gareth has to make.
“We shouldn’t really be sitting there on Thursday saying ‘how’s he not in?’. With the number of players you can take, everyone we think will be in, should be in.
“The big situations that are developing are Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, Kieran Trippier, Ben White. And the other one is James Maddison – who is in great form.”
Klopp: Mixed performance from Alexander-Arnold
Speaking after Liverpool ended a two-game losing streak in the Premier League with victory at Spurs, manager Jurgen Klopp admitted it was a mixed performance from Alexander-Arnold but one to be proud of given the quality of opposition he was up against.
“Yes [it was a mixed bag], for sure,” Klopp said. “But his diagonals are from a different planet, they are unbelievable. We could have done with these balls even more.
“It’s really difficult with four at the back to defend these things, it’s only possible with support. In the first half he was against Sessegnon, the second he was against Perisic, who can cross with his left like he can with his right foot, and he’s a threat in the air as well.
“There is a lot to consider as a defender. You only hope the midfielders are there to help you. I thought he had a really good game, but it’s tricky for the full-back.”
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