Liverpool should NOT move Alexander-Arnold to midfield - Euro 2024 experiment shows why

Trent Alexander-Arnold was set up to fail by Gareth Southgate. The England manager put the Liverpool right-back in his midfield but never truly committed to the idea of having the 25-year-old operate as a midfielder.

The Three Lions didn’t play to his strengths and it meant the entire experiment was, to be blunt, pointless. If you are going to use the playmaker in the middle third, you need to ensure he’s seeing enough of the ball and he has runners ahead of him. 

That isn’t to say the midfield needs to be built around him, but if you want to make the most of using him in that role, you need to give him a fighting chance of influencing the game. Instead, Southgate had his team as narrow and compact as possible with the starting XI he named. The England boss single-handedly nullified Alexander-Arnold. He was tasked with just keeping play ticking over. A complete waste of his talents. 

The Liverpool No66 was criticised for his showings at the European Championship even though he wasn’t ever that bad. He carried out the role he was given. In the opener against Serbia, he completed 88% of the 42 passes he attempted. He didn’t create a chance but he did finish with an Expected Assists total of 0.11. Without the ball, he wasn’t great, winning zero tackles and just two of his five ground duels. He wasn’t the only one to struggle out of possession though. 

It was a similar story against Denmark. Alexander-Arnold completed 88% of his 40 attempted passes during the 54 minutes he was on the pitch. He created three chances though racked up an Expected Assists haul of just 0.06. Safe to say he wasn’t creating high-value opportunities against the Danes. He failed to win any tackles and won just two of his four ground duels before he was replaced by Conor Gallagher. 

Gareth Southgate Trent Alexander-Arnold Euro 2024

England struggled against Slovenia in the 0-0  draw. Southgate made the decision to drop Alexander-Arnold but neither Gallagher or Kobbie Mainoo managed to make a difference in the midfield which points to a system issue rather than something solely attached to the Liverpool man. 

Euro 2024 sheds light on Trent midfield capabilities

While his failures in midfield have been outside of his control and the sample size isn’t the largest to draw conclusions from, this experiment has shed some light on issues that may arise if Alexander-Arnold is pushed into Arne Slot’s midfield set-up this season. If anything it has hammered home the fact he is much better suited to right-back. He might not like it but he’s going to have to accept it. 

As a right-back, he’s afforded much more freedom to influence things in the final phase. He’s allowed to try things. He’s allowed to turn the ball over with his risky passes. He’s allowed to push into areas as the midfielders will cover for him. In a nutshell,  the team is set up to facilitate whatever he wants to do. They indulge him. After all, as a creative right-back, he’s a luxury you have to indulge. Jurgen Klopp did it to great success. 

As a midfielder, the game is completely different. Risks are a greater gamble. Defensive lapses are punished. With the way the modern game is going, midfield players have to be cogs in a system. They have to adapt for the team and sacrifice parts of their game. Look at what happened with Dominik Szoboszlai, for example. 

Midfield move would devastate Trent impact

Moving Alexander-Arnold into the middle third for Liverpool would see his entire game impacted. There would be more of a focus on the defensive side of things. He likely wouldn’t be anywhere near as involved in the build-up as fans want him to be unless the Reds change their style completely to suit the right-back-cum-midfielder. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold England Euro 2024

The sad truth is, he is an unknown in midfield and it would be a huge gamble to build an entire base for a team around someone who has no top-flight experience there. When the engine room isn’t working, the entire team collapses. Just look at what happened in 2022/23 when the midfield unit was atrocious. 

Alexander-Arnold hasn’t been awful for England in midfield. He probably wouldn’t be awful in midfield for Liverpool. But he’s been world-class at right-back for the Reds so anything below that level is going to be a serious drop-off. Why be an ok midfielder when you can be one of the best right-backs in history? 

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