Southgate gives Alexander-Arnold No.8 shirt and hands Liverpool MASSIVE problem

Trent Alexander-Arnold remains a conundrum for both club and country. The 25-year-old Liverpool academy graduate looks set to play a key part for England this summer at the European Championship having been given the No.8 jersey.

The right-back impressed in midfield for the Three Lions in the win over Bosnia and Herzegovina and he was easily the best player on the pitch after coming off the bench in the shock defeat to Iceland on Friday night.

Alexander-Arnold created three chances, the most of anyone, during his 25-minute cameo at Wembley having replaced Kyle Walker at full-back.

Against Bosnia, however, he was deployed on the right-side of a double pivot in midfield and he finished the game with a goal as well as creating five chances in the 3-0 win. His showing earned rave reviews.

The assumption is that the record-breaking right-back will start Euro 2024 alongside Declan Rice in England’s 4-2-3-1 formation. And the fact he’s been given the much-coveted No.8 ahead of Conor Gallagher suggests he’s in Gareth Southgate’s first-team plans.

Everything seems to point to him being in England’s starting XI. Rice even commented on the need for the him to start ahead of the game against Iceland.

Trent Alexander-Arnold Jurgen Klopp

Trent Alexander-Arnold Jurgen Klopp

 "He’s special. We all know Trent’s skill set - his passing, the way he sees a pass, that right-sided [midfield] position suits him beautifully," said Rice.

"He can come in on to his favourite right side and see that pass like he does for Liverpool. It really does suit him, that role, but he went to right-back for the last 20 minutes [on Monday] and looked just as good there.  He’s a player any country would appreciate. He’s a player we have to play, we have to get involved, and our attackers should be thriving playing off someone like Trent because his passing is off the scale."

Trent in midfield?

If this is the case, and he manages to impress in a midfield role, it might complicate things for Liverpool.

Alexander-Arnold is into the final 12 months of his contract at Anfield. According to reports last month, the Reds viewed sorting out the future of their No.66 as a summer priority.

Yet there’s been nothing concrete over recent weeks and any talks will be paused while he’s away on international duty with England. There have been suggestions he’s a transfer target for Real Madrid with the European champions keen to bring him to the Spanish capital on a free transfer next summer.

Earlier this year, the 25-cap England international revealed how he viewed himself as a player to FourFourTwo, saying:  “The ability and the skillset I’ve got is best suited to playing in the middle of the pitch and you’ll get the best out of my specific skillset by playing me in the middle of the pitch. And I see it as an opportunity to show the world that.”

This was after Jurgen Klopp had used the right-back as an inverted full-back. In possession, he would form a double pivot with the defensive midfielder for Liverpool.

But the German tactician never fully committed to using Alexander-Arnold as a midfielder. Last season would’ve been the ideal time to make the change had they been convinced of his ability in that role.

The Reds overhauled their midfield, bringing in four new faces while also using Cody Gakpo in the middle third from time to time.

They resisted the temptation to have Alexander-Arnold play that role on a permanent basis. The club could’ve stopped at three new midfield signings and instead looked to bring in a right-back to free up the No.66. They didn’t do that for a reason.

Trent pulls the strings from right back

In the interview with FourFourTwo, the Scouser acknowledged he’d been given freedom as a full-back and that had allowed him to influence the game in ways he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to had he been given a set role.

The fact is, the right-back role, especially under Klopp, allowed Alexander-Arnold to impact the game for the Reds. Others would act as facilitators to allow him to pull the strings.

Arne Slot uses his right-back in a similar way too. The right-back role, especially when tasked with inverting, plays to his strengths.

Midfielders are often given more off-the-ball responsibilities. These responsibilities can limit their influence going forward.

Ironically, by moving higher up the pitch, his final third involvement could wane. And that is likely why Klopp didn’t use him there. He was too good to be burdened with everything else that comes with playing in midfield.

England role hands Trent leverage

Yet if Alexander-Arnold catches the eye for England as a midfielder, even though they play a different system and formation, he might return to Liverpool wanting a midfield role.

And his contract situation strengthens his hand. If he doesn’t like what the club have to say and how they view his role moving forward, he can simply run his deal down and leave on a free.

He’s completed football at right-back for Liverpool. If he’s going to continue as a full-back, why not complete football with Real Madrid to add to his already storied career?

This could put the Reds in a difficult position.

Do they risk playing Alexander-Arnold, a 25-year-old full-back with no real experience as a midfielder in senior football, in the middle third over potentially losing him? Do they indulge him simply because he feels he’s wasted as a full-back now?

In Conor Bradley, they have a player who can play at full-back. That, combined with a new manager coming in means this is probably the best opportunity for this experiment to be tested.

The only way these questions about his physicality and athleticism are going to be answered is if he’s given a run there.

It really is now or never, isn’t it? Both for his sake and for the club to be able to move on from having this same discussion every single season. Success for England could be a disaster for Liverpool.

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