Klopp praises ‘classy’ Real after Liverpool exit Champions League
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Gareth Southgate appears to have listened to Gary Neville’s advice on picking Trent Alexander-Arnold after the Liverpool defender was left out of the England squad for this month’s upcoming fixtures against Italy and Ukraine. Alexander-Arnold has long been hailed as one of the Premier League’s finest right-backs but has endured a difficult time of things on the international stage, with the 24-year-old not always a sure-fire selection for the Three Lions.
The defender’s lack of form in recent months has led to calls for him to be dropped by Southgate, who named him in the England squad for last year’s World Cup but only gave him a total of 33 minutes of playing time in Qatar. The embarrassment of riches that Southgate has in the right-back area has also contributed to Alexander-Arnold’s unenviable predicament, with Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker all in front of the Liverpool ace in the current pecking order.
Alexander-Arnold’s omission from the 25-man group to face Italy and Ukraine this month suggests that he is yet to fully win over Southgate’s trust, which could prove a difficult task in future if he fails to rectify his patchy form at club level over the course of this season to date. He is a player who often divides opinion between those hailing him as a genius and others slamming him as a defensive liability, with Southgate seemingly in the latter camp as things stand.
This is a view shared by former England full-back Neville, who insisted prior to the World Cup that Alexander-Arnold is by no means Southgate’s best option on the right-hand side of a back four. Neville told Sky Sports: “It’s a really tough one because his brilliance going forward is out of this world.
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“How are England going to win or lose in the World Cup? It is going to come down to one moment, and at this moment in time, I can’t see how Gareth can go into a knockout game at the World Cup with Trent. I want this player to be the greatest right back of all time, but at times today, he looked like he could have cost Liverpool.
“I think at the World Cup, he is giving away a penalty. I don’t think Gareth will trust him in a knockout game and that may influence his decision as to whether he goes or not.”
It remains to be seen whether Alexander-Arnold will eventually develop into a starter for England over the coming years, although it seems clear that he will need to improve his defensive solidity to stand any chance of working his way back into Southgate’s plans at international level. He was largely poor in Liverpool’s defeat at the hands of Real Madrid on Wednesday night and even appeared to lose the backing of Jamie Carragher, who insisted after the final whistle that he would like to see a top-class replacement come in at Anfield this summer.
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“I think Liverpool are at the point now where they’ve got to go and buy a right-back,” said Carragher on CBS Sports. “That’s Jurgen Klopp’s decision in terms of how good that right-back is, how much he costs, but that lad needs serious competition. He’s been playing now for five years at the top level, week in, week out, with no rest.
“I’ve always defended him in that he’s played for one of the best teams in the world, and when you play for one of the best teams in the world, as Liverpool are, you do a lot more attacking than you do defending. We all know his defending is not good enough, and I don’t think it will ever be good enough.
“We’re talking about a player who’s played 260 games, it’s not going to massively improve now. So, when Liverpool drop off and aren’t one of the best teams in Europe like they have been for the last four years, now they’re one of the pack going for the Champions League, then you’re doing more defending, less attacking. You’re seeing the worst traits of Trent and now his strengths going forward. That is a massive problem.”
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