Gareth Southgate says he made the difficult decision to drop Trent Alexander-Arnold due to the struggles of the right-back in his England side this season as well as his declining performance for Liverpool.
The England coach gave his first call-up to Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins and West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland this this month. He recalled Luke Shaw from Manchester United, John Stones from Manchester City and loaned West Ham midfielder Jesse Lingard.
There has been no appeal for Leeds’ Patrick Bamford, and Southgate has made the late decision to include Jude Bellingham, although Borussia Dortmund are unlikely to sanction his release due to concerns over the rules of coronavirus quarantine.
The real surprise was Southgate’s omission of Alexander-Arnold, who was stunned to learn the news during a phone call from the manager on Thursday morning. The 22-year-old finds himself behind Kieran Trippier and Reece James in pecking order at right-back and possibly also Kyle Walker, whom Southgate played as part of a defensive line.
Alexander-Arnold will no longer have the opportunity to work with Southgate until the manager announces his 23-man squad for the European Championship final, which begins in June.
“I don’t think Trent has played at the level he’s found in the last couple of years, but he’s getting really close now,” Southgate said. “Over the past few weeks he has definitely taken steps in the right direction. It’s just that we think Reece James and Kieran Trippier have had exceptional seasons with their clubs. Kyle Walker is also in great shape.
Southgate has also named Luke Ayling of Leeds and Matty Cash of Aston Villa as others doing well in the post, as well as options at the Under-21 level in England, which include Max Aarons of Norwich and Tariq Lamptey of Brighton. He didn’t mention Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Alexander-Arnold contracted Covid-19 in the pre-season and Southgate said it “certainly impacted him for our September matches”, when he came against Iceland and started against Denmark. “It was impossible to expect him to perform at his best when he had missed so much of the practice,” Southgate said.
Alexander-Arnold only played one game during the October break – starting the win over Belgium – before missing the November matches with injury. “I feel like I have to watch myself a bit with Trent… I don’t think he’s reached the level he’s reached with Liverpool here with England, and other players have,” said Southgate.
” There is [only] a small opportunity at the level of our matches [for him to get back in] but there is a quarter of a season at club level. This includes some big Champions League games. This door is definitely open. I didn’t realistically think I would be sitting here today picking a team with John Stones and Jesse Lingard. Trent is closer to this team than they were to our fall teams four months ago.
“What I told Trent earlier today is that I made the same call to Kyle and Kieran in the past and their response was good and they ended up on the team.
Southgate, who also left out Michael Keane, Harry Winks and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, said he was not fixed on the 3-4-3 system he used for most of the season, which raises the possibility of a return to four. defense of man. Southgate acknowledged the need to ‘be flexible’ given the high number of injured absentees for this team and the likelihood of this happening again before the Euro finals.
“What we felt is that having different players available will give us the opportunity to play in a different tactical lineup,” he said. “We are a team that could benefit in different matches from having this opportunity to play different player profiles in different systems.
“What is clear is that in the fall we might have wanted to try some things, but we never had [Marcus] Rashford or [Raheem] Sterling for the majority of games, for example. And we didn’t have [Phil] Foden for some of these games. You still adapt and this time we have to adapt to the loss of other players.