Gareth Southgate spoke to Trent Alexander-Arnold before ruling him out of England’s Nations League game against Germany and believes his “all-round game” is currently lagging behind right-back Kieran Trippier.
The 23-year-old has featured in his hometown club Liverpool’s successes in recent years but has struggled to translate that form onto the international stage.
Alexander-Arnold has won just 17 caps since his debut in 2018, and just one of them this year, with the full-back being an unused substitute in Italy and being left out of the squad against Germany.
That decision dominated preparation for Monday’s 3-3 draw, despite the squad featuring top-flight right-backs Kyle Walker, Reece James and Trippier, and is fueling debate over Southgate’s World Cup selection.
“Firstly, I didn’t want a player sitting in the stands for two games, so I think the way we treat a group of people was a huge strength for us in the tournaments and we have to do,” the England manager said.
“Ultimately we didn’t need the left-wing defense.
“Against Germany we struggled because of the way we played with the team so we needed Chilly on the bench and we had Kieran who at the moment I think is ahead with his all-around game [of Alexander-Arnold].”
Asked about the conversations with those excluded, Southgate said: “I’ve had long conversations with all of them and told them very clearly where they are, what they need to improve, what they’re doing well in order to do it. It’s very clear where they sit.”
Southgate has never been afraid to make bold decisions and trust his instincts during his six years on the England hotseat.
Alexander-Arnold is a hot topic about his decisions, as is loyalty to disgraced Manchester United captain Harry Maguire.
The 29-year-old gave away the penalty that allowed Germany to open the scoring on Monday and was disowned in the move that ended with his second, but Southgate’s faith remains intact.
“I know everyone says I care about him, we care about him,” Southgate said. “It’s us, not me.
“Why do we choose him? Because he’s one of the players that gives us the best chance of winning.
“So we really should all wish for a Harry Maguire who plays regularly and plays with confidence.
“Obviously that’s true for some players but he’s the one that everything lands on which really has to be a tough place for him but he’s showing tremendous character.
“I think he has the character to get over it because he’s a lad who went from Sheffield United to Hull City – his journey isn’t one that has been smooth.
“Sometimes there are guys who didn’t have to deal with adversity early in their careers and when it hits them it’s harder to deal with.
“He’s really like most of us in that he had a lot of obstacles and that shapes your character.”
The Football Association have said the England squad will be announced on November 9 or 10, with the team set to meet on November 14 following the final round of Premier League games.
That leaves little preparation time for Group B’s opener against Iran and leaves Southgate with a ‘unique’ challenge in Qatar.
“There just won’t be time [to meet up before]’ said Southgate. “They will have too many games and we have to respect what they are doing with their clubs.
“We have many analyzes of the opposition. We can go to the games that are being played on Tuesday night, which we usually can’t do. That’s a bonus.
“Of course we have to monitor our players as much as possible.
“We’re always trying to find out absolutely everything about them and engaging a lot with clubs about how they’re doing physically and what’s going on. So we are not short of things to move forward with.”
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