Sport Alexander-Arnold's recent form puts him in good place for England spot

16:40  15 may  2021
16:40  15 may  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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When Trent Alexander-Arnold was dropped by England - arguably the Liverpool man's first big individual disappointment of his career - Gareth Southgate set him a challenge.

After leaving him out of the Three Lions squad for World Cup qualifiers on March 18, Southgate said: 'What I said to Trent earlier today was I have made the same call to Kyle Walker and Kieran (Trippier) in the past. Their response was a good one. They took up the challenge and found themselves back in the squad.'

Eight games later and the 22-year-old is replicating his right-back rivals' road to redemption. Thursday night's stellar display at Old Trafford means Alexander-Arnold has three assists and a goal since being axed by England - and is staking a claim for a European Championship recall.

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Alexander-Arnold set-up Roberto Firmino's first goal before seeing his venomous shot spilled by Dean Henderson into the Brazilian striker's path in Thursday night's 4-2 victory - the biggest statement the right-back has made to England boss Southgate.

The Liverpool defender was dropped in the first place for two key reasons - failing to reach the heights of last season, which earned him PFA Young Player of the Year, and intense competition in the right-back area.

Alexander-Arnold ended last season with 13 Premier League assists - only Kevin De Bruyne's record-equalling total of 20 mustered more - at a time when there was no doubt who would be starting on the right-hand side of Southgate's defence.

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But the return to form of Walker at Manchester City, Trippier's reliability at Atletico Madrid and the emergence of Reece James at Chelsea meant Alexander-Arnold's 'regression' for the Reds caused him to be booted out.

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Southgate added in March: 'I don't feel he's hit that level he's hit with Liverpool for England, and the other players have, and there's an element of me having to look at how we do that going forward, because we know some of the qualities that he brings.

'I think with Trent, we've got some players who've played exceptionally well for England in the past, and are playing well for their clubs, and that position on the pitch is one where competition is really high.'

Alexander-Arnold's response to those damning words from Southgate was immediate. In his first game back for Liverpool after the March international break, the right-back provided a brilliant delivery for Diogo Jota to head home at Arsenal.

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But an indication of why Southgate axed the Liverpool defender was revealed on a difficult Champions League night at Real Madrid three days later. Alexander-Arnold was terrorised by Ferland Mendy and Vinicius down the left and was arguably at fault for all three goals in the 3-1 loss.

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Brazilian winger Vinicius peeled off the right-back far too easily for Real's first and third goals, while Alexander-Arnold's poor back-pass fell to Marco Asensio, who clipped in the Spanish giants' second.

It was a disaster-class from the young full-back as the result foreshadowed Liverpool's exit from the Champions League - but his form has sky-rocketed since then.

Scoring the winner against Aston Villa to end a barren Anfield run of six straight home defeats not only boosted the Reds' top-four hopes but showed that Alexander-Arnold is a man for the big occasion.

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Eight games before England axe:

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Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Chances Created from Open Play: 10

Crosses from Open Play: 35

Interceptions: 10

Eight games after England axe:

Goals: 1

Assists: 3

Chances Created from Open Play: 22

Crosses from Open Play: 45

Interceptions: 19

Stats by Opta

Assists have also followed away at Leeds and now Manchester United on Thursday night, which should not come as a surprise considering how many more chances he has created since being dropped by England.

In the eight games before his Three Lions axe, Alexander-Arnold was criticised for a dried-up input in the final third. Zero goals, zero assists and just 10 attacking opportunities created from open play during that time.

But in the eight games since the international break, Alexander-Arnold has doubled his chance creation numbers, while his number of goals, assists and crosses have also been boosted in the aftermath of Southgate's rejection.

From a defensive standpoint, the Liverpool right-back is producing more interceptions, implying that he is reading the game much better when his side are without the ball.

His promising displays in a back four come just as Southgate appears to have ditched a back three for England and move to the same system Liverpool play.

Walker's City and Trippier's Atleti also play a similar defensive backline, which is bad news for Chelsea defender James, who is trying to compete for a wing-back role in Thomas Tuchel's 3-4-2-1 formation.

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Even though Alexander-Arnold's defensive frailties have been highlighted throughout this season, his numbers still show he is just as good as his England right-back rivals in the first third of the pitch.

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The 22-year-old makes just as many, if not more, tackles and interceptions than Walker, Trippier and James while his defensive recovery figures are very much in a league of their own. This could be vital in Southgate's thinking, with Alexander-Arnold often accused of being too high up the pitch to stifle any counter-attacks.

From an attacking perspective, the Liverpool defender's attacking numbers are way ahead of the other right-back contenders for England, of which there are plenty. Such data leaves analysts scratching their heads as to why Southgate left the Liverpool defender out in the first place.

If it was plan to raise Alexander-Arnold's performance levels and desire ahead of a pivotal summer for England, it could be a masterstroke move by the Three Lions boss.

Statistic Trent Alexander-Arnold Kyle Walker Reece JamesKieran Trippier
Appearances 33 22 30 26
Goals 2 1 1 0
Assists 6 1 2 6
Chances Created per 90 1.4 0.3 1.3 0.7
Crosses per 90 5.8 1.9 4.4 2.3
Tackles per 90 1.7 1.4 2.1 2.2
Interceptions per 90 1.4 0.7 0.7 1.5
Recoveries per 90 7.6 5.3 5.6 5.2
Stats by Opta
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