Liverpool icon John Barnes has explained why he thinks Trent Alexander-Arnold will never transition into midfield despite England boss Gareth Southgate experimenting with a positional switch last year. Alexander-Arnold has earned a reputation as one of the best right-backs in the Premier League in recent years, providing important assists and goals during Premier League and Champions League-winning campaigns.
The 23-year-old had scarcely played in defence before his step up to the senior team. Instead, he played in central midfielder for the club’s successful academy sides.
Three Lions boss Southgate tried to reprise that role last September. Alexander-Arnold started in central midfield in a 5-0 victory over Andorra at Wembley, before swapping with right-back Reece James at half-time.
But former Liverpool winger John Barnes believes the player’s future will always be at right-back for two reasons. Firstly, the 58-year-old says Alexander-Arnold prefers facing forward with the ball and can do that from a deeper role.
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Additionally, Barnes points out that Jurgen Klopp’s side are generally always attacking, so there is no need for Alexander-Arnold to do much defending, something for which he has been criticised. “Trent Alexander-Arnold does not have a future as a midfielder. He is a right back and that’s why he’s able to play facing forward,” the ex-England star said.
“Trent may not be as good defensively as he is going forward, but he doesn’t always have to play teams of Manchester City’s quality. People can say he needs to work on things defensively, but most of the time, Liverpool are on the front foot.
“Liverpool will happily suffer that odd occasion where he plays against a top team like Manchester City. The balance of what he does in a season, versus that time when you come up against tough opposition like Real Madrid or Manchester City, means Liverpool should stomach that for the benefit of what he does in an attacking sense.”
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Liverpool boss Klopp appears to agree with Barnes. The German has used Alexander-Arnold in midfield on a few occasions, although not since 2018.
The star has played at right-back for the majority of his 216 senior appearances, with Klopp in charge for all of them. And the 54-year-old tore into Southgate when Alexander-Arnold was used in midfield by England.
Klopp said last year: “In this game, in a game where England are that dominant for example, or that we are that dominant that Trent could play in midfield, I would rather he was the six than in this case the eight.
“That is possible but why would you make the best right-back in the world a midfielder? I don’t understand that really.
“As if the right-back position is not as important as the others. People who say that I struggle to understand how you could think that.”