Trent Alexander-Arnold has once again been left out of England’s matchday squad for Monday night’s Nations League clash with Germany at Wembley but Brentford striker Ivan Toney is included and could make his international debut. AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori, West Ham winger Jarrod Bowen, Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse and the suspended Manchester City attacker Jack Grealish are the other players left out.
The Liverpool right back didn’t play a single minute as England lost 1-0 against Italy at the San Siro on Friday and now has no more chances to impress manager Gareth Southgate before the World Cup.
Alexander-Arnold is widely considered one of the best attacking full backs in the world, but there are question marks over his defensive ability. His omission means he will only have featured in five of England’s 31 games leading up to the World Cup, an astonishing statistic which shows his distance from Southgate’s thinking.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have been suspect at the back all season, with the 23-year-old criticised after a humbling 4-1 loss against Napoli in the Champions League and after a 2-1 defeat against rivals Manchester United in the Premier League.
Alexander-Arnold was an eye-catching omission from the last major tournament, the 2020 European Championships which ended in a spot-kick defeat against Italy in the final, with injury although his knock saved Southgate the awkward decision of leaving him out even if he were fully fit, which may well have happened anyway.
Although right back is one of England’s strongest positions, he still appears to be behind Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier in the pecking order. Southgate himself said: ‘Of course, he does have a fantastic range of passing, we’re blessed with different profiles of player in that position. If we play with wing-backs, Trippier and Reece James are also exceptional with the ball and we’re always having to look at the full package and assess the players on all of their attributes.
‘It’s a really difficult position to make decisions on, but we have to go with the ones we believe, and ultimately I’ll be judged on the outcome, as we know. I don’t see risks. ‘And that’s what we’re all trying to do with every team, you’re trying to build a team that accentuates the positives, and within the group protects yourselves against how the opponents might come from you.’ But former Chelsea defender Frank Leboeuf labelled Alexander-Arnold a ‘Championship-level defender’.
He said: ‘Look at Trent Alexander-Arnold. I love the guy, his offensive qualities. But defensively, he’s Championship level. Only Klopp’s system works for him. When it doesn’t work as well as it has this season, all you see is his defensive shortcomings.’
Tomori is perhaps also hard done by to miss out, as the out-of-form Harry Maguire – who is not playing regularly for Manchester United at club level and Eric Dier, after a two-year absence, played 90 minutes. England were relegated from the Nations League after a disappointing loss in Milan extended their winless run to five matches.
Toney, Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi, Chelsea full back Ben Chilwell, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson – who has just returned from injury and the then-suspended Man City centre half John Stones were excluded from that game. However, all five have made the matchday squad of 23 against Die Mannschaft as Southgate looks to rotate his options in the final match before the Qatar World Cup, beginning in November.
‘I feel like I have full confidence in myself,’ Toney said earlier this week. ‘I never played for any of the other age groups so going straight to the senior squad is a big achievement. ‘It is a massive opportunity for me to get myself on the plane. But I’ve just got to go game by game. Hopefully I’ll get a few minutes in the games we have.’