Declan Rice: England 'have to play' Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield message to Gareth Southgate

Declan Rice: England 'have to play' Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield message to Gareth Southgate

Declan Rice has backed Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold as a potential midfield partner at the Euros, saying England "have to play" the "special" Liverpool player.

Arsenal's Rice will be Gareth Southgate's holding midfielder in Germany but the identity of his partner remains a dilemma for the England manager, with Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher, Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton all competing for one spot.

Alexander-Arnold and Gallagher started Monday's warm-up friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the former scoring the second goal in a 3-0 win, but Rice is set to return to the side against Iceland at Wembley on Friday.

He believes England cannot afford to leave a talent like Alexander-Arnold, who can also play right-back, on the sidelines at the European Championship.

He’s a player any country would appreciate, a player we have to play, and have to get involved

Declan Rice on Trent Alexander-Arnold

"He’s special. We all know Trent’s skill set - his passing, the way he sees a pass, that right-sided [midfield] position suits him beautifully," Rice said.

"He can come in on to his favourite right side and see that pass like he does for Liverpool. It really does suit him, that role, but he went to right-back for the last 20 minutes [on Monday] and looked just as good there.

"He’s a player any country would appreciate. He’s a player we have to play, we have to get involved, and our attackers should be thriving playing off someone like Trent because his passing is off the scale."

Rice has played a box-to-box role since joining Arsenal from West Ham last summer but, whoever he plays alongside for England, he is happy to be the screen in front of the back four.

"My role is completely different here," he said. "At Arsenal I’m quite lucky because we’ve got two other No.6s who can play that role which allows me to play one up.

Trent Alexander-Arnold scored against Bosnia (The FA via Getty Images)
Trent Alexander-Arnold scored against Bosnia (The FA via Getty Images)

"Whereas here, I’m pretty much the only out-and-out six. I do love playing this role with England. I’ve had a great relationship with the two centre-halves and every midfield partner that’s come in.

"Obviously I’d love to release myself a little bit more but tournament football is more about the team and I know I can do a job playing as a No.6.

"To this day it is my favourite position and I’ll be ready. I want to help the team out, I want to be disciplined in this tournament. I want to have the tournament of my life and impress.

"Even when I’ve played as a six this year, I’ve kind of taken up different positions in a way where I am still on the edge of the box so I’m hoping I can get into that area but I know with the way that Gareth and Steve [Holland] see me and like me to play, they like me to be in front of the back four and I have no problem doing that all because I think some of my biggest strengths are in doing that. But for whatever they want me to do I’ll be ready."

Rice won his 50th cap in March and at 25 is one of the most experienced players in the squad, with 13 of the 26 players who travelled to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup axed from the Euros squad.

He accepts there are going to be doubts over the midfield, particularly with the inexperienced Wharton and Mainoo competing for places, but says he can guide the younger players through the tournament.

“There’s going to be a lot of question marks over the midfield and whether we have that experience," Rice said. “I feel like now I’ve gained so much experience over the last two years that I can kind of guide the younger players in a way.

“But also they are learning their own trade as well and some of the boys that are playing in the midfield played in top-level games, high-pressure moments. The Euros will be great test for everyone."

Rice is excited about the attacking talent at Southgate's disposal this summer and revealed Manchester City's Phil Foden has caught the eye in training since joining the camp on Tuesday.

“He turned up three days ago and he’s been out of this world in training," Rice said of Foden. "Everyone has been talking about him - ‘Have you seen Phil in training?’ - he’s that good. So, so special.

"And Jude Bellingham, after the season he’s just had at Real Madrid, Harry Kane - top goalscorer across all the leagues. Cole Palmer, Bukayo Saka, Anthony Gordon… the list goes on. The manager can pick a starting XI but we’re the ones who have to deliver. We can perform well every week on a Premier League level, but at the European Championship, all eyes are on it. Can you step up? I’m sure our attacking players are going to thrive off that.”