Gareth Southgate laments Trent Alexander-Arnold injury as England run out of time to trial experiment

Gareth Southgate laments Trent Alexander-Arnold injury as England run out of time to trial experiment

Gareth Southgate has admitted his frustration at running out of time to experiment with Trent Alexander-Arnold as part of England’s midfield - and says he is now unsure whether he will risk using the tactic at Euro 2024.

Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice are certain to make up two-thirds of England’s first-choice midfield in Germany this summer, but with Kalvin Phillips out of form and favour and Jordan Henderson ageing, the final spot remains up for grabs.

Alexander-Arnold, a right-back by trade, has started in midfield for England on several occasions over the past 12 months and produced several encouraging displays, but all have come in qualifiers against limited opponents.

Southgate had hoped to give the system a sterner test in friendlies against Brazil and Belgium this month, but those plans have been scuppered by the Liverpool man’s knee injury.

Alexander-Arnold was at Wembley on Saturday watching on as England were beaten 1-0 by Brazil, and having also missed games against Scotland and Ukraine in September with a hamstring problem, the 25-year-old has not had chance to convince Southgate he can excel in midfield against better opposition.

“The midfield thing we’ve seen, but we’ve missed two opportunities with September and now this one that is really frustrating because there’s so much that’s unknown about it at the minute,” Southgate said.

“As you know, I’ve liked the idea for a long time but we’re going to be trialling it when we haven’t seen it in a really high level game. So we’ll just have to see where we can go with it.”

Alexander-Arnold has long been touted as having the technical quality and range of passing to play in midfield and Southgate sees the ploy as a potential way of getting another of the country’s most talented footballers into his side, with Kyle Walker established as first-choice right-back.

The Liverpool academy graduate has regularly inverted into midfield from right-back for his club side over the past two seasons, but Southgate insists that is not the same as playing as an out-and-out midfielder in a tournament game.

“It’s such a specialist position,” he explained. “There’s a huge difference between playing at full-back and popping into midfield and playing in there, starting in there, in and out of position in the game. Receiving with your back to goal, so there’s a lot to that. We’re just going to have to see.”