Jurgen Klopp slams Trent Alexander-Arnold trashing after England snub

Jurgen Klopp - Jurgen Klopp understands Trent Alexander-Arnold's England omission - GETTY IMAGES
Jurgen Klopp - Jurgen Klopp understands Trent Alexander-Arnold's England omission - GETTY IMAGES

Jürgen Klopp has launched a stirring defence of Trent Alexander-Arnold following Gareth Southgate's ongoing England snubs by claiming a “world-class player” has been unfairly branded.

Alexander-Arnold’s ambition of making England’s squad in Qatar is in jeopardy after he was an unused substitute in recent internationals and was told by Southgate that Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier has a better ‘all-round’ game. Doubts are raised about Alexander-Arnold’s defensive capacities every time he is on international duty.

While Klopp conceded Alexander-Arnold has not enjoyed the best starts to the season, he said he would have to be ‘dumb’ to keep picking the 23-year-old for Liverpool if he thought his defending was not good enough and issued a passionate defence that clocked nearly six minutes to give one single answer – see below for full transcript.

“Honestly, I just don’t get it,” said Klopp. “A world-class talent gets judged by the one thing he is not as world-class at as the other things. If he was not a good defender, he would not play.

“I cannot just tell him, ‘if we get the ball you wait there’. Maybe we will have these games where we will say ‘just give it to Trent, he will do something special’. No. We have different ideas and match plans and ways to play and if that does not fit for England, we cannot change that.”

Klopp argued Alexander-Arnold has been regularly blamed for defensive problems that were not his responsibility, having been singled out by pundits following games this season against Manchester United and Napoli as well as last season’s Champions League final.

“First part of the season we as a team didn’t defend well, we know it,” said Klopp. “As a defender, Trent is a part of that but we, as a unit, didn’t defend well. In other moments he defends exceptionally well but for him – in his situation – nobody mentions it. It is like you have a list of bad defending and good defending. Where it is bad defending, it is massive. Where it is good defending, it is like you do not even see.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold - Jurgen Klopp defends Trent Alexander-Arnold in wake of England snub - GETTY IMAGES
Trent Alexander-Arnold - Jurgen Klopp defends Trent Alexander-Arnold in wake of England snub - GETTY IMAGES

During a passionate response, Klopp was bewildered that a young player of such immense talent is being studied for what he may 'slightly' lack rather than championed for what he possesses.

“I am not dumb,” said Klopp. “I would talk to him all day about it and work all day to be the best. A player at 23 has to improve at all parts, even offensively.

“But if you judge a player you think about his overall package. The skill set he has for being influential in possession is mad. I don’t know if I ever saw a right-back like this – passing here, passing there, switching sides, taking free-kicks, corners, smart decisions, quick decisions.

“Yes, there are other situations where he was not aware [enough] or there was a challenge he should have won. True. But every player in the league has these challenges. But with him? Every time it is picked up and analysed, all the experts saying this is a weakness.”

Klopp stopped short of criticising Southgate’s comments, or suggesting he is wrong to keep overlooking the Liverpool defender, adding England have a luxury of riches at right-back.

“He (Alexander-Arnold) is an outstanding football player in a situation where three other right-backs in this country are doing really well," said Klopp.

"We should not forget that. Gareth Southgate cannot line up all four. So one or two will be disappointed. I can tell you the right-back position is not a problem for England.”

Klopp’s five minute 40 second answer in full

Question: What can you do to help improve him defensively?

Answer: “There are different things. First part of the season we as a team didn’t defend well, we know it. That is the truth. Analysing was easy. It was like, ‘oh my God, what is that?’ As a defender, Trent is a part of that but with all the other three as well, or in our case all the other six as well. We as a unit didn’t defend well. That is why sometimes you look at situations that we are there [making tackles] too late.

“That is why defending is an art, if you want, because everything has to work together. Offensively one skill or one guy makes the difference. Goal. Defensively, it is not possible that one guy defends the whole pitch. You need everybody involved and we were not good at that. That is the truth and my responsibility.

“Trent did not do well in these moments as well. In other moments he defends exceptionally well but for him – in his situation – nobody mentions it. It is like you have a list of bad defending and good defending. Where it is bad defending it is massive. Where it is good defending it is like you do not even see. I am not dumb. I would talk to him all day about it and work all day to be the best, but now you come to a point where a player at 23 has to improve at all parts, even offensively.

“But if you judge a player you think about his overall package. The skill set he has for being influential in possession is mad. For a right-back. I don’t know if I ever saw a right-back like this – passing here, passing there, switching sides, taking free-kicks, corners, smart decisions, quick decisions. That’s it. Actually, it is not like I spoke to Trent like this and said ‘that is what you are good at’. It is not important. He is an outstanding football player in a situation where three other right-backs in this country are doing really well. We should not forget that. Gareth Southgate cannot line up all four. So one or two will be disappointed. That is the situation. So the view on that is how influential can Trent be? That is number one. What is he good at? That is how you judge a player.

“Then we have the way we play. For example, if you are not a football specialist, the situation is we do high press and Trent is often the highest of all those at the back. In a high press situation he is the one who goes to the right. That is the way we play football. Now, you can say ‘you should defend better’ but you cannot have everything because if you want to play high press, you need players in specific positions. If the next ball goes long on that [right] side then Joël [Matip], Ibou [Ibrahima Konaté] or Joey [Gomez] has to cover him and that is fine. It is the risk we take. It is not a crazy risk and we win the ball nine out of 10 times, but in the one moment we don’t win it, people ask where is Trent?

“That is a question that I don’t understand from people who watch football so often. People say that is his main job but I told him he has to be there [higher up the pitch]. We press extremely brave when we are good and defend bad when we do not press brave because we are waiting. When we are brave in these situations we win balls with it. Now if we don’t win the ball, that is the nature of pressing. You bring more players than you need to press to make it more likely you will win the ball, that gives it the chance that you will be slightly exposed. It is football. The pitch is too big to be everywhere all the time with five players. So if the ball is in behind, with Trent it is ‘what is going on?’

“Yes, there are other situations where he was not aware [enough] or there was a challenge he should have won. True. But every player in the league has these challenges. But with him? Every time it is picked up and analysed, all the experts saying this is a weakness.

“Honestly, I just don’t get it. I just don’t get that part of it. A world-class talent gets judged by the one thing he is not as world class at as the other things. If he was not a good defender, he would not play. I cannot just tell him, ‘if we get the ball you wait there’. Maybe we will have these games, we will say ‘just give it to Trent, he will do something special’. No. We have different ideas and match plans and ways to play and if that does not fit for England, we cannot change that. A player can only offer what he can offer and I or Gareth or whoever makes a decision about what fits in the way they play. The player has to accept that. It is the world we are living in.”