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Liverpool summer midfield transfer could depend on one major Arne Slot decision

Liverpool vice-captain Trent Alexander-Arnold in action for England during the international friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina at St James' Park on June 3 2024
-Credit: (Image: James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)


With one careful swipe of his trusty right boot, Trent Alexander-Arnold ensured the path of his immediate future on Monday night.

But events before that at Newcastle United did little to suggest the more long-term prospects of the Liverpool vice-captain remain very much shrouded in mystery for both country and, more pertinently, club.

Alexander-Arnold's sweetly-struck volley into the far corner to convert substitute Jack Grealish's cross banished any doubts over the outcome as he netted the late second in England's 3-0 friendly win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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While the 25-year-old has been a strong favourite to make the final cut when Gareth Southgate chops down his 33-man provisional party to the 26-strong squad that will travel to Germany for the European Championships next week, his goal copper-bottomed the fact. Barring injury, Alexander-Arnold will be heading to the Euros.

Intriguing, though, is that for some time the Liverpool man has now been regarded a midfielder first and foremost by the England national team.

It was in the engine room - operating alongside Chelsea's Conor Gallagher as a double pivot - that he began the game against Bosnia. There were some flashes of inspiration during the first half, particularly one pass between the lines that ultimately prompted a chance for Ollie Watkins, and his set-piece delivery caused problems. But, as with England as a whole, his performance lacked sharpness and energy.

That changed after the break as the home side began to probe more readily. And it was when Alexander-Arnold reverted to a right-back role that he made an even more considered impact - one nonchalantly brilliant crossfield ball to find Grealish recognisable to regular Liverpool observers - and was free to drift into central positions when required, although it was when ghosting in from out wide that he struck his third international goal.

Southgate's leaning towards the plethora of other right-back options at England's disposal means Alexander-Arnold's route into the starting line-up may still be in midfield. A triumvirate of the Liverpool man, Arsenal's Declan Rice and one-time Anfield target Jude Bellingham would be worth properly investigating.

And while any England game, let alone a friendly, is anathema to many Reds followers, Monday's game at least gave them a glimpse of how Alexander-Arnold could operate as a permanent fixture in the centre. Yes, the standard of opposition must be taken into account, and there were few defensive demands. But while the congested middle areas meant there wasn't much scope for the Liverpool man to show his trademark bursts of energy, it opened up a wider range for his passing. England benefited from his ability to see and execute passes most others cannot.

How this might translate to Liverpool depends on the tactical approach of new head coach Arne Slot. Alexander-Arnold had, for the most part, been operating as an inverted right-back for the last 15 months of Jurgen Klopp's reign, although there were games where the England man knew when best to stay as a more conventional full-back.

At Feyenoord, Slot played both 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 similar to that employed by England on Monday. And that opens up the possibility of Alexander-Arnold being one of two deeper central midfielders. Given Wataru Endo, Alexis Mac Allister, Curtis Jones, Stefan Bajcetic and Dominik Szoboszlai have all featured in such a role for Liverpool at some point during the last 15 months, there are options in the current Reds squad. And with Conor Bradley having made a breakthrough this season at right-back, it could circumnavigate the need to sign a dedicated defensive midfielder this summer.

Of course, the more pressing matter for Liverpool will be persuading Alexander-Arnold to sign a new deal as he enters the final 12 months of his present contract. That more than anything could determine any midfielder transfer movement.

Alexander-Arnold probably won't ever be a number six in the truest sense. But as one of two deep-lying midfielders? That could open up a whole new playing field for Liverpool - both metaphorically and literally.