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Trent Alexander-Arnold goal for England gives Arne Slot a way out of Liverpool dilemma

Trent Alexander-Arnold of England celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the international friendly match between England and Bosnia & Herzegovina at St James' Park on June 03, 2024 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
-Credit: (Image: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)


It promised to be a night where Trent Alexander-Arnold could make a point to new Liverpool manager Arne Slot. Instead, he ended up giving England boss Gareth Southgate something to think about.

Southgate has committed to playing Alexander-Arnold in midfield. He was named as one in the provisional Euros squad announcement, and was conspicuously wearing the number eight as he started against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

That comes amid an ongoing debate. Jurgen Klopp experimented with Alexander-Arnold's role in his final 18 months at the helm, but has generally used him as a full-back at Liverpool, and Slot will now need to decide whether to follow suit.

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Alexander-Arnold found the net for England, scoring the second in a 3-0 win. But while that would appear to suggest a permanent midfield move to Slot, the reality is very different.

That's because by the time he scored the goal that settled the contest, Alexander-Arnold had been moved back into defense. This was no indictment of the work he had been doing in the middle, which had been largely solid, if unremarkable — an assessment which summed up much of the game as a whole.

Arriving from the right, Alexander-Arnold hit a sweet volley, showing expert technique to guide the ball back across the goal and into the corner. It was the kind of contribution he could only have made from a full-back base.

Southgate has historically shown huge reluctance to use the Liverpool man at right-back. Even when he was dominating in that position for the Reds, his international chances were surprisingly limited, amid competition with the likes of Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier.

Heading into the tournament, Southgate may now be wondering whether Alexander-Arnold might not be better deployed in his original role, especially given that Adam Wharton was a standout performer in midfield when he came on. But the goal actually shows Slot a way out of the dilemma.

It underlines the fact that the question has never really been about Alexander-Arnold's position. The only question that matters is how to get him into areas where he can exert the maximum influence on games.

At the back end of 2022/23, that was undoubtedly in the novel hybrid role. It appeared to give Alexander-Arnold a new lease of life, kickstarting a season that had been stalling on a personal and collective note.

But in the campaign just gone, it's debatable whether Alexander-Arnold's talents were being truly maximized. Injuries disrupted things, and he did have some moments of real brilliance in a kind of 'quarter-back' capacity, but his numbers were a long way off the days when he was smashing the single-season assist record for a defender.

For Slot, the first and only priority is finding the best way to harness Alexander-Arnold's massive talents. He has the tools to be a generational player, and while the debate over his best position feeds into that, the new Liverpool manager can play him just about anywhere as long as he gives him a platform to shine.