Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Kieran Trippier: Who should be England’s right-back at Euro 2020?

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·6-min read
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 (Getty)
(Getty)

With Euro 2020 now fewer than four weeks away, international hopefuls will be trying to hit top form and convince their national team managers that they should be on the plane or the bus as part of the final squad.

A new rule to allow 26-man squads for this competition should mean one or two decisions are slightly easier, but for England and Gareth Southgate the biggest question still appears to be over his selections at full-back – and particularly on the right, where he caused plenty of raised eyebrows by leaving Trent Alexander-Arnold out of the squad in March.

The Liverpool defender appears in competition with Kieran Trippier for a place in the squad, with the Atletico Madrid man in the last squad along with Kyle Walker of Tottenham and Reece James of Chelsea.

It could well be that playing style, rather than substance, forms the basis of Southgate’s eventual pick – as it’s quite possible that whichever of Trent and Trippier get the call are actually in the XI, not just the 26.

So how do the two compare across the course of this season?

Fluctuating fortunes

There’s little question that, until the 2020/21 campaign, Trent Alexander-Arnold was enjoying the better time in terms of career achievements of late: Liverpool won the Premier League last year, the Champions League the year before and a couple of other trophies besides.

The 22-year-old has been an integral part of the side throughout, with his consistency and attacking output key to the Reds’ successes.

However, he was not immune to the misfortunes of the team this season. Defensive absences and a general malaise mid-campaign saw Alexander-Arnold’s form waver alarmingly - like that of his team as a whole - and this was raised by Southgate as a reason for his omission from the squad last time out.

Since then, though, the No 66 has been one of the Reds’ top performers in a late-season revival, shining in particular in front of Southgate in the recent win over Manchester United - and delivering another last-gasp assist on Sunday, with his corner leading to goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s winner at West Brom.

For Trippier, it has been a similar story, if in a very different way.

He has been first-choice at Atletico as they try to close the gap on Barcelona and Real Madrid - and this year they have finally done so, being just one game away from claiming the title in La Liga, with Trippier a regular starter.

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

It has not been a campaign without ups and downs, though. The 30-year-old missed 10 matches mid-season after being suspended by the English FA for breaching betting rules, related to his transfer from Tottenham in 2019.

Since his return, he has barely missed a minute of league action, playing a key role as los rojiblancos try to win the title - while Liverpool, and Alexander-Arnold, are merely struggling to snatch a top-four finish in the final weeks.

Number-crunching

In terms of their league performances, data from WhoScored highlights their different strengths.

Trippier wins more tackles and commits more fouls than Alexander-Arnold, makes more clearances and wins a lot more aerial duals.

The Liverpool man has a considerably higher tally of passes per game, makes more crosses, plays almost double the longer passes - usually his crossfield switches - and is comfortably higher in each of shots, key passes and dribbles of the ball each match.

Two goals and seven assists in the Premier League is high for a defender, but relatively low for Alexander-Arnold’s usual haul, while Trippier has six assists of his own and is yet to score in LaLiga this term.

Alexander-Arnold also added two assists in the Champions League this season.

Stylistic approach

The players very much represent their teams, in terms of what they offer on the pitch.

Alexander-Arnold is forward-thinking, a creative outlet, keen to press high upfield in support of the midfield and forward line and eager to get into the penalty box when the opportunity presents itself.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Trippier is a more rigid defender, often tasked with stopping the cross first and foremost, while looking to join the counter-attack when possible - but to play direct and then support from the second line if not.

The younger of the two plays in a side which defends by attacking, dominates possession and looks to use the full-backs as outlets; Diego Simeone prefers to have a deeper, narrower block to his team which will then attack as a unit, maintaining shape and being ready to drop once possession is ceded.

England don’t strictly play either of the two methods, rather being somewhere in between: not as passive as Atletico in the middle third, but certainly not as adventurous as Liverpool at their best with a relentless high press.

Both players are excellent set-piece options and can deliver from wide with consistency and accuracy, with the Liverpool man perhaps the better from crosses in open play.

England involvement

Trippier has more caps still, but did fall out of favour after the World Cup, playing just three of England’s next 10 games.

Getty Images
Getty Images

He has worked his way back in though, playing the Nations League games against Belgium and Iceland in November and featuring in one of the three World Cup qualifiers during March.

Alexander-Arnold has largely been the opposite, playing plenty of the Euro 2020 qualifiers early on but making just one appearance for England across the nine games since September 2020.

He missed the November games with a calf injury.

Southgate’s dilemma

Usually, versatility would be a key factor too in picking a 23-man finals squad. That might not be as much of a factor this time around, but Trippier has played on the left for Southgate, while Alexander-Arnold has briefly featured in midfield for the Reds and is seen as possibly an ideal wing-back if England persist with three at the back.

Against that, Reece James played in central midfield at Championship level so knows the role, and has played on the right of Chelsea’s back three recently, too.

Kyle Walker has long been an established pick in that position for Southgate, filling that area at the World Cup when Trippier played right-wing back.

It seems improbable that all four will be picked, and the successful two or three could tell much about how the England manager plans his team will attack the European Championships.

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