Trent Alexander-Arnold isn’t in the England squad. It’s a sign of just how underrated the Liverpool star truly is.
When we first looked at the England squad, we didn’t notice Trent Alexander-Arnold wasn’t there. We didn’t bother checking.
And yet, he’s left out in the cold in favour of three other right-backs.
“I don’t think he has played at the level that he found in the last couple of years, but I think he is getting very close that now,” said Gareth Southgate.
“In the last few weeks, he has definitely taken steps in the right direction.
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“It’s simply that Reece James and Kieran Tripper have had exceptional seasons really with their clubs. Kyle Walker is in great form with Manchester City.”
And in part, Southgate is right. Harry Redknapp echoed those sentiments, too.
Alexander-Arnold is not at the level he’s been at for the last two years – but that’s completely underestimating what that level was.
Alexander-Arnold has been the best right-back on the planet over the last two years. That’s the case by any real metric you want to use.
There’s the obvious one – he helped deliver the biggest trophies. Alexander-Arnold won both the UEFA Champions League and Premier League in consecutive seasons.
Then there’s the fact he broke the Premier League record for assists by a defender in 18/19. Then he broke it again in 19/20. All while playing his part in the league’s tightest defence in each of those seasons.
Which is another myth about Alexander-Arnold – that he can’t defend. At the absolute very least, you’re capable of building the league’s best defence with him. We’re not entirely sure what more you need than that. He’s demonstrably not a liability.
And as further evidence, there are his awards. The last two seasons saw Alexander-Arnold make the UEFA Team of the Year in 2019, the ESM Team of the Year for 19/20, the IFFHS Team of the Year in both 2019 and 2020, the FIFPro World XI in 2020 and the PFA Team of the Year in both years.
Individually, he’s been the PFA Young Player of the Year for 2020 and earned a Ballon d’Or nomination.
This was his level over the last two years. Has he matched it this season? No, he hasn’t. No one has. But Alexander-Arnold has been the best on the planet for two years, reaching a level no one else has really come close to.
Alexander-Arnold’s level has dropped – that’s plain to see. But as we say, the starting point for that drop was so high that he’s still outperforming everyone else.
Let’s compare his stats this season to Trippier, Walker and James – the three England selected over Alexander-Arnold. Although, the Walker comparison is perhaps unfair, given he’ll likely play on the right of a back three.
We’ll start with Alexander-Arnold’s strength in his creativity. It’s very easy to look at the fact he has just three Premier League assists this season and believe he’s dropped off massively. He hasn’t.
The Liverpool man has set up 42 shots this season. James has 27 such passes, Tripper 19 and Walker 7. Alexander-Arnold also completes a pass into the area over three times per game, the next highest being Trippier with exactly two.
All in all, he’s got the highest expected assists total, the highest number of chances created, the second most passes into the final third and the most passes into the area. All per 90 minutes.
Alexander-Arnold also – by some way – covers the most distance with his passes. He gets the team forward 590 yards per game on average – Walker is next highest with 411.
The biggest problem the Scouser has is that Liverpool’s forwards have forgotten to score goals. Even if he has dropped a level in his creation, Alexander-Arnold remains the best around.
Which brings us to defence. This is supposedly his biggest problem. Statistics suggest otherwise.
For instance, Alexander-Arnold has the best success rate of any of these players when coming up against a dribbler. He wins 59.6% of his duels – Walker is next with 55, Trippier with 50 and James with 45.
And just to show how good Alexander-Arnold is at this – his success rate is the 5th best in the entire Premier League.
Alexander-Arnold gets dribbled past on average of 0.77 times per 90, though. Walker beats that with 0.74. James can’t, though, getting beat 0.89 times per 90, while Trippier loses his man 1.12 times.
He’s also an elite presser. Alexander-Arnold wins the ball back with over 36% of his presses – the 12th best in the Premier League. None of the other full-backs can match this. James is all the way down in 108th place, in fact, with just 27%.
So whether it’s one-on-one defending or pressing as a unit, Alexander-Arnold is one of the absolute best in the league. Add that to his league-best creativity and he’s still at a level none of the others can reach.
Everyone can see that Alexander-Arnold has dropped a level this season and that’s apparently why he’s not in the England squad. But the belief that he’s not still the best is a gross underestimation of just how good he is.
Even when he’s not at his best, he’s still the best.