So it appears Gareth Southgate is the first England manager in some time that will be sticking to his principles.
Southgate has consistently promised that his squad for this summer’s World Cup would be one full of players who are there on merit and not because of the name on the back of the shirt. That has already been borne out with Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere both major absentees from the group. Conversely, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s place is a man who has ended up benefiting enormously.
Alexander-Arnold v Trippier
The Liverpool youngster would have been glad to just get into the Reds first team when the season began. However, by the end of this campaign, he will be Liverpool’s first choice right-back having starred for them in both the Premier League and Champions League. He is extremely likely to feature in some capacity in the final of the latter. It’s been a remarkable season for the Melwood graduate, and a place in the World Cup is a just reward for his performances.
There will, though, be some who are questioning Southgate choosing a 19-year-old for a World Cup campaign. They will state that the Three Lions boss shouldn’t be taking risks, and should instead play it safe by going with one of his other options, namely Tottenham Hotspur’s Kieran Trippier.
Take a minute to compare those two players, however, and doubts about Alexander-Arnold deserving his place are diminished almost instantly. This season the Liverpool youngster has managed more interceptions and more clearances per game than the Tottenham Hotspur man. He’s given away fewer fouls per game, been dribbled past fewer times per game and won more offsides per game also. They are level when it comes to blocks per game at 0.3, while Trippier comes out on top when it comes to tackles per game.
Offensively Trippier comes out on top when it comes to assists, as well as key passes per game, dispossessions and unsuccessful touches. Alexander-Arnold, though, has registered more than double Trippier’s number of dribbles per game and crucially has played 338 minutes fewer than him. If the pair were level in those stakes, the Liverpool youngster would likely come out on top.
The numbers justify the selection
Compare Alexander-Arnold’s stats to those of the first choice right-back Kyle Walker, who himself has had a fantastic season at Manchester City, and you walk away even more impressed than you were previously.
Defensively the 19-year-old has managed more tackles per game, more interceptions per game and more blocks per game as well as committing fewer fouls per game. They are level when it comes to clearances per game at 2.1, while Alexander-Arnold trails behind Walker when it comes to offsides won and dribbled past per game. However, the numbers are almost negligible. He trails by just 0.1 in the offside stakes and 0.4 in the dribbled past.
The offensive stats make for more interesting reading. Alexander-Arnold has managed more key passes per game, more dribbles and fewer unsuccessful touches per game than Walker this season. The Manchester City full-back has managed to be dispossessed fewer times per game but again it is negligible with Alexander-Arnold just 0.1 behind once more.
Crucially Walker has registered more assists this season but he’s also had 1211 more minutes to manage it in. Give Liverpool’s man those extra minutes and it’s easy to see these numbers being equal again.
Of course, taking a youngster to a World Cup will always be considered a risk for an England manager. It didn’t work out for Sven Goran Eriksson with Theo Walcott or Roy Hodgson with the likes of Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling. But the numbers provide further proof of what an excellent season that Alexander-Arnold has had at Liverpool this season and whatever way you look at them they all tell the same story, the 19-year-old has fully justified his place in England’s World Cup squad.