Jürgen Klopp has questioned Gareth Southgate’s decision to omit Trent Alexander-Arnold from England’s recent World Cup qualifiers, insisting there is no better player to unlock deep defences than the “standout right-back in world football” for the past two seasons.
The Liverpool defender could miss out on Euro 2020 after Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James were selected over him for the wins against San Marino, Albania and Poland.
Southgate’s selection mystified Klopp, who planned training sessions for the international break in the expectation that Alexander-Arnold would be on England duty. The Liverpool manager is adamant the 22-year-old has returned to form after a difficult start to the season that included contracting Covid-19.
Klopp said: “I am a manager myself. We always make decisions that other people probably do not understand. I respect Gareth makes his own decisions, of course, but I didn’t understand it because Trent Alexander-Arnold was in the last two seasons at least – let me say the season before and the season before that – the standout right-back in world football. That is the truth and he did it at an unbelievable young age. He was the standout right-back in world football.
“Now he has started the season with Covid, which is not good. You can imagine it took him a while to get into the season, but from that moment on he was one of our most consistent players and a standout player. Robbo [Andy Robertson] the same.
“So that cannot be the reason he was not in the squad. If you compare Lionel Messi every year with his best season ever then he is not performing now like he was performing in 2005 and 2006 maybe. But he is still the world’s best player.”
Klopp believes the likeliest explanation for Alexander-Arnold’s omission is a preference by Southgate for more defensive-minded players, but he insists variety is required at an international tournament.
“It is about how you want to play. If you want to play against a deep defending side then I don’t know anybody who crosses and passes like Trent. He defends on a really high level for us as well. It is not his first skill but it is not bad. It is really good actually.
“Trent is a very ambitious boy. I know he wants to be in the England squad and he will try everything to be there again. If Trent Alexander-Arnold is not in the squad of England then England must have an extremely good squad, let me say it like this. As a summary, I respect the decision, of course I do, but I didn’t understand it.”