When Gareth Southgate gets ready to name his starting line-up for England’s first match at the Euros against Croatia on June 13, he certainly won’t have the right back position to sweat over.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold looked set to miss out on England’s 26-man squad for this summer’s Euros, with Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier supposedly all above him in the pecking order thanks to their success with their respective clubs during the 2020-21 campaign.
However, at the last minute, Southgate had a change of heart and Alexander-Arnold – who has enjoyed a stellar time with Liverpool in recent years – was to many a surprise name on the teamsheet.
The 22-year-old’s inclusion means that the Three Lions now have four recognised right backs to choose from – almost making up a sixth of the squad.
And following Southgate’s squad announcement, Sportsmail has decided to compare the quartet’s stats from the 2020-21 season while looking at their England careers to date… and how they can ALL line up together in the starting XI!
Friday 11 June
Saturday 12 June
Sunday 13 June
Gareth Southgate named four right backs, including Kieran Trippier, in his England squad
How England’s four right backs compared during the 2020-21 season (stats courtesy of sofascore.com)
Games played: 55
Minutes played: 4,616
Last September, after giving a last-gasp penalty away against Iceland in the UEFA Nations League, Walker feared that his England career may be coming to an end.
But fast forward to the present, and Walker was a shoo-in for a spot in England’s Euros squad thanks to his brilliant form for Manchester City and his ability to play as one of three centre backs for his country, as well as at right back.
Walker, England’s most experienced right back, played an instrumental role in City’s third Premier League title triumph in four seasons, while helping guide them to their first ever Champions League final – which ended in heartbreak against Chelsea in Porto.
Walker played 42 times for Pep Guardiola’s side in all competitions this season, and while he is known for his willingness to surge up the flanks from an attacking point of view, his defensive fortitude caught the eye this season.
Walker, who was only involved in three goals this season, formed part of the Premier League’s meanest defence, helping to keep 16 clean sheets overall and conceding just 27 times.
The 31-year-old, who has won silverware after silverware at the Etihad Stadium following his move from Tottenham in 2017, was dribbled past only 0.36 times per 90 minutes – which is better than his all of his fellow England right backs this season.
Kyle Walker, who was a shoo-in for the squad, is England’s most experienced right back
Walker also made 6.22 ball recoveries per 90 and had a tackle success of 56.1 per cent in all competitions this term.
It was one of Walker’s best seasons to date in a City shirt and Southgate will be desperate for his right back to carry his fine form into the Euros.
England will start as one of the favourites for the delayed championships this summer, and Walker’s experience on the biggest stage could prove vital in the Three Lions’ bid for success.
Walker – who has played 55 matches for England, 29 more than Trippier, has lifted 10 major honours for City, including three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four Carabao Cups.
Walker played a key role as Man City won their third Premier League title in four seasons
Games played: 12
Minutes played: 883
Liverpool star Alexander-Arnold was the most nervous of England’s right backs when Southgate was making his final calls on his Euros squad.
Alexander-Arnold appeared the future of English football following his incredible success with Liverpool in the Premier League and Champions League in recent years but after a dip in form this season, Southgate axed him from his last Three Lions squad.
The decision looked fatal ahead of the Euros but the right back has just about squeezed in and it’s easy to see why, especially when you look at his attacking stats.
Alexander-Arnold has shone going forward for the Reds in past campaigns, and this season has been no different.
The 22-year-old scored twice and created nine assists in 46 matches for Liverpool in all competitions – the most goal involvements out of his fellow England right backs.
Alexander-Arnold also produced 97 key passes, which is 41 more than his nearest competitor James.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ability on the ball was too hard to turn down for Southgate
Any time the youngster steps out onto the pitch, whether that be for Liverpool or England, he gives his side another big threat going forward thanks to his lung-bursting runs down the flank and his ability to deliver pin-point crosses/passes into the penalty area.
Furthermore, while his defensive performances have come in for criticism during some stages of the season, perhaps the stats tell a slightly different story.
The Liverpool defender has made the most interceptions out of his fellow England right backs with 63, while he has made the most ball recoveries per 90 (7.65) and has only been dribbled past 0.66 times every match.
On the goals conceded front when he has played, Alexander-Arnold’s stats aren’t too generous however – conceding 47 times, 15 more than James, who has the second worst record in this department.
But you can’t deny what he brings and Southgate will know that if he needs to, he can deploy Alexander-Arnold in midfield or in an attacking sense if England require a goal.
The youngster’s composure on the ball has proved vital to Liverpool’s success in recent years
Games played: 26
Minutes played: 2,064
Trippier, alongside Walker, will offer Southgate that experience he requires in the backline and against more formidable opponents, the Atletico Madrid star could prove key.
Trippier never looked likely to miss out, and he heads into the Euros in very buoyant mood following Atletico’s LaLiga triumph – their first Spanish top-flight title since 2013-14.
The 30-year-old hasn’t looked back since his move from Tottenham in 2019 and in fact, he has developed his all-round game under the tutelage of Atletico boss Diego Simeone.
Trippier, who has played 26 times for the Three Lions, played 36 times for Atletico in all competitions last season – laying on six assists for his team-mates and providing 45 key passes.
But on the defensive front, the former Tottenham man outperformed his England counterparts Walker, Alexander-Arnold and James.
Kieran Trippier’s experience and his success with Atletico Madrid made him an easy pick
Trippier helped keep 18 clean sheets in 35 matches for the Madrid giants, two more than Walker.
When playing for Atletico during the 2020-21 campaign, the Englishman also conceded just 22 times – five fewer than nearest competitor Walker.
And Trippier also led the way on the tackle success front (61.1 per cent) compared to his England right back rivals.
Southgate knows what to expect from Trippier, and when England come up against more deadly attacks, don’t be surprised at all if the Atletico star gets the nod in defence.
Trippier heads into the Euros on the back of Atletico Madrid’s LaLiga title triumph
Games played: 6
Minutes played: 272
Chelsea defender James is the least experienced out of England’s four right backs – having featured just six times for his country so far.
But there’s no denying that the 21-year-old has a big future for both club and country, and he got his first taste of success in style with Chelsea just last weekend after winning the Champions League in Porto.
James got the nod at right back under Thomas Tuchel for the biggest game in club football, and despite his relative inexperience he delivered – keeping Raheem Sterling and Co very quiet from the off at the Estadio do Dragao.
James’ blistering pace and strength makes him a handful for any opposition winger, and he can do everything – both in attack and defence.
Going forward, James, who has the composure needed on the ball, scored once and produced five assists for his Chelsea team-mates in 47 matches – sitting joint second-highest on the goal involvement front compared to his right-back compatriots.
Reece James’ all-round ability made him an attractive proposition for England boss Southgate
The Blues youngster also produced 56 key passes – only Alexander-Arnold beats him in this department with a staggering 97.
And James isn’t afraid at all either to beat his man – making 1.18 successful dribbles per match, which is more than Southgate’s other right backs.
But defensively James can also hold his own, having enjoyed a tackle success rate of 60.9 per cent while making 5.67 recoveries per match for Chelsea thanks to his pace.
After a fine end to the season for his club Chelsea, he has certainly put himself into the reckoning for a starting berth for England at the Euros.
James enjoyed his first taste of success last weekend after winning the Champions League
AND HERE’S HOW YOU CAN FIT ALL FOUR IN…
Before we get started, we should stress that it is very unlikely that fans will see this line-up when the Euros get underway. But stranger things have happened before!
The only way that Southgate can fit all four natural right backs into his starting XI is if he plays three centre backs and wing backs either side.
In the system below, 3-5-2, James and Walker would sit alongside Harry Maguire – when fully fit – in a back three with Tripper in the right wing back position and Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell on the other flank.
And to fit Alexander-Arnold into the side, he could be deployed in the midfield alongside Liverpool team-mate and captain Jordan Henderson – again, when he has fully recovered – or Declan Rice, and Mason Mount.
Alexander-Arnold certainly wouldn’t look out of place in England’s midfield thanks to his composure and talent on the ball, and with his range of incredible range of passing, Harry Kane and Co wouldn’t be short of chances up top.
And Southgate, speaking of his choice to pick four right backs, argued that the quartet can all play a big role for England this summer.
‘Yes, we have four players who sometimes play at right back with their clubs but Kieran is here and he has been playing at wing-back as well as right back.
‘Reece James has been playing right of a three or right wing-back, Trent plays at right back and Kyle Walker has played at centre half for us in a three and also played at left back for us in a game against Denmark.
‘Reece James was in midfield (for Chelsea) against Aston Villa. Basically they are our best 26 footballers and that is why they are in the squad.
‘If I could have picked five or six right backs I probably would have. For me it is no drama, I accept as the England manager this is what I deal with.’
However, as already stated, the above XI is just a bit of fun and is far from the line-up expected when England begin their campaign against Croatia in 11 days time.
Most significantly, the likes of Jack Grealish, Declan Rice and John Stones will be in line to start thanks to brilliant seasons, and we can expect an attacking line-up when England get going in the group stage.
COMPARING MAJOR HONOURS
KYLE WALKER (Man City)
Premier League: 2017-18, 2018-19, 2020-21
FA Cup: 2018-19
Carabao Cup: 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21
Community Shield: 2018, 2019
TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Liverpool)
Premier League: 2019-20
Champions League: 2018-19
UEFA Super Cup: 2019
FIFA Club World Cup: 2019
KIERAN TRIPPIER (Atletico Madrid)
REECE JAMES (Chelsea)
Champions League: 2020-21