Contrary to the view of many, Gareth Southgate does not owe Trent Alexander-Arnold anything. The Liverpool right back was dropped on the back of poor form for the most recent internationals and that is how it should be.
Having said that, Alexander-Arnold would be in my squad for the European Championship this summer. I expect Southgate to leave him out and select Chelsea’s Reece James instead, and that would be a mistake.
James is a very talented right back. He will play many times for his country if he continues on his current trajectory. But he won’t play this summer unless something bad happens to Kyle Walker or Kieran Trippier.
It would be a big mistake for England to not name Trent Alexander-Arnold in their Euros squad
He would essentially be there for the ride and what is the point of that?
Alexander-Arnold is different. He is a Premier League and Champions League winner. He has responded well to his recent omission by Southgate in terms of his application and his assist numbers, which have gone through the roof.
If he was in Southgate’s squad, England would have three of the most gifted attacking full backs in Europe to choose from. The Liverpool player can also take free-kicks and corners. He could play as a holding midfielder if he had to. He would be a useful impact sub. How many defenders can you say that about?
Gareth Southgate is likely to bring Chelsea’s Reece James instead, even though he won’t play
So, yes, I would take him but it feels as though Southgate will not. It seems doubts about Alexander-Arnold’s defending will sway him. It is true that holes remain in this side of his game and, even though he is only 22, that may be something he should think about if he does spend more time on the beach over the next couple of months than he would like.
Southgate has three more squad places to fill than usual, of course. The number has been increased by UEFA from 23 to 26 to cater for the effects of a particularly crowded season.
I do not see this helping Alexander-Arnold much. It merely allows Southgate to include Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson in the hope they can prove their fitness.
The other spot will probably go to a forward.
Southgate has three more places to fill than usual but Alexander-Arnold looks set to miss out
The bloated squad feels like a good idea from this distance out but may not help managers or players much by the time the gun goes on the tournament next month.
Players in tournament squads who know they have little or no chance of playing can be a nuisance and a distraction.
The notion that all the fringe members are happy to spend five weeks in a hotel room pulling for the team is a misguided one. Some of them will merely be counting the days until they can go home.
As recently as England’s November get-together, a couple of Southgate’s squad grew restless and irritated by the notion – real or otherwise – that they had no chance of even being on the bench.
It tells you something that some stars, like Mason Greenwood (above), may not make the cut
At least one of those players considered telling Southgate that he no longer wished to be selected, only to be persuaded by those close to him to be less hasty.
Broadly speaking, Southgate’s squad remains what we have long known it to be. It is short of a world-class goalkeeper, overly reliant on the fitness of captain Harry Kane but has a creative heart to it that should encourage us all.
It tells you something when players including Alexander-Arnold, James Maddison and Mason Greenwood may not make the cut.
MY 26-MAN EUROS SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Pickford, Henderson, Forster
Defenders: Walker, Trippier, Alexander-Arnold, Maguire, Stones, Coady, Mings, Keane, Chilwell, Shaw
Midfielders: Henderson, Rice, Phillips, Mount, Grealish, Foden, Lingard
Forwards: Kane, Watkins, Calvert-Lewin, Sterling, Rashford, Sancho
WOMEN’S GAME DESERVES MORE RIGOUR
Chelsea Women were dreadful in losing last weekend’s Champions League final to Barcelona, yet much of the analysis that followed has been from the ‘better luck next time’ category.
Women’s football probably deserves a bit more rigour than that.
Chelsea Women were poor against Barcelona but analysis of the game deserved more rigour
ANFIELD’S HEROES ARE HOMEGROWN
When the horrors of a winter without Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez hit Liverpool hard in January, the club recruited two defenders – Ben Davies from Preston and Ozan Kabak from Schalke.
How interesting, then, that the late-season revival which has taken Jurgen Klopp’s team into the Champions League places has been underpinned by the central defensive partnership of academy graduates Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips.
Phillips has been particularly impressive and was fundamental to what was a tough victory at Burnley on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old cleared one off the line in that game to add to the two he managed in the win at Manchester United.
It’s not a bad habit to have.
Liverpool defender Nat Phillips (centre) has impressed in the club’s Champions League chase
ROY WAS ALWAYS KIND AND CLASSY
When Scott Parker was struggling to get a result as Fulham manager in the early part of the season, he was offered some reassurance by Roy Hodgson.
Parker told me earlier this season: ‘Roy just told me to stick at it and not to compromise my principles. It was reassuring.’
Now it turns out that Hodgson – who oversaw his final game as Crystal Palace manager on Sunday – has leant Frank Lampard an ear, too.
Former Chelsea manager Lampard said in these pages this week: ‘I spoke to Roy a week after leaving. He was amazing and gave me some of the best advice.’
Hodgson’s incredible and eclectic career should not be undervalued. Nor should the merits of simply being a decent bloke.
Roy Hodgson (pictured) has enjoyed an incredible career and he should not be undervalued