Exclusive: England star told he ‘can’t cheat’ in new role as ‘instinct’ threatens Euro 2024 chances

Jason Soutar

England’s Trent Alexander-Arnold may need to make mistakes to learn how to shine in midfield against a top side, Matt Upson exclusively told Football365.

Liverpool defender Alexander-Arnold was given the nod in centre-midfield next to Declan Rice for Sunday’s Euro 2024 opener against Serbia on Sunday.

Speaking to F365 via luckyblock.com, former Arsenal and England centre-back Upson said he fears for Alexander-Arnold’s right-back “instinct” when playing in the middle of the park. He said:

“He’s a right back, so can he play in midfield? He’s shown that he can and he’s got he’s got an amazing skillset and I thought he had moments with his passing. He had a couple of lovely long balls. He did the simple things really well.

“It’s just that instinct, certainly out of possession, that you almost can’t cheat, that you’ve got to learn it and you’ve got to expose yourself to it and you’ve got to have those experiences. You’ve got to then build on it, get it wrong and figure it out.

“He’s done it at right-back so he knows that position, he knows his distances, he knows his angles better, he knows when to isolate one-v-one or show him inside or outside.

“He hasn’t been able to get those minutes in that position so that’s why it raises an eyebrow.

“It’s an interesting question and everyone is asking it because this guy is a right-back and he’s playing as a centre-midfield player at the Euros. He has played there for England, but I remember one of the games was Malta and it’s a really comfortable match where he can shine.

“But there’s going to be moments where these tiny little decisions are going to define the outcome of the game. That’s where the decision to start him in there becomes more interesting.

“Why wouldn’t you want to get him in your team? It doesn’t appear Southgate wants to select him in right-back as he’s obviously got Kyle Walker, who’s such an experienced full-back doing a great job.”

It is possible that Alexander-Arnold will be able to grow into his new position as the tournament progresses.

Several pundits – including Roy Keane – have suggested that the Liverpool man will get found out against your Frances and Spains in the latter stages.

Asked if the group games will prepare Trent for playing against a world-class midfield later this summer, Upson explained the difference in playing in midfield and full-back.

“It could work. One time the ball came to him with his back to play and he had a loose touch that bounced off him and Mitrovic missed. That’s a little highlight of not being used to receiving the ball with your back to play. It’s such a different feeling.

“He’s got the whole pitch (in right-back) and the ability with his right foot to hit anywhere, because it’s that good, it’s the best, it’s fantastic.

“We’ll we’ll have to wait and see if it’s enough.

“He did some really good things (defensively). He has a defensive instinct because he’s a full-back.”

Speaking of players operating in a different role, England captain Harry Kane played as a poacher – an Erling Haaland, if you will – rather than dropping deep to get involved against Serbia.

Upson believes the different system ‘affects’ Kane’s game more than any other attacker in Southgate’s team.

“It’s a different role for him. I think all of these changes with his attacking players, he’s probably the person most affected that has to adapt his game and he openly said last night, ‘I stayed out the way, I tried to occupy Milenkovic’.

“Harry Kane’s big skill is to drop and pass around the corner…his passing is superb.

“It’s different for him, it just keeps him in the box only thinking about scoring? I don’t care if he only touches the ball two times; if one of them is a goal, who’s bothered?

“I thought Harry did really well towards the end of the game because he won two or three fouls. He was clever, took the contact, went down and he just broke the game up. He’s got amazing experience and understanding.”

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