‘Lost on the pitch’, ‘one good ball’, ‘didn’t work’ – 10 pundit takes on Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold and some of his critics.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and some of his critics.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s performance in midfield for England v Serbia has attracted a boat-load of critics, including these ex-footballers…


Frank Lampard, who is an expert on unbalanced midfields: “I think the midfield there’s still a question mark about Trent’s position in there. I’m a massive fan of his but to come in at this level and play in midfield, there are so many different elements to the game that you have to understand, especially when he ends up higher up the pitch centrally and there’s a lot of pressing coming from behind, I think that’s something that maybe we look at.

“I think I would look at Kobbie Mainoo and think about putting him in. I just think these kids sometimes come along and they just settle straight into the team. And they just have this awareness. He plays that pass through the lines. You need to be able to find the pass at the right time, Cesc [Fabregas] was brilliant at doing it, through a tight space, through a tight line. I think he sees it, nothing fazes him.”

Gary Neville: “Balance demands that, as the tournament progresses, Alexander-Arnold may be sacrificed in midfield and Kobbie Mainoo played instead. Every good team has a player who can receive a ball on the half turn, set the rhythm of the team and control a game.

“I love Bellingham, Rice and Alexander-Arnold. They are all amazing players. But I’m not convinced the current midfield three can provide that.”

Jamie O’Hara: “Trent Alexander Arnold in the middle didn’t work, he’s not a midfielder. He’s a right back who can play inverted and drop into certain roles, we need to change that midfield up. Who do you play in there? You could go for Conor Gallagher or Adam Wharton, there’s a few options there. You could put Kobbie Mainoo in there, but I think that’s a big step up for him.

“Trent gets caught on the ball too much. I said this before the tournament, it isn’t rocket science, I’ve been a footballer and people know the game. When you play in midfield, you get caught on the ball if you’re not playing in there week in week out.

“It’s a completely different position to right back, the way you move, the way you see, the awareness you need to have and how you have to protect the ball in certain areas when you come under pressure – it is completely different.”

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Roy Keane: “I thought Trent did alright. It was a pretty average England performance. He made a couple of mistakes which he got away with. That’s all part of learning your trade.

“It took me 25 international games to get settled in the midfield. He’s got that range of passing, that’s one good ball in an hour. There will be tougher games ahead.”

Rio Ferdinand: “I just look at it like I’m an opposing midfielder. I’m looking at it thinking, ‘This is a disrespect putting a right-back against me. Nah, I’m going to show you’.

“He’s not a specialised midfielder and I think when the details come into them big games, and half a yard is a massive difference in shutting off the lane to a striker or someone to be getting in with a through ball. That difference and that detail is where you come stuck when you’re not a specialised centre midfielder, and that’s where our concerns will be.”

Emmanuel Petit, World Cup-winning midfielder: “When I look at the game of Trent Alexander-Arnold, I was thinking he was lost on the pitch, he doesn’t know what to do tactically in terms of defending but as well when gets the ball. I have the feeling sometimes he is lost on the pitch, but he is not the only one. This is the responsibility of the manager, I am sorry to say that.”

Ian Wright: “I thought at certain times, especially in the first half, he was way forward, in the kind of positions that Bellingham and Foden were taking up. I was thinking, if he’s meant to be the creative one, starting off the attacks, I thought he was too far forward.

“When he was back and he had time on the ball, we could then see what he’s capable of doing. You look at someone like Wharton, who can play like you want, at some stage, you’re going to have to start playing him.”

Matthew Upson: “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.”

Wayne Rooney: “Defensively, he’s all over the place. He can’t defend. I wouldn’t have him anywhere near the middle of the pitch. I’d have no problem with playing him here [at right-back]. I think in here [midfield], I wouldn’t have him anywhere near there.”

Cesc Fabregas when asked for his verdict: “Mixed. He had a moment where he was superb and maybe a few things came a little too easy with the ball [like when a heavy touch allowed a Serbia chance] but overall he reacted well and showed good personality. The more he plays in there, the better he will become. I’m not worried about that.”