Gareth Southgate won’t be losing any sleep over the future of England’s right-back spot.
Between Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Reece James, Steven Sessegnon, Natahan Ferguson, Max Aarons, James Justin, Dujon Sterling and Jayden Bogle, not forgetting Kyle Walker in goal, Southgate could field a competitive XI comprised entirely of frustrated wingers.
But for arguably the two most promising of the pack, Alexander-Arnold and James, the future might well involve a breakaway from Southgate’s legion of right-backs.
There’s a real possibility that Alexander-Arnold and James will be pulling the strings in midfield for England once the dust settles on their relatively adolescent starts to life as professional footballers.
As a European champion and the youngest player to start consecutive Champions League finals, Alexander-Arnold’s career is naturally further down the line than James’. Indeed, the 19-year-old was only handed his first league start for Chelsea last weekend, much to the annoyance of Wilfried Zaha.
But while their may be a discrepancy in experience, both Alexander-Arnold and James share the attributes to make the move from right-back to midfield look like a walk in St James’ Park.
It was at the base of a diamond in Pep Lijnder’s Under-16 side that Alexander-Arnold made his way while progressing through Liverpool’s academy.
The decision to convert Alexander-Arnold into a right-back was only made in order to fast track the 21-year-old straight into Liverpool’s first-team.
It’s clear to anyone who’s watched Alexander-Arnold spray balls to all corners of Anfield that he possesses the passing ability and technique to step into midfield at the highest level.
Comparisons with Kevin De Bruyne are currently more flattering on the Belgian, given Alexander-Arnold’s prolific assist return both domestically and in Europe last season.
Whether he takes pictures and scans sufficiently to make the switch from right-back to central midfield permanently- as his Liverpool team-mate Fabinho has done so flawlessly- remains to be seen, but it’s a tantalising prospect.
As for James, you only have to look back as far as last season to see his credentials in the middle of the park.
The 19-year-old spent much of his loan to Wigan playing as a midfielder, despite ending the campaign in the Championship Team of the Season as a centre-back.
Such is his versatility that Frank Lampard has gone on record to state that James could play in midfield, which will be music to the ears of Chelsea captain and right-back rival Cesar Azpilicueta.
James and Alexander-Arnold’s midfield attributes are diverse, hence why the possibility of a partnership at international isn’t out of the question.
While Alexander-Arnold looks to switch the play and pass through the lines to Liverpool’s front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, James prefers to pass short and carry the ball.
England have been found lacking when the midfield has been put under intense pressure but, reassuringly for Southgate, both Alexander-Arnold and possess immaculate technique and unerring composure.
How long until we see that composure tested in England’s midfield?
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