Jurgen Klopp admits he “didn’t understand” Gareth Southgate’s decision to leave Trent Alexander-Arnold out of England’s latest squad.
The Liverpool defender was dropped for the recent World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland, with Southgate suggesting the 22-year-old’s club form had fallen short of its usual standards this season.
With England winning all three games, Southgate will have felt vindicated in his decision, although he attracted criticism from the likes of Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler, Peter Crouch and Ian Wright for his reluctance to find a place for Alexander-Arnold, the current PFA Young Player of the Year and one of the stand-out full-backs in world football over the past three seasons.
What’s been said?
Klopp, speaking at a press conference to preview Liverpool’s Premier League trip to Arsenal, gave a long and impassioned answer about Alexander-Arnold’s omission, and Southgate’s decision.
The Liverpool boss said: “I am a manager myself. I make decisions every day, every weekend, every midweek about team selections and squad selections. We always make decisions that other people probably do not understand.
“I respect that Gareth makes his own decisions, of course, but I didn’t understand it because Trent Alexander-Arnold was in the last two seasons at least, let me say the season before and the season before that, the stand-out right-back in world football. That is the truth and at an unbelievable young age.
“I have no problem if my players get some criticism. They can get it from me, they can get it from other people, but that is the truth. He was the stand-out right-back in world football.
“Now he has started the season with Covid early on which is not good. You can imagine it took him a while to get into the season, but from that moment on he was one of our most consistent players and a stand-out player. Robbo [Andy Robertson] the same. He could play all the time, high level all these types of things.
“So that [form] cannot be the reason that he was not in the squad. If you compare Lionel Messi every year with his best season ever, then he is not performing now like he was performing in 2005 and 2006 maybe. But he is still the world’s best player.
“It is about how you want to play. That is the thing that Gareth has to make sure. He has [Kyle] Walker, an outstanding right-back who can play centre-back as well. Reece James - big talent, absolutely, [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka was not there as well and [Kieran] Trippier, who he knows better or longer, was.
“So that is the situation. It is his decision. It is about how you want to play. If you want to play against a deep defending side then, for sure, the crosses and the passes of Trent, I don’t know anybody who can do that like him. He defends on a really high level for us as well. It is not his first skill but it is not bad.”
Could Alexander-Arnold’s omission benefit Liverpool?
Klopp, asked specifically about that, added: “Of course. He was not with the national team, so he had time to train. He trained at an extremely high level and he showed a reaction when there is no need to do so. He was really ‘in’ the sessions so that was good. He enjoyed the sessions a lot."
Alexander-Arnold has won 12 caps for his country since making his senior debut in June 2018, but now faces an uphill battle to secure a place at this summer's European Championships.
“He is a very ambitious boy, so I am sure he wants to be in the England squad," Klopp added. "I know he wants to be in the England squad and he will try everything to be there again.
“If Trent Alexander-Arnold is not in the squad of England then England must have an extremely good squad! Let me say it like this.
“As a summary, I respect the decision. Of course I do. But I didn’t understand it.”