Alexander-Arnold opted with England after confusing Southgate comments

Trent Alexander-Arnold has every reason to feel aggrieved with Gareth Southgate’s decision-making during the March international break.

While his form for Liverpool this season can be described as inconsistent at best, the right-back will have still felt miffed to have been left out of the latest England squad. And when Reece James withdrew from the camp through injury, he can feel hard done by that he wasn’t called up as a replacement.

But the biggest insult to the defender will have been Southgate bemoaning a lack of English talent available to him, as the Three Lions boss suggested he may need to start selecting from “the Championship or elsewhere” in future due to a decreasing number of English players in both the Premier League and Champions League.

“The numbers are the numbers. They’re not going up,” Southgate said earlier this month. “It has been around 32% but that’s down from 35% when I took over and 38% in the years before so the graph is clear – there’s no argument about that. (And) 28% has happened in a couple of weekends in the last few weeks…

“I think we’ve got four left-footed left-backs in the Premier League at the moment so we will have to start looking in the Championship or elsewhere. It becomes more complicated [to succeed]. What’s the best way to judge our players? The Champions League.

“If you look at Champions League minutes this year we are sixth on that list – we’re actually behind Brazil and Portugal. If breaking into the team is the foundation, the Champions League and the upper echelons of the Premier League is the finishing school.
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“The rest of Europe get their foundation in their own domestic leagues and then the cream is sold around the big five leagues and they get the finishing school at the end.

“At the moment we are a long way behind France and Spain on those numbers and it is really interesting that Brazil, who obviously have a really powerful domestic league, now have as many players playing Champions League – or more than we have.”

In the latest 20-man England squad, 11 players have played Champions League football this season, with a further two featuring in Europe’s elite competition earlier in their careers. Five players had at least played in the Europa League, with the final two never playing continental football.

Southgate would initially name a 25-man squad for Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine, only to lose Nick Pope, Reece James, Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford to injury. Fraser Forster would replace his fellow goalkeeper, but no new outfielders were selected, while Luke Shaw would then find himself suspended after a red card in Naples.

From that mini list, James, Mount, and Foden have played Champions League football this season, Shaw and Rashford have in the past for Manchester United, while Pope boasts one solitary Europa League qualifier under his European belt.

So, from 26 players selected, 14 have featured in the Champions League this season, with a further four appearing earlier in their careers. With Arsenal poised to qualify for next season, such numbers will admittedly rise later this year.

Then consider Alexander-Arnold and the four other England players who were included in Southgate’s squad for the 2022 World Cup but missed out in the March international break. Raheem Sterling, who is a Champions League regular like the Liverpool defender, missed out through injury, but Ben White and Conor Coady have only ever played Europa League, while Callum Wilson has never played in Europe.