It was presumed that the debate around the place of Trent Alexander-Arnold at Euro 2020 had been put to bed after his recent run of games.
The 22-year old has been in brilliant form for Liverpool over the last couple of months, presumably easing any concerns about his ability to perform at a high level at the tournament this summer.
Gareth Southgate caused plenty of shock when he left the right back out of his England squad for the March international window, but you could see the logic behind it. Alexander-Arnold had been on a poor run of form, while he also looked like a player badly in need of a rest. The fact that England had plenty of other options at his position was an added bonus.
Despite this, it is clear that none of the likes of Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, or Reece James can match his attacking output when he is playing well. However, his place at the tournament this summer may not be as assured as one would have assumed.
David Ornstein (a journalist who is usually well informed when it comes to matters surrounding England) wrote in his column for The Athletic this morning that Gareth Southgate is unlikely to have changed his thinking on Trent Alexander-Arnold's place in the squad and is set to select Walker, Trippier, and James in his stead.
The England manager is believed to be too wary of the Liverpool's man's perceived inefficiencies at the back and feels he will not function in his system.
Should this come to fruition, it cannot be seen as anything other than a cataclysmic failure for Gareth Southgate as England boss.
What is the main role of an international manager? Ultimately, it is to get the best out of the players at their disposal. Unlike the club game where managers can sign players to fill holes in their team, the international game requires coaches to maximise what they already have.
There is little doubt that Trent Alexander-Arnold is amongst the most talented English players around at the minute. Few names in world football at any position can match his ability on the ball.
Those defensive issues have also been massively overblown. Yes, he can be caught out at the back on occasion. However, he is hardly a slouch in that regard. Yesterday was a prime example, with the defender making a goal saving intervention with the game in the balance against West Brom having been asked to play alongside two massively experienced centre backs.
Trent Alexander-Arnold appreciation tweet. 🏴⭐️ pic.twitter.com/dfyh0RZ1vr
— Samuel (@SamueILFC) May 13, 2021
Alexander-Arnold does caught out in behind, but the main reason for that is just how high he is asked to play in that Liverpool team. In attack, he essentially functions as a winger.
The players who are in line to be picked ahead of him are hardly behemoths at the back either. Kieran Trippier is the best of them from a defensive standpoint, although he is limited in other aspects.
Kyle Walker has been known to give away soft goals for the best part of a decade, even if his pace does allow him to recover from those mistakes on occasion. Reece James is more physically gifted than his Liverpool counterpart, but he too is prone to defensive mistakes. Just look at the origins of Youri Tieleman's FA Cup final winner for proof of that.
All of this comes in the context of Alexander-Arnold being far superior to all three on the ball.
The fact that Southgate often uses a system with three at the back would make this all the more egregious. There should be no system better suited to allowing him to play to his strengths.
Ultimately, does this come down to a lack of belief in his own players from Southgate? He seems far more concerned with stopping the opposition as opposed to the damage his team can do at the other end despite the depth of talent within his squad. His reluctance to use Alexander-Arnold is the best example of that.
If he refuses to allow his most talented players to flourish, it won't be too long before he is found out at the top level.