Alexander-Arnold can prove Rooney wrong on England’s centre stage | Jonathan Liew

Doubts have been raised about Liverpool star’s defensive prowess but his ability could make difference at Euro 2024

This past week, Wayne Rooney declared that he “wouldn’t have Trent Alexander-Arnold anywhere near the middle of the pitch”. Which feels just a touch proscriptive, especially when you consider that – given the relatively modest distances involved – pretty much everywhere on a football pitch could be described as “near the middle of the pitch”. Presumably Alexander-Arnold’s role in a Rooney-coached team would be a highly bespoke corner-flag-to-corner-flag operation: shuttling up and down the right flank but bending his runs via the first few rows of the crowd, avoiding that all-important centre‑circle blast radius.

Of course, this was not the only reason Rooney’s comments struck a weirdly discordant tone. “I love him as a footballer and what he does on the ball,” Rooney explained. “But defensively he’s all over the place. He can’t defend.” Which, on the face of it, makes instinctive sense. Rooney wants his midfielders to be skilled in the defensive arts. Simple enough. Until you remember – with a certain irony – that just two Euros ago the defensive colossus Rooney was proposing in the crucial England creative midfield role was none other than Rooney himself.

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