The stunning Liverpool alternative who can finally end England's Jordan Henderson dependency once and for all

The former Anfield star has once again been included in Gareth Southgate's latest Three Lions squad.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

For the first time in 29 years, the Netherlands do not have a single Ajax player in their squad. England still have one in theirs though. Last week, Gareth Southgate sent out his relevant carrier pigeons to the four corners of the realm and unveiled his party for this coming week's friendly double feature against Brazil and Belgium. A nation collectively groaned when it became apparent that one such bird had found its way to whichever windmill Jordan Henderson is currently occupying.

The decision to call up the 33-year-old was, as is the norm these days, met with howls of indignation, although in truth, nobody can earnestly claim to be shocked by his repeated inclusion in Southgate's plans anymore. If Henderson was continually sneaking his way into the manager's hand luggage while he was cosplaying as Paul Atriedes for Al-Ettifaq, then it stands to reason that he would still pique interest now that he is but a short ferry trip away in Amsterdam. Then again, you suspect that Henderson could sign a bumper deal in the Martian second division and Southgate would still find an excuse to give him the nod.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In justification for his controversial involvement, the national coach said simply: "Hendo is someone who brings a lot to the team." In some respects, that is true; Henderson boasts experience and passion and an encyclopaedic knowledge of blue beverages, as is our shared Mackem birthright. But beyond that, he offers very little. Running at full tilt in straight lines, like an unhinged Nokia Snake, is all well and good, as is passing sideways and barking orders in a treacle thick drawl, but you would like to think that Southgate's fresh crop of twinkle-toed boy princes are capable of operating at a level above such brutalist tendencies.

That being said, presently speaking, England are not exactly blessed with a broad array of viable candidates to sit alongside Declan Rice at the base of their midfield. Jude Bellingham has unequivocally proven that he must play as a number 10, Conor Gallagher is most comfortable in a similarly forward-thinking role, and Scouse workhorse Curtis Jones picked up an injury just as he was beginning to gather the kind of momentum which could have realistically catapulted him into the conversation.

Manchester United wunderkind Kobbie Mainoo is, in the eyes of many, the long-term solution to Southgate's conundrum, but the England manager has also made it abundantly clear that he would rather opt for patience with regards to the teenager's development. Then, of course, there is Kalvin Phillips, a player who, like Henderson, has often benefited from the Three Lions' flexible definition of meritocracy, but who has been so abysmally out of sorts since signing for West Ham in January that even Southgate has seen fit to shelve him for the time being.

There is another alternative, though. At the time of writing, Trent Alexander-Arnold is recovering from a ligament complaint, and is not expected to return to full fitness until the beginning of April at the earliest. Naturally, that rules him out of the current international break, but it would also give him plenty of time to play his way back into Southgate's affections between now the beginning of Euro 2024 in June, all being well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In some respects, the Liverpool talisman is England's midfield wild card. Predominantly deployed as a full-back by Jurgen Klopp, the 25-year-old has only played a handful of games in the centre of the park for club or country, and yet every time he does, he illustrates his obvious potential in a more advanced position. An instinctive reader of the game with as gifted a range of distribution as any talent in the Premier League, Alexander-Arnold feels a little like the renaissance man that the ultra-conservative Church of Southgate has been trying to censor, for whatever reason.

But even the Waistcoated One has reportedly seen the light. According to the Daily Mail, the England boss had every intention of further experimenting with Alexander-Arnold in the engine room prior to his untimely injury blow. Tactically, the merits of doing so are plain to see. Whereas a lot of Southgate's options have a proclivity for driving onwards and restricting the movement of the aforementioned Rice, with all of his newfound attacking prowess, Trent has the feel of a counterpart who would be willing to sit a little deeper and pull the strings from just in front of the back four - a kind of oven-ready quarterback, if you will.

The hope, then, is that Southgate is still brave enough to trust in Alexander-Arnold by the time June rolls around, even without the evidence of this week's friendly omnibus at his back. The frightening alternative is that he musters up a bastardised version of his own Dutch courage to stick with Henderson despite the protestations of the naysayers. And nobody wants that, except maybe Gareth and Jordan themselves.