After England’s comprehensive 3-0 victory over the United States on Thursday, I was given the opportunity to interview man-of-the-match Trent Alexander-Arnold, pitchside. The right-back has won Liverpool’s Young Player of the Season award twice in a row and scored his first international goal in the game at Wembley.
I asked him what his earliest memory of England fandom was and what it means to wear the shirt as a player now. “I’d probably say Euro 2004”, he said. That’s when Wayne Rooney was born. He bowed out on Thursday. “Obviously it’s an honour to be able to play for your country and represent them. Especially at Wembley – it’s a dream come true”.
Alexander-Arnold felt there were big similarities between playing for England and playing for Liverpool. “I think a lot of it’s the same”, he concluded. “We try and play the same way, to press high to win the ball back.” The 20-year-old said managers Jürgen Klopp and Gareth Southgate teach their sides to “keep possession and dominate the game. In many ways [club and international football] is the same. Obviously, you spend a lot more time with each other because you’re not at home with your family. You’re surrounded by your teammates and staff with England. So, you’re at much closer quarters here. That’s the main difference I’d say.”
The world’s most valuable fullback [according to CIES] feels at home with his England teammates, despite contrasting club loyalties. “It’s easy, really. A big message from the manager is to put club rivalries aside and come together, because this is the team you’re playing for, for a week or so. You have to forget your club football and come together for the greater good of the team.” It’s not been visible in every England team, but Gareth Southgate’s looks like a unit.
Asked where the World Cup ranks in his, albeit short, career, Alexander-Arnold said it’s “definitely up there. I’d say at the very top. It was just an honour at such a young age, something you don’t think would ever happen to someone like yourself. To be picked and to play was a dream come true and something that I’ll never forget.” The former England youth international was just 19 years and 8 months old when he started against Belgium in the World Cup group-stage fixture.
Croatia had just seen off Spain, keeping England in contention for a place in June’s semi-finals, something they grabbed with both hands on Sunday. The Liverpool defender explained why he feels the UEFA Nations League has been helpful for England. “I think it’s good because you’re playing competitive games a lot more often. You’re taking part in [a competition] that means something, and not just friendlies. It gives it that bit more of a competitive edge and something to play for. With a win on Sunday against Croatia we go through. We want to reach the semi-finals and go forward and hopefully have another good summer.”
I mentioned that even though the Nations League is competitive, England’s performance against the USA had been of a high intensity. Southgate’s players had worked as hard as they would in a competitive match. “Yes, because that’s the way the manager has told us to play”, explained Alexander-Arnold. “Whether it’s a friendly or not, we’ll still do the same things and still try to play the same way. We keep playing our football because that’s the most important thing to us.”
“I’m hopefully very close”, the defender said, when asked how far away he is to achieving what he wanted out of a career in football. “For both club and country, we’re doing well and maybe not too far into the future there might be some silverware, for both teams. If we keep working hard, keep trying to improve and get our results on board then hopefully [we’ll win trophies] a lot sooner than people might imagine.”
Finishing off with a bang, I asked Trent Alexander-Arnold whether England are going to win Euro 2020. Refreshingly, the five-cap man wasn’t answering his questions lightly. “That’s the aim; that’s the goal. First, we’ve got to qualify, but after that our goal is to win everything we’re involved in. So, yes, our goal is to win it.”
England are in good stead to challenge for the European Championships of 2020. However, there’s a chance Trent Alexander-Arnold and co. can get their hands on a major trophy a little sooner than that…