The Reds will be represented in the England camp by skipper Jordan Henderson, who is a favourite to take on the captain’s armband for country in addition to club, and Trent Alexander-Arnold. It is a just reward for both having had stellar seasons for Liverpool.
After an injury hit season, midfielder Adam Lallana finds himself on the five man standby list alongside Jake Livermore, Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski and Lewis Cook. You would suggest that if anything happens to England’s midfield contingent, Lallana is likely the first cab off the rank in terms of a replacement.
Henderson’s inclusion is no surprise and his late season form has only served to reinforce his international credentials as opposed to anything else. For some bizarre reason Henderson is still seen as a weak link by some of our own and opposition fans despite the fact that is a key component to the way we play.
He may lack the exquisite passing range of some of the best midfielders around but our midfielders are water carriers. They must press, chase and harry the opposition and make their lives hell. And this is where Henderson excels. He is one of the best in the country at regaining possession. The results of him using the ball aren’t always consistent but they are certainly overplayed. He doesn’t hold us back or hinder us as some of the more outlandish (wrong) views state. The presence of Henderson in the team allows our front three to play the way we do and we wouldn’t be anything like as effective without him in the team. We certainly suffer when he doesn’t play.
Henderson will highly likely be a starter for England and has a very good chance of being selected as captain if he is given the nod on the 18th June for the opening game against Tunisia.
Alexander-Arnold has made thirty three appearances this season and has enjoyed his breakthrough season. Defensively he may make mistakes but ultimately he is a nineteen year old learning his trade and I’m afraid that’s just an expected, if frustrating, by-product whenever you’re giving youngsters their chance to learn in the top flight.
He has shown defensive maturity frequently (he was especially impressive at holding Leroy Sané at bay in both of the Champions League quarter final matches with Manchester City) but has also had harsh lessons. He had huge difficulties against Marcus Rashford and Wilfried Zaha in consecutive league games, for example.
Gareth Southgate said the following about Alexander-Arnold’s call up:
“The first call-up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it.”
I don’t think the young full back will play too often given that Kyle Walker is his direct competition, but if anything happens Alexander-Arnold will fearlessly step up to the plate. Any World Cup playing time will be a tremendous boost to a player who is about to represent his home town club in a Champions League final – what a season for him.
I do feel sorry for Adam Lallana who has had his season curtailed by a string of injuries. Had that not been the case he would have been a key component for both club and country. He’s just back into the Liverpool matchday squad after his latest injury but his return has come too late for a World Cup place. He might yet get in but he is waiting on the withdrawal of another player to be on the plane. As painful as it might seem to him, a proper pre-season will probably do his career more good long term.
Other Reds have missed out – Daniel Sturridge is probably a worthy rival for Harry Kane when fully fit but that is probably never going to happen again. He would have been a big boost to England’s squad but the sad fact is that his body is broken. Dominic Solanke was called up by Southgate earlier this season but will not be surprised to miss out on this tournament, despite slamming home his first goal for the club on Sunday in the 4-0 demolition of Brighton. He will look ahead to future England squads for his next attempt. And of course, Joe Gomez has been ruled out following ankle surgery which is a big shame for him as he would have almost certainly made the cut for the tournament.
There are few expectations of this England team going much beyond the last sixteen of the tournament although that is not been publicly discussed. Privately, I’m sure that Gareth Southgate is more interested in getting tournament experience for the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jesse Lingard to prepare themselves for the future. Southgate has been brave with his selections and so long as he sends our players back to us without an injury for a change, I will be watching our two representatives with great interest in this World Cup.