Trent Alexander-Arnold received the ball on the half-turn before the surveying the landscape.

Like a trigger, he draws back his left foot before firing the ammunition.

The pass is executed with faultless accuracy. Marcus Rashford didn’t break stride as England ventured into attack.

All with his unfavored foot. Minute 30: Alexander-Arnold, just inside Malta’s half, accepts possession again.

Head up – bang. This time Harry Kane’s the beneficiary of what is the poetic beauty of the Liverpool man’s right foot, the 25-year-old’s raking 40-yard pass falling on a sixpence.

Trent Alexander-Arnold started from midfield as England defeated Malta 2-0 at Wembley

Trent Alexander-Arnold started from midfield as England defeated Malta 2-0 at Wembley 

He played in a more advanced position on the night, stepping into midfield alongside Conor Gallagher and Jordan Henderson

He played in a more advanced position on the night, stepping into midfield alongside Conor Gallagher and Jordan Henderson

It seems it could be a position that Gareth Southgate could look to deploy him in the future

It seems it could be a position that Gareth Southgate could look to deploy him in the future

Wearing England’s iconic No 10 shirt, Alexander-Arnold flicked through his full repertoire here at a sold out Wembley.

One and two touch passing. Dropping in-between centre-backs to initiate attacks. Unerringly precise mid-to-long range balls. Driving runs into the opposition’s half before releasing with impeccable timing.

It’s nothing we didn’t already know, of course. Alexander-Arnold is a thoroughbred. A supremely gifted footballer.

But before we all get excited, what did we really learn about the Anfield star’s true capabilities of holding down a long-term role in England’s midfield on Friday night?

Malta are rated as the 171st best team on the planet by FIFA; as eye-catching as this performance appeared at first glance the quality of the opposition shouldn’t be discounted when dissecting the merits of fully converting Alexander-Arnold from marauding full-back to midfield maestro at international level.

That isn’t to detract from his performance in anyway. You can only beat what’s in front of you.

But it’s time for us to learn more about whether Alexander-Arnold can become a genuine midfield option for Gareth Southgate.

He passed this test with flying colours. It’s time to see if he can hold his own in the engine room against better opposition.

England face North Macedonia on Monday night in their final Euro 2024 qualifier. That would be a perfect place to start.

Alexander-Arnold played some brilliant passes through midfield and dropped back in-between centre-backs to initiate attacks

Alexander-Arnold played some brilliant passes through midfield and dropped back in-between centre-backs to initiate attacks

Phil Foden helped England go 1-0 up, after his cut back was deflected by Enrico Pepe into his own net

Phil Foden helped England go 1-0 up, after his cut back was deflected by Enrico Pepe into his own net

Harry Kane got the second on the 75th minute of the match, tapping in a well-worked team move

Harry Kane got the second on the 75th minute of the match, tapping in a well-worked team move

North Macedonia are ranked 66th by FIFA. If Alexander-Arnold can replicate this sort of showing in Skopje next week then the midfield experiment is worth persisting with.

If he passes that test, then England face Brazil and Belgium in March. Do it then, then Southgate may really be on to something.

Alexander-Arnold would be the first to admit he needs more time to adapt to the subtle nuances of becoming a bona fide central midfielder.

The right-back/midfield hybrid role he has excelled in under Jurgen Klopp will aid his transition towards a more advanced position at international level.

But nothing can quite prepare you for the helter-skelter nature of a central midfield battle at the elite level than being involved in one every three days.

For all intents and purposes, Alexander-Arnold, despite the tactical tweaks to his game at Liverpool, is still effectively playing at full-back with Liverpool.

That’s not to say he doesn’t posses the football intelligence to switch between the two positions. You need only look at the way he controlled this football match from start to finish to realise he does.

Yet whether Southgate believes he can truly rely on a defender in midfield during the unrivalled pressure of tournament football remains to be seen.

What’s for sure is that Alexander-Arnold is desperate to make a fist of an England career that has been dogged by endless negative rhetoric.

He was kicked from pillar to post by the Maltese on more than one occasion only to dust himself down and drive his team forward.

That won’t have gone unnoticed by Southgate.

‘I see an opportunity for me to go and play in the Euros and represent my country. It’s an opportunity I want to go and take,’ Alexander-Arnold said on Monday.

And all of a sudden there’s a real anticipation about what Alexander-Arnold can achieve in an England shirt.

It wasn’t too long ago that Southgate’s press conferences were dominated by questions over whether he truly rated Alexander-Arnold after leaving him out of numerous squads.

Those doubts, at least for now, have subsided. The player deserves the majority of credit for that mood swing.

And while he enjoyed a solid performance in midfield, it is perhaps time to see if Alexander-Arnold can hold his own against better opposition in midfield

And while he enjoyed a solid performance in midfield, it is perhaps time to see if Alexander-Arnold can hold his own against better opposition in midfield

But that could depend on how he fits into the team with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham being Southgate's first choices in midfield

But that could depend on how he fits into the team with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham being Southgate’s first choices in midfield 

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

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But Klopp and Southgate should also be applauded for having the gumption to give their player a platform to showcase his talents further up the field.

With all that said, there’s the minor matter of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham to consider when discussing the true authenticity of Alexander-Arnold’s claims to be an international midfielder.

If Kalvin Phillips leaves Manchester City in January and plays regularly for six months, then you’d imagine he will have an excellent chance of taking the final midfield position at Euro 2024.

But further exhibitions of control and zest like this one from Alexander-Arnold, then Southgate could have a decision to make.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail

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