Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has responded to criticism of Trent Alexander-Arnold, pointing out the full-back has played in and won a number of finals already in his career.
The 24-year-old was named in Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad on Thursday but has come under scrutiny for mistakes made while playing for Liverpool this season.
After last weekend’s 2-1 win against Tottenham, Sky Sports’ Gary Neville said: “In this moment in time, I can’t see how Gareth can go into a knockout game in a World Cup playing Trent Alexander-Arnold.”
But Klopp hit back ahead of Saturday’s Premier League match against Southampton – their last before the World Cup – reminding Alexander-Arnold’s critics he already has a number of winners’ medals in his cabinet.
“I didn’t speak to him [about the England call-up], but I know Trent now for long enough and he knows that apart from playing football, he has no influence [on the squad selection]. There’s a lot of talk around these kinds of things,” Klopp said.
“I heard Gary Neville said something on the big games, like he can’t play in the knockout games. But Trent Alexander-Arnold is now 24 and won quite a few finals, important games where you have to defend.
“He’s played finals – against Chelsea, for example, last year in a final that was incredibly intense – facing world-class players who are better than the players they will face at the World Cup, definitely.
“And he was always there, defending well. I don’t know why we have this discussion, but it’s fine.
“I am not sure he was in doubt but with all the discussions – at least the discussions I followed – if everyone had been available it was likely you don’t take four right-backs.
What finals has Trent Alexander-Arnold won?
- Champions League 2018/19
- UEFA Super Cup 2019
- FIFA Club World Cup 2019
- Carabao Cup 2021/22
- FA Cup 2021/22
- Community Shield 2022
“I don’t know exactly why we have this discussion but it’s fine. When you have the choice between four or five – and [Kyle] Walker is kind of fit and Reece James obviously is not available – I think Gareth is very happy he has Trent as well.
“Trent took it, he is very calm. He plays the football he plays, tries to improve, tries to develop, but I think he would have been disappointed if he had not been there.”
Klopp also revealed how he stays in touch with his players during international breaks, although admits the World Cup will be easier to keep tabs on how they are getting on.
“The number is not too big, there are seven [Liverpool players at the World Cup] and they are important players, but we have a clear rule with how it is in national games,” he explained.
“The boys have to text me with any issues and especially after games. At the World Cup, it’s different because we can see all the games, we can see who is playing, who isn’t playing, we can read the news and get all the information.
“But if it’s a normal international game, like if Brazil plays, it’s tricky to get any kind of information so we need the players to tell us. That’s the contact we will have definitely.
“In the players’ group, it’s clear that when they are winning, the WhatsApp group goes bonkers.
“We are at the training camp in Dubai, that’s round the corner. If the players have to leave the tournament early, they can join us immediately, which is one of the reasons why we go there.”
‘We must focus on ourselves against Southampton’
Liverpool face a new-look Southampton at Anfield, with Nathan Jones taking charge of his first game this weekend following Ralph Hasenhuttl’s dismissal on Monday.
The Saints have won just three Premier League games this season, losing 4-1 to Newcastle on Sunday to seal the Austrian’s departure.
But with little time to prepare for an change in the opposition dugout, Klopp says his side will only be focusing on themselves.
“I actually thought Ralph Hasenhuttl did an exceptional job there, but everything has its time,” he said.
“But if Southampton showed anything, it was for sure attitude. They were a highly motivated team, who were really going for it and these kind of things. With a new manager, there might be an extra 50 per cent, I don’t know, but that’s not our problem because we always expect a really motivated opponent.
“There is not a lot of time to change a lot of things, but in our analysis meeting, it was half Southampton and half Luton just to see what he’s doing, but because we don’t know, we have to focus on ourselves.
“We expect from ourselves a really good game, a game you can win, not because of the opponent, but because we have to. We have to show up, it’s the last game for a long time and that’s why we want to finish on a high.”