Trent Alexander-Arnold’s displays in midfield for both Liverpool and England have come in for huge praise from both managers and pundits throughout the game.
Alexander-Arnold has long been recognised as one of the best creators in the Premier League, but his performances at full-back were becoming increasingly concerning and counted against him internationally.
But the 24-year-old has been given a new lease of life by his move into midfield and his efforts against Malta caught the eye of every England fan watching the match.
“It is certainly an avenue,” he said afterwards. “One that is clearly being explored and is something the manager wants to explore and I want to explore. It is one that is exciting for the future, and who knows?
“For me, I want to make sure I am playing as many England games as possible and that has always been the aim, causing headaches for the manager. I think this is a potential route we can go down that will help me get into the team.”
We’ve picked out seven more opinions about Alexander-Arnold’s move into midfield for club and country.
“A lot of what happens is going to be dependent on his club, because the fact he has been playing partly in there, with the ball, has helped his transition tonight,” said Southgate after England’s 4-0 win over Malta.
“What was pleasing tonight is that he’s getting used to receiving in tight areas with his back to goal and players behind him, whereas he is used to playing on the touchline, with the play in front of him. He was very comfortable doing that.
“I’ve got no questions in my head. He can do it. It’s just learning some nuances of the role, without the ball especially, but he’s very keen to do it.
“He has enjoyed the project, if you like. We talked about it about four weeks ago on the phone and I think he’s been excited by it.
“He showed exactly what we think he could be capable of and he gives us something different to our other midfield players.”
Sky Sports pundit and Liverpool legend Carragher took to Twitter on Friday evening to say he expects Alexander-Arnold’s move into midfield to become permanent.
“This midfield role for TAA will eventually become the norm for club [and] country,” he said, adding that Alexander-Arnold could reach “double figures for goals and assists” for Liverpool if he plays a full season there.
“I think the crucial word in that interview was comfortable, and he looked comfortable out there,” Cole said on Channel 4 after Alexander-Arnold’s midfield masterclass against Malta.
“When you have a system, there is no player barring Lionel Messi who has not got weaknesses in a position that brings out the best of those qualities he’s got. You get the best out of him, he is an outstanding passer of the ball, he can make things happen and he understands the space in midfield.
“Defensively, he was very good and got the ball back. He looked very comfortable and he looked happy and that is what you want, a happy, smiley Trent in an England shirt because you know you are going to get performances, you know you are going to get assists and goals.”
“Not only does Trent Alexander-Arnold have the ability to play in midfield, he looks like he wants to,” wrote Murphy in his Daily Mail column.
“Body language is important for a footballer and he had a spring in his step against Malta. It might have even been a relief to try out another position when his defensive play at right-back has come under such scrutiny.
“For all Trent’s obvious technical abilities, I’d say as a former midfielder one of the key reasons he can flourish there is his bravery.
“He is fearless on the ball, prepared to take risks with his passing and crossing in order to be creative.
“He doesn’t mind failure and that suits him as a game-changer because there aren’t too many who have the self-belief to try to make an impact, knowing that not every action will work out perfectly.
“My hunch is that Jurgen Klopp will still start him next season as a defender who steps into midfield when Liverpool are on the ball but the England dynamic is a bit different.
“If Trent wants an international career, he probably has a better chance dovetailing in midfield with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham rather than competing against Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier at right-back.”
“It depends what system we play,” Bloxam from The Redmen TV told BBC Sport. “If we go with the same system, Trent is a full-back, just an inverted one coming into the central midfield role,” Bloxam told BBC Radio Merseyside’s The Red Kop podcast.
“The problem is when you see teams exploit us, it is always down Trent’s side when he’s too inverted as that is his new role.
“So it depends what Klopp wants to do, but the problem is you need cover for Trent. He has been phenomenal in the role. My biggest worry is what if he picks up an injury and isn’t available in that role? What do we do then? Do we revert back to 4-3-3?
“We need someone to be the back-up to him. I think him in that role is absolutely brilliant.
“I’d love to see him in midfield, whether that means us getting a right-back I’m not too sure. I just think we have to fine-tune it. Konate has done a lot of heavy lifting there. The more we get used to the system, used to where we need to be, when to press, what Klopp wants for us in every moment, then I think it’s really exciting.”
However, Agbonlahor is not convinced Alexander-Arnold would be as successful as he has been against better teams.
He told Football Insider in April: “We’ve only seen him do it in a few games. Let’s judge when he’s played an Arsenal, or a Man City, or a Chelsea – when you’ve got top midfielders up against him.
“I would get a right-back no matter what this summer. But I think Trent can only play in midfield in certain games. I can’t see it being a full-time thing.
“You wouldn’t want him in the middle in a big Champions League game, because I think he’d get found out. But we’ve seen what he can do. When he’s got time with the ball on his right foot, he’s so creative.
“In certain games, I think there’s a place for him but they definitely need a right-back.
“They’ve got to have someone to challenge him. The best teams over the years have had two top options – look at Chelsea with Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge. Liverpool need that competition.”
But the final word should go to Klopp, who moved the 24-year-old into midfield for the final two months of Liverpool’s season.
Speaking after Alexander-Arnold’s fine performance against Arsenal in April, the Reds boss said: “It’s not the first time.
“We did that before, but it was it was not that obvious. But we did that before, we put Trent inside. Today, in buildup Trent played more inside, double six, that’s how it is.
“You need to get used to it, obviously. I would say it’s a big step to do it in a game against Arsenal.
“It opened up different opportunities for us, if you watch it back after we learned to use it. I thought he did well. It was not the first time, but not for a while, that’s why I’m fine with how he executed it.”
Klopp could now have an interesting dilemma on his hands about how best to utilise Alexander-Arnold next season. We’re sure Southgate will be watching with interest…