Trent Alexander-Arnold has been ruled out of Euro 2020 after sustaining a thigh injury in the closing stages of England’s 1-0 win over Austria on Wednesday. The Liverpool right-back is devastated by a setback which will keep him out for four to six weeks.
After lengthy debate over whether Alexander-Arnold would be in the squad and surprise at the selection of four right-backs, Gareth Southgate must choose a replacement. James Ward-Prowse, Jesse Lingard and Ollie Watkins are most prominent on the standby list and Ward-Prowse would appear to be the favourite, not least because England’s manager has only four pure central midfielders and one, Jordan Henderson, is a doubt for the opening match against Croatia on Sunday week.
Southgate will not name his choice until after this Sunday’s game against Romania. The delay will ensure greater intensity in training from the standby players, all of whom are due to remain with the squad for the final warm-up match. Ben White and Ben Godfrey are the other outfield options.
The Football Association said of Alexander-Arnold: “A scan on Thursday confirmed the 22-year-old will be unable to play in the forthcoming tournament so has withdrawn from the England squad to return to his club for rehabilitation.”
The other significant headline from Wednesday involved booing by some fans when the teams took a knee in the fight against racism, and Southgate has cast doubt on whether England’s players will continue with the action. He will canvas opinion within his squad and a decision will be taken after his seven Manchester City and Chelsea players join up on Saturday.
There were jeers at various grounds after the return of fans when players took the knee and the same happened in the England friendly. When the players knelt, there was an immediate round of boos before, after a few seconds, the rest of the stadium applauded to drown it out.
“What has happened [against Austria] probably means I need to have another conversation with the players first and foremost because I need see how they feel about it and that’s an important discussion for us to have,” Southgate said. “I know there was some concern in March that we were losing some of the impact [of the gesture] so after what has happened we need to consider whether we continue to do the same thing, whether we do something different and I’m sure the players will have a really good view on that.”
Southgate offered an update on Henderson, who was scheduled to play some part against Austria after his three-and-a-half-month groin injury lay-off only to feel discomfort. The manager said of the Croatia game: “I don’t think it would be fair to rule him out of it but I think it’s clear to everyone how much football he has missed. The timelines are getting more difficult with each training session he might miss and to not have those match minutes against Austria is a blow.”
Henderson’s potential absence brings Jude Bellingham and Kalvin Phillips into the frame to start with Declan Rice in midfield against Croatia. Bellingham, 17, impressed on his full debut against Austria and Phillips is fit after a shoulder injury.
“He’s in full training, he’s got the complete strength,” Southgate said. “We had just taken the decision earlier in the week that the second game [against Romania] would allow him maximum possible time to recover.
“Is Bellingham ready to start against Croatia? The best way to answer that is to say he is not just here for the experience. We had a really nice moment when Jordan Henderson presented him with his shirt before the Austria game because that was his first start and Hendo spoke a little bit about him.
“The whole group respect him. He plays with … I don’t want to say a lack of respect because he has a huge respect for everybody here but he doesn’t respect them in training and he competes with them like he’s been with them from day one.”