Trent Alexander-Arnold suffers an injury against Austria
Gareth Southgate has made a point of reminding himself that these pre-tournament build-up periods never go completely smoothly, but Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury now represents a significant bump. It may cause a significant change of plans.
The Liverpool right-back could be seen to mouth “it’s gone” when he came off holding his thigh against Austria, before being helped off. Southgate admitted he does have genuine concerns.
“It looks like his thigh but we don’t know the extent at the moment,” the England manager said. “Clearly it’s not a good sign that he had to walk off, and he looked in some discomfort with it. But we’ll know more in the next 24-48 hours.”
Southgate may yet have to make another call, and it said much about the situation that he was acknowledging outright questions over whether someone else might be called up. Jesse Lingard would appear next in line, and the midfielder strengthened his case with a solid performance against Austria that included setting up the goal. Southgate also made a point of praising James Ward-Prowse and Ollie Watkins.
“Jesse’s response to the situation has been immense,” Southgate said. “As has Prowsey and Ollie. It’s a really difficult situation for those lads to miss out as they have, but they’ve shown commitment. We want to keep the boys involved, as much as anything to keep the group together, because there is a possibility we could get more injuries.”
Southgate might well consider changing the make-up of his squad in terms of position, but that is also why the Alexander-Arnold injury articulated another issue.
There are a number of key players going in to the tournament well off full fitness. Jordan Henderson was supposed to be involved against Austria, but felt some discomfort in the morning. Southgate felt he just couldn’t risk him, which shows how fraught his situation is. Both he and Harry Maguire are struggling to be fit for the Croatia game, which begs the question of whether the England manager surrendered an old principle of refusing to pick injured players.
It should be acknowledged that the 26-man squad does change things. Southgate also knows the psychological value of having Henderson and Maguire around, something he made a point of stressing in the pre-game press conference. But there’s also the reality that the England manager has had to build a squad around that, and allow a few compromises.
Some believe it may yet lead to him calling up another centre-half if Alexander-Arnold is injured. Everyone hopes that isn’t the case, though. Whatever happens, Alexander-Arnold will be with the squad for the next few days.
“All the players are going to stay until the end of Sunday’s game,” Southgate said of the Romania match. “We’ll make an assessment on the whole squad once we get through that. That is a bit of a challenge for us really.”
That reminds how bumpy these build-ups can be.
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