This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
England were rather flattered by the scoreline on Sunday as a 4-0 win against Kosovo made it seem as if they were dominant over the eastern European outfit.
The Three Lions struggled for large periods against the team ranked 114th in the world before three late goals made it a much more comfortable win.
It was an incredibly flat performance from Gareth Southgate’s side, and perhaps that’s down to the lack of impact made from two Liverpool stars.
England lined up with both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the side against Kosovo.
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As always, the 21-year-old started at right-back, while the Ox started as the right-sided central midfielder alongside Harry Winks.
On paper, lining up in a way that could allow these two teammates from club level to link up seems like a bit of a masterstroke, but another of Southgate’s strategies seemed to counteract what makes these two so successful at club level.
Anyone who’s watched the Reds this season knows that Alexander-Arnold’s strengths lie in his attacking capabilities – the right-back completes 2.6 crosses per game and he has three assists already this term.
His attacking prowess comes from his incredible ability to make overlapping runs, and many of these runs are turned into assists due to through balls from midfielders such as Oxlade-Chamberlain.
However, a look at his heatmap against Kosovo shows that it just wasn’t happening on Sunday.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, the Liverpool full-back spent most of his time around the halfway line, meaning he was unable to get into the positions where he likes to operate, and that led to him failing to find the mark with a single cross.
This may be down to the positioning of Raheem Sterling.
Sterling’s heatmap shows you that he wasn’t operating on the shoulder of the last man in the way Mohamed Salah does for Liverpool.
Salah will often make darting runs in order to allow Alexander-Arnold more room to get a ball in.
However, Sterling was operating in the half-space between the midfield and the defence. and that seemingly left Trent in a bit of an awkward position where he wanted to get forward but the positions weren’t opening up for him.
If Southgate is to utilise one of the Reds’ key players in his starting XI, perhaps he should instruct his right-winger to operate in a way more akin to the way Jurgen Klopp utilises Salah in order to get the best out of Alexander-Arnold.