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Trent Alexander-Arnold not the first to change England role

Trent Alexander-Arnold caught the eye for England in a more advanced No.10 position against Malta to suggest the Liverpool man has a future on the international stage as a playmaker.

The 24-year-old has often found himself on the fringes of Gareth Southgate's plans in recent years and he only managed 33 minutes on the pitch in last year's World Cup with the Three Lions well stocked at right-back.

That has been Alexander-Arnold's main position since he first broke into the Liverpool side in 2017 but, after Reds boss Jurgen Klopp opted to push him into a more advanced position in a hybrid midfield/right side defensive role towards the end of last season, Southgate has now followed suit.

The Liverpool man displayed against Malta just why he looks to be far more valuable to the side in an attacking sense than he is as a defender who often seemed to get caught out of position. 

Not only did he have a big hand in the first goal with a delightful pass over the top for Bukayo Saka but he then fired home a superb goal from distance. 

Southgate will now surely be more than tempted to give him further opportunities in the role and it could be that Alexander-Arnold's long-term future lies as a midfield playmaker pulling the strings for both club and country.

But he isn't the first player to be utilised in different positions for England. 

Here we take a look at others who have fulfilled various roles for the Three Lions, including the current boss:

Gareth Southgate

Throughout his 18-year playing career, Southgate developed into a trusty centre-half, racking up over 500 league appearances for Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.

He also won 57 caps for England and is best 'remembered' as a player when he infamously missed the crucial penalty in the semi-final shoot-out defeat against Germany in Euro 96 at Wembley.

Southgate would sometimes step into midfield for England with Terry Venables keen to use him in a more advanced role when the occasion arose, and he did start out as a midfielder for the Eagles before also being deployed at right-back and then more regularly as a centre-back in his early club days.

It's no surprise then to see the current Three Lions boss, who knows a thing or two about versatility himself, decide to use a talent like Alexander-Arnold in a different position.

Eric Dier

The versatile Dier has frequently played as both a centre-back and a defensive midfielder for club and country. However, early on in his international career he was being used as a right-back, too, and clashed with Southgate when he was in charge of the Under-21s.

Dier pulled out of a squad in 2014, informing the then U21 manager that he wanted to concentrate solely on being a centre-back but that move didn't seem to damage his long-term international prospects.

More often used as a defender for Tottenham, he has operated as a shielding midfielder for England on several occasions more recently, though, and was utilised as a midfielder off the bench when Southgate guided England to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018.

His stand-out moment in that tournament came when he scored the winning penalty in the shootout against Colombia in the last-16.

Jamie Carragher

Carragher was considered a central-midfielder when he first broke through into Liverpool's first-team in 1997 and as a youngster he was a regular as a defensive midfielder for England Under-21s, for whom he made 27 appearances.

As his career went on, the Liverpool legend became a reliable centre-back but not before he was used as both a left-back and a right-back, while for England he also operated in a few different positions, although mostly across the defensive line.

Carragher, now a successful pundit, retired from international football in 2010 after winning 38 caps.

Owen Hargreaves

Hargreaves was another player well known for his ability to thrive in various different roles and was deployed as both a defender and midfielder for England.

He started the 1-0 Group win over Ecuador in the 2006 World Cup in Germany at right-back, but as the tournament went on he was moved into midfield.

His progress was evident and Hargreaves was named Man of the match in the quarter-final defeat against Portugal after being moved into a midfield role and then, later that year, he won both England Player of the Year and England Player of the World Cup in official FA polls - the first player to win both accolades in the same year.

John Stones could be next in line...

With Alexander-Arnold excelling in a different position of late, it could be John Stones' turn next for England.

Stones has just ended the club season as a Treble winner with Manchester City where the centre-back-turned midfielder has, like Alexander-Arnold, thrived in a hybrid role for his club.

Some have suggested City's recent success is in part down to Pep Guardiola's decision to find a unique role for the former Barnsley and Everton man, who made 34 appearances in total for City in their glorious campaign.

After a consistent second half to the season in which he turned in plenty of flawless performances, it now wouldn't be too much of a stretch to see him fulfilling similar duties for England as Southgate continues to try and find the best positions for his talented players to excel in. 

After winning their first three Euro 2024 qualifiers, England are next in action against North Macedonia on Monday at Old Trafford and the Three Lions are 1/8 to win, the draw is 7/1 and North Macedonia are 18/1 outsiders.

Southgate's side are already the joint outright favourites to win the Euros in Germany next summer, available at 5/1 along with World Cup runners-up France, and just ahead of the hosts, who are 11/2.

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