If England fail in Qatar, it will not be because they have excluded Alexander Arnold | England

Maybe, maybe everything will be fine. Yes, there is no reasonable world in which a chaotic 3-3 draw looks like farewell to champions in a tournament. And yes, one of the film’s first rules is that the moment anyone suggests things might be okay is a guarantee that they’re, in fact, definitely going to be anything else.

Never open the closet door. Never shout “Who’s there?” in the dark. Never sing happily on the radio in the shower. And never come close to a major tournament convinced that it’s disappointing England It could flutter on it, that things might click. They don’t click. There is no click.

The good news from defeat Italy and the Draw with Germany Is that there are only three things wrong with England now. The bad news is that these three things are defense, attack and goalkeeper. Yet somehow, watching Gareth Southgate give his final pre-tournament speech deep in the gray concrete pitch of Wembley Stadium on Monday night, it was tempting to feel that this is the strangest of things: not exactly hope but the feeling that this team might be out of the world. A cup, wherever he is, with a growl instead of a moan.

There is a sense of division now. In the last few games it has been possible, for the first time, to see ghosts around this English team, a flash of familiar outlines, the shadows of England coaches past lurking out of sight as Southgate walks on the touchline, feels the pull in the tail of his jacket, a whisper is heard in his back. Now you, too, are like us. This thing will soon be gone. How you will play, and what the story of this breakdown becomes, will be important to Southgate and indeed to whoever comes next.

The truth is that he was a good coach for the England national team. Defensive football and a tight attacking tactic have propelled England deep into two championships. But that winning plan is now outdated. Defense is worse, not better. Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, the number one attacking choice five years ago, are still the number one attacking choice now. It turns out that the so-called golden hand of super talent for generations is more than just a bag of junk. Building another team is difficult. Southgate has his limitations as a coach. It did not.

Trent Alexander-Arnold takes a shot during last weekend's England training session at St George's Park.
Trent Alexander-Arnold takes a shot during last weekend’s England training session at St George’s Park. Photo: Eddie Koog/FA/Getty Images

The question now is how to blame, because blame is key to the way English football wants to see itself. There can be no reasonable failure, no acceptable default; Only howls, supervision, lions are led by donkeys. The natural state of grace, the hypothetical choice – the victory of England – was betrayed only by the greed and foolishness of those in the center. A common misconception is that the national sport is football. The national sport is in fact moaning about football, and complaining about football in a way that maintains this illusion.

For now, it seems likely that this desire will rest on a single player. It’s clear enough that there is no match left that Trent Alexander-Arnold will not be in the Qatar squad. That’s a huge shame because he’s a fantastic footballer, a pure joy to watch, and perhaps the most creative, original and luxurious player of this English generation. But Alexander Arnold’s idea that he should be seen as a famous cause, and his choosing not to be a general injustice, and an example of all that is wrong, is also misguided, and one that collapses under any scrutiny.

It could also be that Southgate has a wrong plan, a boring plan, or a plan you simply don’t like. But to suggest not choosing Alexander-Arnold is unfair, illogical, or personally motivated is absurd. Quite simply, he hasn’t had a very good season. Meanwhile, England have three high-class right-handers, all playing in multiple positions, all of whom are less dangerous defensively. And Southgate isn’t – were you watching? About being defensively risky. Reece James is also a good young player with a pedigree in the Champions League. Kieran Trippier is a tournament warrior. Kyle Walker is… Kyle Walker. The three are progressing in shape. In fact, the opposite is true: It would be irrational and unfair for Southgate to choose Alexander Arnold before any of these three for the time being.

This is where the Harry Maguire comparison might intrude. Like Alexander Arnold, Maguire is also in disrepair yet still gets picked. Explain it, brother. In fact, both are unrelated. There is no comparable set of ready-made alternatives to Maguire. Maguire was on the UEFA squad last summer, while Alexander-Arnold did not play well for England. It may be a bad choice, false loyalty, and doomed to failure. But there is still logic behind Maguire. This choice has a series of reasons behind it, and is perfectly in line with the past six years.

Was Alexander Arnold given a chance to earn the same margin of error? Eighteen caps in five years does not indicate that. He ran when he was fit and available. He would have participated in the Euro Championship had it not been for the injury. In the meantime, this attitude was hardly a problem. England conceded one goal on their way to the European Championship final. The defenders scored important goals. We’re fine, thanks.

There is a case where Alexander Arnold for England should have been chosen out of this process as a special case, simply because he is so talented, due to not having used all that creative ability. He is a uniquely dreamy footballer, not so much a linebacker as an itinerant playmaker, and a relentless creative force. But he basically plays a very well-designed position when he’s in great shape, in a Liverpool squad that is well-equipped to fit in. England don’t play that way. It is not in shape.

Why all the hype? Why should this become a well-known cause, an injustice, with repercussions of hostility and nepotism? What does this arrangement need to create a sense of betrayal in every series of bad outcomes? As anyone who has watched them long enough knows, England have had lazy, incompetent and partial managers in the past. But, whatever Southgate’s failures may be, this is not so.

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