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IAN LADYMAN: Reece James should start at the World Cup, but won’t leave Trent Alexander Arnold behind

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Early in Liverpool’s thrashing of Bournemouth, Trent Alexander-Arnold started a move in his own half and pushed forward twice, looking for passes that didn’t come.

He landed in the opponent’s penalty area without the ball. Moments later, he scored a beautiful goal. Then he caused an evil cross that led to another.

At Old Trafford, Manchester, last week, it had been more difficult. With Liverpool retreating, their right-back made some bad decisions. He looked uncomfortable and admitted wrongdoing.

Reece James (second from left) should be a starter for England at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Trent Alexander-Arnold's performance as a right-back for Liverpool means he must be involved

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s performance as a right-back for Liverpool means he must be involved

This is what we know about Alexander-Arnold and this is what makes him so hard to pigeonhole.

However, what I also think I know is that Chelsea’s Reece James is a better defender and should therefore be chosen for Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad. Success in major tournaments is built from behind.

If England want to do well in Qatar, it will be a question of defensive soundness. Or me, James should be on the team, but under no circumstances should Alexander-Arnold be left at home. He’s too talented and versatile not to be there. As a substitute, he has the skills to turn a match around.

Ten Hag must show more respect for reporters

Erik ten Hag has had a good week, but by failing to answer a question from a Sky reporter with whom he has history during his Friday press conference, he threatened to enter Sir Alex Ferguson’s grounds.

Ferguson always got away with that because he had a dresser that cracked with trophies. Ten Hag has two wins out of four in the Premier League so far. It seems early.

Leicester has withheld a £75million fee from Chelsea for Wesley Fofana and no wonder. When Brighton was negotiating the sale of Marc Cucurella to the London club, they squeezed out a further £10 million within 24 hours. They still laugh about that.

Alex Neil has been confirmed as Michael O'Neill's successor at Championship club Stoke

Alex Neil has been confirmed as Michael O’Neill’s successor at Championship club Stoke

O’Neill did a good job keeping the Stoke ship stable

Chasing the Premier League dream is expensive for those in the championship and if it doesn’t work it could set a club back years. This is what happened in Stoke City, where the man whose job it was to fix the leaks in the roof has just been fired.

Michael O’Neill is best known for taking Northern Ireland to the European Championship in France in 2016. He joined Stoke in November 2019 with England’s second tier club bottom.

The squad he inherited in the Potteries was overpaid and under-performing. There were players at Stoke signed by each of the previous four managers – Nathan Jones, Gary Rowett, Paul Lambert and Mark Hughes. Some of them were making over £40,000 a week. The financial complexities of a club that had pursued a return to the top division since their relegation in 2018 was sobering.

Stoke had chosen to try to find a way back to the big days by being ambitious and it backfired. They are not alone in this. The championship has been described as the Wild West of football for a reason. There is no competition in Europe that is so competitive. Nor one characterized by such naked despair.

O’Neill, 53, walked right in here with his eyes wide open and left last week with that sense of sadness familiar to all managers who lose their jobs. He also knows what he has done for the club. He didn’t take them back to the Premier League the way he wanted to, but he rebuilt the house for someone else to move into and that, as mundane as it sounds, was the really important part.

Under O’Neill’s supervision, Stoke’s wage bill fell by nearly 50 percent. After saving them from relegation in his first season – they finished 15th – he then led them through the pandemic.

Some players coming to the club now can expect to be paid in the region of £10,000 a week or less. Others are paid more, but those are wages that now suit Stoke’s circumstances.

Stoke, of course, flew high once. They played in the Premier League for ten years. Hughes was responsible for that, as was Tony Pulis before him. There was a time not long ago when players like Peter Crouch, Michael Owen and Marko Arnautovic wore the famous red and white.

But this was not the Stoke City that greeted O’Neill. No, this version was a club that needed work on their medical, sports science, and lending departments, a club that had to move off the field before anything major could be done about it.

Stoke is a club run by good and reliable people. The Coates family is a success story from Staffordshire. Their bet365 business is a huge force for good in the area, in terms of job creation and reputation. In 2006, the family bought and rescued their football club in their hometown when it was full of debt and in shambles. Five years later, Stoke appeared in an FA Cup final.

If Stoke had indeed found their way back in the first few years after relegation, O’Neill would not have needed the steady rebuilding that will be his legacy. But they didn’t, so it was there. When he took his team to Ireland earlier this summer for the pre-season, they flew with easyJet.

Alex Neil is Stoke’s new manager. His squad is young and hungry and he has experience with promotion.

It seems like a good deal and a reminder that football remains a results-oriented business. Stoke had only won once this season under O’Neill.

But in the championship there are often other forces at play, other things that can be more important for a while. Look behind the curtain and it is surprising what you sometimes see.

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