Former England and Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson believes Trent Alexander-Arnold remains a world-class talent and criticism of his form this season is premature.
The 23-year-old, like a number of his Reds team-mates, has been battling for top form this term and that has led to the former academy graduate’s playing being re-examined.
Questions continue to be asked about his defensive abilities and whether he can adjust his game from the way he plays for Liverpool to a more disciplined approach with England.
Alexander-Arnold has been named in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the Nations League matches against Italy and Germany next week but a starting role is far from guaranteed.
“I personally think people should back off,” Johnson told the PA news agency, speaking at an LFC Foundation-SC Johnson Goals for Change partnership event at Anfield.
“He’s set the bar so high in recent years that people are just too quick to jump on his back just because he’s not at the level we’re used to seeing him at.
“We all know he’s better in attack than in defence, but there’s nothing wrong with that; each player is better at one thing than another.
“I think it’s a bit harsh. Of course, he hasn’t played at the level we’re used to, but you don’t lose your ability overnight. He’s still world class.
“Every player goes up and down in form and Trent no more than anyone wants to get back to their heights.
“He’s still a young lad and once he gets started and has a bit more confidence in himself, I’m sure he’ll reach the heights he’s reached in the past.”
While Alexander-Arnold has no competition at Liverpool for his place, the situation is different internationally with Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, Chelsea’s Reece James and Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier all ahead of him in the pecking order.
And while the perception remains that he cannot perform at the highest level, he faces a battle to assert his claims for a starting spot, but Johnson thinks there is no reason why. he cannot excel with England.
“There are two or three people you could make different arguments for,” he added.
“I think Reece James would be the closest competition to Trent, but you have two different players.
“I think Gareth is probably rubbing his hands because if you’re playing against a team that’s going to sit down and put 10 players behind the ball you might play Trent because of his delivery and free-kick ability and then when you are against her you could play Reece James.
“The players don’t want that of course, they want to play every game but the England manager probably loves that.
“Don’t get me wrong, international football is different to the Premier League, you have to play slightly differently.
“At international level, you might be playing against a team that might not be one of the big nations but will have players who can hurt you if you’re not up to your game. .
“But of course he’ll be playing for England for a very long time. It’s going to take hard work, but he’s more than capable.
Johnson attended Anfield where 400 schoolchildren learned about sustainability.
“I remember when I was a kid when you learned about a place you were interested in, you paid a lot more attention to it,” the 38-year-old said.
“It’s very important. There are kids learning how to start recycling, reusable energy and some tips they can use at home.”