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 several of his Reds teammates, has struggled for form over this period and that has led to renewed scrutiny of the former academy graduate’s game.
Questions continue to be asked about his defensive capabilities and whether he can adjust his game from how he plays for Liverpool to a more disciplined approach with England.
Alexander-Arnold has been called up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the Nations League games against Italy and Germany next week, but a starting role is far from guaranteed.
“Personally, I think people should back off,” Johnson, speaking at an LFC Foundation-SC Johnson Goals for Change partnership event in Anfield, told PA news agency.
“He’s set the bar so high in recent years that people are very quick to jump on his back just because he’s not at the level we’re used to seeing him.
“We all know he’s better forward than defending, but there’s nothing wrong with that; every player is better at one thing than another.
“I find it a little harsh. Of course he hasn’t been playing at the level we’re used to seeing, but you don’t lose your skill overnight. He’s still world class.
“Every player goes up and down in shape and Trent no more than anyone wants to get back to his heights.
“He’s still a young lad and when he starts and gets a little more confident, I’m sure he’ll reach the heights he’s been in in the past.”
While Alexander-Arnold has no competition at Liverpool for his place, the situation is different at the international level with Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, Chelsea’s Reece James and Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier all ahead of him in the hierarchy.
And while the perception remains that he cannot perform at the highest level, he faces a battle to boost his claims for a starting spot, but Johnson believes there is no reason he can’t stand out with England.
“There are two or three people you can fight for with different arguments,” he added.
“I think Reece James would be Trent’s closest competitor, but you have two different players.
“I think Gareth is probably rubbing his hands together, because if you’re playing a team that sits down and puts 10 players behind the ball, you can play Trent because of his delivery and free-kick ability, and then when you are against it. you can play Reece James.
“The players don’t want that, of course, they want to play every game, but the England manager is probably loving it.
“Don’t get me wrong, international football is different from the Premier League, you have to play a little bit differently.
“On an international level, you may be playing against a team that may not be one of the great nations, but they will have players capable of hurting you if you are not right in your game.
“But of course he will play for England for a long time. It will require some hard work, but he is more than capable.”
Johnson was attending Anfield, where 400 school children learned about sustainability.
“I remember as a kid, when you learn in a place you were interested in, you pay a lot more attention,” said the 38-year-old.
“It’s very important. There are kids learning about how to start recycling, reusable energy and some tips they can use at home.”