Collymore’s column: Give Trent time, Palace danger man perfect for Liverpool, Georgia transfer opportunity and more

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In his exclusive column for CaughtOffside, former Aston Villa attacker Stan Collymore discusses some of football’s biggest talking points, including why it’s time to stop criticising Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield, why Michael Olise makes perfect sense for Liverpool, why Premier League clubs need to look at Georgia for transfers and much more.

Let Trent Alexander-Arnold get on with it in midfield

Trent Alexander-Arnold (right) and Jude Bellingham – (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

We either all shut up and let him, Gareth Southgate, and perhaps Arne Slot, play in that position. The only way to learn how to play in that position is to play it! Or we say we’ll give him two games and, unless he’s bloody Michel Platini, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes rolled into one, in 90 minutes we’ll get rid of the experiment.

For me, if you’re going to convert a player from a right fullback into a central midfielder, that’s fine. But now you have to play him in the amount of games that allows him to learn the role. In other words, learning as you go! There was a big clamour for Trent to sit in front of the back four; his passing is great, his free-kicks are great… but to walk into an international tournament, or even the Premier League, and convert on day one isn’t going to happen. So we need to be patient with him.

It’s kind of the same really when Phil Foden played the last friendly against Iceland; he played as a No.10 and didn’t play well. I remember writing a few months back that you either have to give someone the whole tournament in that position or don’t play them at all. Because really, what you’re saying is, ‘We believe Trent can play in midfield, so we’ve got to play him there’. But the problem is he didn’t grow up as a midfielder, so it’s a different role he’s learning. I think he’ll play tonight. If he plays anything above a five or a six out of 10 – he keeps his place! Unless he backpasses in the 90th minute and that guy goes around the ‘keeper and scores and all of a sudden we’re in trouble – even then Gareth Southgate has decided to pick Trent as a midfielder, so you’ve got to continue with it. It’s that simple for me.

People can be as critical as they like and you can be critical and say he didn’t have a great game. I don’t think he did have a great game, I think that sometimes his passing was a little bit off, but I can expand my mind enough to say that the benefits we’re going to potentially get are worthwhile. If Arne Slot plays him there for club, and Gareth Southgate for his country, he’s only two years away from the World Cup in the States, Mexico and Canada. At that point, Trent may have had two or three years as a central midfielder. So it’s got to start somewhere.

You can’t just say to somebody, ‘We’re going to throw you in and expect Steven Gerrard’ because Trent is learning a job. Also, I would say, for me, if we continue with Trent through the tournament, hopefully he plays every game, then we’ve got the Nations League in Autumn. So that’s going to be eight, maybe 10 games over time, then he can confidently start as a central midfielder alongside Jude Bellingham. So we shouldn’t be judging Trent until midway, or towards the end of the Nations League games. Not the European Championship. We’ve all decided he’s good enough to play there, we’ve all had the debate. Let him play there.

Why Trent’s case is different to other England teammates

I think there are question marks at the moment about Bukayo Saka. I don’t know whether he’s fully fit. He didn’t really give much down the right-hand side [against Serbia]. There’s a few potential people, like Jarrod Bowen and Cole Palmer, knocking on the door – that’s a relevant thing to ask! Bukayo Saka is a specialist down the right. By comparison, the thing you have to look at with Trent is his qualities: his passing and his ability to break down the right, overlap and get crosses in the box like a fullback (like he did leading up to the tournament). For me, the glass is half-full with Trent. If you stick with him in the way I would like us to stick with Phil Foden as a No.10 (he’s not at the minute, as that’s Jude Bellingham), then you’re going to reap the rewards. Those rewards don’t come until six, eight, 10, 12, or 15 games down the line, because that process is a conversion process in real time. You have to let it pan out.

Arda Güler, Jamal Musiala and Georgia’s impressive XI

Arda Guler: Turkey’s bright new star – (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

I think Premier League clubs should be taking a serious look at Turkey and Real Madrid’s Arda Güler – he was exceptional against Georgia. The fact he picks the ball up 10 yards outside the 18-yard box and wants to drive directly at people (and he backs himself to beat people) is impressive. He, for me, has been really outstanding. Jamal Musiala has been really good as well for Germany.

The future of European football, young European football, is very good. In terms of if you’re looking for value in the market, you’ve got to be looking at Georgia. I had a look at their squad the other day and I think they’ve got one very well-known player in Khvicha Kvaratskhelia of Napoli, but apart from that the rest are playing for second and third tier teams around Europe. I thought they were on the front-foot, they showed energy and passion, which was exceptional. Technically very good on the ball; they got it and kept it whilst moving forward. So, for me, if you’re a Premier League club or aspirational top-end of the Championship outfit and you’re in a position to prise some of those Georgian lads for €3-6m – you should!

Look at what Brighton did in terms of the Japanese market with Kaoru Mitoma. There’s Celtic in recent seasons under Ange Postecoglou before the Spurs move; he’s previously worked in Japan and took two or three up to Scotland. There are markets out there that undoubtedly have a lot of value.

The one to 11 of Georgia players that featured – as an Aston Villa fan, I would have taken any one of them! They were excellent, they genuinely had a never-say-die attitude. Technically they were brilliant! A lot of teams keep the ball and build through in a very slow, pedestrian manner, before coming alive in the final third. The thing I liked about Georgia is they could fizz the ball in to a teammate which was exceptional, but they also had five or six players that could run with the ball as well. One of the big reasons why Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo shared out Ballon d’Ors over the last decade and a half is because they have the ability to run with the ball. All the great players can pass the ball and all the great players can score great goals in great moments but the ability to run well with the ball is really rare.

Georgia run with the ball extremely well and took the game to their opponents. Georgia will now be watched by lots of people. If you’re looking for bargains – look no further than the Georgian national team!

Leicester shouldn’t regret missing out on Graham Potter

Steve Cooper has been appointed as Leicester City’s next boss – (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

I think Leicester fans will take to Steve Cooper very quickly. I’ve talked football with both Steve and Graham Potter. It’ll be a weird one for Forest fans because they idolise Steve. He took them back into the Premier League for the first time in 20-odd years. So, he holds a very special place in everyone’s hearts at Nottingham Forest Football Club.

In terms of the two clubs moving forward in the Premier League (and under a bit of pressure because of Financial Fair Play), I would take Steve Cooper all day long at Leicester. He’s got the passion, the character and a bit more personality than Graham. Graham, I think, will be looking for a job with a club like Leicester but a year or two further down the line when they’re comfortably mid-table and there aren’t any points deductions looming or fires to fight and he can impose his style of play.

I think with Steve, he inspires a lot of loyalty from his players – that was obvious at Forest. Even the owner, Evangelos Marinakis, if you remember in the first season when Forest came up, Steve was under a lot of pressure because of how many games they were losing. Marinakis gave him a new contract because the Forest fans were calling for Steve to stay. Leicester City fans will like that. They’ll like the passion Steve brings and I think in a season that may potentially start with some kind of punishment, Steve Cooper is a better choice in this moment (not necessarily overall compared to Graham Potter), whereas Graham will probably be looking to go to a stable club and take them from the middle of the table into European positions. I think that’s what Graham Potter’s holding out for.

Perhaps Graham was holding out for a promise that he would get money to spend this summer. With Steve, he wants to get back into the game and the Premier League very quickly. I think he’s the right man for Leicester City and they’ll enjoy having him there. Whether or not he keeps them up is another thing because they may be subject to hostile bids from other clubs for talents like Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. Some of their younger talents have also caught the eye. Everyone has talked the talk at Leicester that they want to stay, but you might get a situation where, if they’re struggling and facing a points deduction, they might be having to balance the books by losing one or two players.

So, for me, Steve Cooper is the right man at the right time for the right club.

Michael Olise would make ‘perfect sense’ for Liverpool

He’s going to end up at another Premier League club this summer. I think it would make perfect sense for Liverpool. You’d think Arne Slot will be given a ‘welcome to Liverpool gift’, which would, of course, be a player. When a new manager comes in they often want young and hungry talent – someone who, when they leave several years down the line and they’re on the TV doing punditry, can say they were the person who brought in a certain player, like Michael Olise.

If I’m Olise and I’ve got a choice of Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, what have you – I’m going for Liverpool all day long. Why Liverpool? They’ve got some great attacking options, they’ve also got some very good young players who can help him along. Trent Alexander-Arnold is still very young, there’s Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones too, plus Stefan Bajcetic… a good cohort of youngsters to help him along. What better ‘welcome to Anfield gift’? Arne Slot will want a player who he can say, ‘This is mine. Not Jurgen Klopp’s. Mine.’

Chelsea will argue the same given they’ve got a new manager. What better way to welcome their manager than by handing him a shiny new signing. Olise may also wish to stay in London having been at Crystal Palace for years; he knows the area very well, wouldn’t have to move, etc. It depends on his ambition. I think Chelsea will have a good season next season. They’ve got lots of good young players. But, for me, if you’re looking at two clubs whereby one could still go horribly wrong (the Chelsea experiment) as well it could go right, whereas Liverpool are back in the Champions League and still have world-class players doing world-class things like Mohamed Salah, Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk  – then I think he would better-served and thrown to the wolves less by going for the latter. Look at Mykhailo Mudryk and Enzo Fernadez who have been hammered left, right and centre. Liverpool would be a better option for him. I can see him as an absolute perfect fit! Get the job done, Michael Edwards and Richard Hughes!

Arne Slot has the ingredients to be a success at Liverpool

Slot, Collymore
Arne Slot – Liverpool’s new head coach

I’ve gone over to Holland a few times and a good friend of mine, Brian Roy, was involved with Ajax a lot. I’ve asked him and a couple of other Dutch guys I know about Slot. Listen, pretty much every coach in Europe wants to play the Pep Guardiola way; they want to get the ball down, secure lots of possession and play through the lines. What I like about Slot is that you can see he has a personality and believes he belongs at Liverpool. The difference between getting a very good coach at Liverpool or Manchester United and Tottenham, Arsenal and some of the other clubs is the personality. In reality, Pep Guardiola has personality and is an exceptional coach, which is why he’s successful at Manchester City. But to manage Liverpool or Manchester United – you’ve got to take a hell of a lot of people with you, a global supporter base. I think that’s been the problem with Erik ten Hag; he’s a bit geeky and there’s still that question of whether or not follow him. At the minute, they’re following him.

I think Arne Slot seems to be the man who relishes the opportunity of doing the talking. Not just the coaching. What made Jurgen Klopp so special was that his coaching philosophy was sound, but I think you’ve got to almost got to be like a head of state – that’s simply the case with the bigger clubs. It bodes well that Slot has the personality and oozes the kind of confidence where if he gets a good run and things start going well, he’ll get emboldened and talks the talk as well as walks the walk. Look, it can spin on its head, it’s a results-driven business. From that perspective, any manager that comes in cocky and confident who doesn’t get the results they desire suddenly ends up shrinking and then people question whether he’s too quiet or not. For me, what I saw from the Feyenoord dressing room is that he’s very much one who can get people to follow him. That’s very important at Liverpool Football Club, regardless of whether you’re a player or head coach – people have to follow you.

So, for me, Liverpool have a very good head coach but potentially also a man who can grow with the role and become a big personality. If you haven’t got that at Liverpool or Manchester United – you’re a dead man walking. The early signs are very good.

More Stories Jamal Musiala Michael Olise Stan Collymore Trent Alexander-Arnold