Trent Alexander-Arnold; the perfect solution to years of Liverpool right-back misery
Frustration, concern, discontent. Just three words that Liverpool fans have experienced in the 21st century in terms of domestic success. It’s now been almost 30 years since Kenny Dalglish last guided the Reds to league glory, but all that looks set to change in the coming weeks.
Regardless of the current circumstances, Jurgen Klopp’s men have enjoyed an astonishing campaign and will hope to clinch their first-ever Premier League trophy as soon as possible. That can be achieved by beating fierce rivals Everton at Goodison Park on June 21.
Their stunning displays this season can be narrowed down to hard-work and unity, with the helping hand of a deadly front three and resolute defense. With 66 goals from 29 matches, finding the back of the net has never been a problem, but perhaps more impressive is the 21 goals conceded, the fewest in the league.
The ability of Alisson in between the posts needs no introduction, while Andy Robertson, Virgil Van Dijk, and Joe Gomez have all played equally significant roles. But at just 21 years old, right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold may just be the biggest success story of them all. The local lad is living his dream, and it shows every time he graces the hallowed Anfield turf. However, unfortunately for Liverpool fans, it hasn’t always been this way…
The Right Back Dilemma
The 21st century had started off extremely brightly with the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup treble in 2001, but since then the trophies have been few and far between. A string of poor management decisions led to a string of poor player recruitment, which in turn brought about several barren years at the club.
The mind wanders back to an almost depressing time for many of the Kop faithful, who were promised an abundance of talent on the field, many of which ultimately fell well below expectation.
Fortunately, the likes of Vegard Heggem and Markus Babbel were around at the turn of the century, while many will remember Steve Finnan as the most consistent right-back in the early years. Alvaro Arbeloa then arrived on the scene and became a hit at the club, with Glen Johson enjoying a similar experience upon the Spaniard’s move to Real Madrid.
But dispersed among the positive stories, there have been several underwhelming recruitments at right-back, many of which will certainly not be remembered fondly by those watching on from the stands. For countless different reasons, the names of Jan Kromkamp, Josemi, Philipp Degen, Andre Wisdom, and Javier Manquillo bring back bad memories
Nathaniel Clyne has certainly come closest to replicating the displays created by those such as 2005 Champions League winner Finnan, but his time at Anfield has been disrupted by constant injury. A teenage Alexander-Arnold was tasked with making the step up to the pressures of life under Klopp, and he didn’t disappoint.
So, is the youngster worth the hype, or is he simply making up for the lost time in a seemingly cursed position at Liverpool?
Undoubtedly his biggest strength, the 21-year-old can be seen marauding forward more often than he is seen in his own half, and that’s simply down to the way Klopp has his side playing their football. With Gomez and Van Dijk holding the fort at the back, Alexander-Arnold certainly has all the freedom in the world to push up the pitch, and it’s an opportunity too good to refuse.
The full-back has already equaled his tally of 12 assists from last season, with nine games still to play. It’s the most assists by a defender in a single Premier League campaign, and a feat which he has achieved as the third youngest, behind only Cesc Fabregas and Wayne Rooney.
With their possession-based game, Liverpool have amassed 18,043 passes this season, with TAA accounting for 1,986 of those. At 68.48 passes per match, it’s fair to say he sees a lot of the ball, and is undeniably more than eager to get involved with every move.
His incredible tally of 313 crosses in the league this season massively outranks any other, with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne in second with 244. But with the constant threat of crossing comes the risk of a lack of accuracy, with just 21% of those crosses finding a redshirt.
He does, however, more than make up for it with 16 big chances created, many of which have come from his 142 accurate long balls. Fans have become accustomed to the brave cross-field passes to find the feet of Sadio Mane, while the quickly taken corner against Champions League opponents Barcelona speaks volumes for his courageous style of play.
The display against Leicester on Boxing Day epitomises just how crucial he has been going forward for the Reds.
As it turns out, his greatest strength may just be his greatest weakness. With so much of his time and effort spent travelling at high speeds down the right-wing, the inevitable occurs; gaps begin to appear, with his fellow defenders Van Dijk and Gomez more often than not coming to his rescue by rapidly covering the ground left open by the travelling right-back.
Duels lost heavily outweigh his duels won at 120 to 85 respectively, while his presence in the air is certainly not what he is renowned for, winning just 15 of his 41 aerial duels. And so if there’s one area that needs improvement, it’s here.
Liverpool’s only dropped league points this season have come against Manchester United and Watford, and the right-back may need to shoulder a small margin of the responsibility.
Statistics aside, in terms of raw ability, it’s evident that Alexander-Arnold is well ahead of many others that have come before him and indeed his counterparts throughout the English top-flight. His passion for the game and commitment to the ethic at the club is also there for all to see.
At just 21 years of age, there’s no telling just how much he can develop. And who better than the eagle-eyed German manager Klopp to oversee his progression, with whom he has already formed a lasting relationship based on mutual faithfulness.
If he can concentrate towards developing the defensive side of game, then he is on his way to developing into the best fullback on the planet. Sky is the limit for the young englishman, all that’s left to do is to see if he can touch it.