Jack Hallows puts Trent Alexander-Arnold in the spotlight, tries to work out his best position and gives his thoughts on why the exciting prospect will be a first team star in years to come.
With a lot of the focus on the current stars of Liverpool this season as they push towards a top four battle, there have also been a few academy gems starting to be unearthed by Jürgen Klopp. Perhaps the most promising at this stage? Trent-Alexander Arnold. The 18-year-old started the season as an unknown entity to a large percentage of Reds fans but in the short space of seven months has fast become one of the most exciting young players in the Premier League.
Bossing the academy
“In my opinion, he is one of the most all-round talents in Europe with a ‘first team’ attitude. When he was my captain at U16 level, he was able to control rhythm and make the team play like no-one else.”
That’s first-team development coach Pep Ljinders talking about Trent Alexander-Arnold earlier on this season and it gives you an idea of how highly rated the lad actually is. Coming up through the under-16s and under-18s as predominantly a central midfielder, Lijnders has recognised that Alexander-Arnold’s pace, delivery from wide areas and positional maturity mean he is suited perfectly to a role out on the right-hand side of the field, deploying him mainly as a right full back/wing back. This is a decision mirrored by Jürgen Klopp for the most part as he started there in his full Premier League debut against Manchester United and during sporadic EFL and FA Cup matches in which he was given game time.
Potential to make it in the big time
Liverpool’s lack of cover for Nathaniel Clyne and Alexander-Arnold’s successful transition to this position in the under-23s has seen Jürgen Klopp utilise the youngster as his second choice right back. How’s he done? Brilliantly. He picked up the man of the match award in the EFL Cup fixture against Tottenham while in the same competition his superb ball into the box assisted Divock Origi’s opener against Leeds.
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These performances coupled with an injury to Nathaniel Clyne saw the youngster handed his full Premier League debut at Old Trafford of all places where he was given a run around by Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. After a nervy start, however, he kicked himself into gear and produced an admittedly very impressive performance.
Alexander-Arnold was equally impressive in a role further forward against Everton on Saturday when he came on for Philippe Coutinho with Liverpool leading 3-1. The English talent played on the right wing and within five minutes of coming on almost had a dream first Premier League goal when he connected sweetly with an Emre Can cut back only for Jöel Robles to finally remember how to dive and tip it away with his fingertips. Klopp has even utilised him in a central midfield berth back in pre-season where he was given his first glimpses of first team exposure against Tranmere, Fleetwood Town and Wigan.
The Big Question: midfielder or defender?
So the big question is then, midfielder or defender? While Alexander-Arnold is more than able in defence and has impressed immensely in the right back role at both under-23 and first team levels, I’d love to see him play in the midfield in the long term. The versatile youngster has a serious eye for goal, netting free kicks, penalties, solo goals and capping off team moves with classy finishes in the under-23s and he looks incredibly composed on the front foot. Playing out on the right wing would allow Alexander-Arnold to be more involved in the play in and around the box while also allowing him to use his superb delivery more frequently.
He also has the energy, stamina and drive to succeed in this role not just as a player but a ‘Klopp player.’ Even in his 15-minute cameo against Everton, Alexander-Arnold refused to ignore his defensive responsibilities and was up and down the right flank the entire time, offering a pass and outlet on the counter attack before dropping in and covering for Nathaniel Clyne just seconds later. This enthusiasm might see him caught out every now and then at right back but would not be a problem at right wing.
Whatever position he ends up making his own, Trent Alexander-Arnold undoubtedly has a huge future at Liverpool. He’s a highly rated prospect and one whose progress I am seriously excited to monitor over the coming seasons.