Trent Alexander-Arnold has the power to decide Liverpool’s meeting with Manchester United today. The Scouser simply must be at his best.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is not playing well as Liverpool prepare to face Manchester United. That’s a worry, of course.
He’s one of Liverpool’s most important players and their chief creator. This season just hasn’t been him at his best, though.
Particularly in the last few games. Alexander-Arnold returned from a spell out but didn’t hit the ground running. His passing has been off and his defensive work questionable.
But today represents a chance to correct all of that. In fact, Liverpool might need him to.
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Alexander-Arnold is going to be up against Marcus Rashford, after all. In performing well, he could nullify United’s most dangerous player and boost Liverpool all in one go.
Rashford is critical to the way United play, especially away from home. His counter-attacking ability defines their strategy.
United are undefeated since losing to Arsenal on November 1st. That’s a run of 11 games, six of which came away from Old Trafford. They’ve won five of those six.
Over the same spell, Rashford has five Premier League goals and four assists. They’ve been key, too, as United drop eight points without them.
But more interesting is the games they’ve come in. Four of those goals and all of those assists came away from home.
In fact, over United’s run, Rashford has scored or assisted in every away game. We might go into this worrying about Bruno Fernandes but make no mistake – Rashford is the biggest threat here.
Fortunately, Rashford isn’t perfect. While he produces so much, his defensive work leaves a little to be desired.
Rashford presses, on average, nine times a game (per FBref). He’s successful with around 25 per cent of those.
Let’s compare that to Sadio Mane, who plays the same position. Mane presses 14 times a game with a success rate of over 1 in 3.
So while Mane manages to deliver on the offensive end without sacrificing defensive work, Rashford can’t. He doesn’t press anywhere near as much and isn’t as good at it, either.
Liverpool have a chance here, then. If Alexander-Arnold can find his form and provide the threat he usually does, it will pin Rashford back. It puts the United man in a position he doesn’t like and, as a result, helps nullify his threat.
Doing so will be absolutely vital.