Young players often excel at the natural parts of the game where pace, power and raw talent shine through. But Trent Alexander-Arnold’s unbelievable technical ability and understanding of the tactical aspects of football set him apart.
Not many people realise but when Trent was in the Liverpool U16s, Pep Lijnders was his coach, and the now-assistant manager actually made the scouser his captain.
It was a foreshadowing of his first senior appearance as captain for the Reds when he was given the armband in the Champions League draw against Midtjylland last season.
Fascinatingly, the Scouser played as a no.6 for Lijnders in that U16 team.
Role gives him the freedom to play in midfield
It is widely publicised that Alexander-Arnold, valued at £67.5million, played in midfield in the Academy. But it is significant given his recent role in the side.
Tyler, the Liverpool right back’s brother, recently liked a tweet that suggests Trent has been given the freedom in certain games to play almost wherever he likes. This has seen him appear in a number of positions. As a no.8. A no.6. On the wing. Obviously at full-back and even on the opposite flank where he scored his goal against Newcastle.
James Pearce provides some great insight into the special relationship that Trent has with Linders that stretches back to when the Dutchman coached him in 2014.
Alexander-Arnold plus Lijnders is a long-term relationship
“Pep’s passion for football was something I hadn’t really seen in a coach before,” Alexander-Arnold told The Athletic. “The detail he went into, his will to win – it was unbelievable. It was exactly what I wanted and what I needed.
“Pep and I used to stay out for hours after training, just playing two-touch, messing around, head tennis. There were sessions when we’d been out on the grass so long after a session that the floodlights would go off.”
That was the relationship and connection they had when Alexander-Arnold was a kid. Now, he’s the best full-back in the world and is posting better attacking numbers than so-called world-class attacking midfielders like Bernardo Silva and Mason Mount.
Trent says that Klopp’s right-hand man has been pivotal in his progression as a footballer and this is none more evident than in his underrated counter-pressing – a crucial part of Liverpool’s full-backs’ roles
Throwing it back to the historic Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona, Trent loses the ball but instead of dropping back and feeling sorry for himself, he’s on alert, waiting for an opportunity to win the ball back. A trigger to start the press.
Barcelona. A side with good technical players but not a team coached on how to beat an aggressive press triggered by lazy sideways passes were caught out by Trent. His proactive press was amazing. He sensed the sideways pass from Ivan Rakitic to Jordi Alba and the Scouser wins the ball back.
He then drove forward, got slightly lucky with the cross but his crossing has never been in question and Gini did the rest.