Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s versatility and maturity has aided his progress from Liverpool’s academy to first-team this season, allowing Jurgen Klopp opportunity to field the 18-year-old.
The West Derby-born teenager has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign and is now a regular squad member – featuring in the first-team squad 20 times in all competitions this season and making five Premier League appearances.
What has been most impressive is his confidence and ability to push forward in advanced positions from right-back and he showed similar ambition when he came on as a late substitute against Everton as a right-sided midfielder on Saturday.
But Alexander-Arnold’s natural position is as a central midfielder and his development suggests he has the capability of performing in a number of roles for Liverpool’s first team in the future.
Alexander-Arnold’s academy progress
The youngster has been deployed as a right-back by Klopp this season but he has progressed through the academy largely as a central midfielder.
Alexander-Arnold was always a composed and measured performer during his academy years and he earned the admiration of his teammates for a number of assured displays.
He has been utilised in a number of midfield roles during his development and earned the captain’s armband for the under-16s and under-18s side and took them on with great success.
However, Pepijn Lijnders saw something in his attacking ability and he, alongside several of the current coaching staff, believed he could use this to his strength from a full-back position.
Lijnders believes Alexander-Arnold’s pin-point delivery, pace and drive make him an asset on the wing but he also has the positional awareness to perform the role of a defensive full-back with effect.
“Our playing idea is to create chance after chance, from each position taking this initiative. A right defender who can create and can dominate the complete right channel,” Lijnders said earlier this season.
“In my opinion, he [Alexander-Arnold] 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.”
Role in the first team
It seems Klopp was impressed with Alexander-Arnold’s transition to right-back and that is where he has predominantly exposed the youngster this season.
Apart from his brief 15-minute cameo against Everton on the wing, he’s been utilised as an understudy to Nathaniel Clyne at full-back.
He has been impressive too; picking up the man of the match award on his debut in the EFL Cup against Tottenham and producing a similarly impressive display in the next round against Leeds.
Clyne’s injury opened the way for a first league start at Old Trafford and despite being thrust into the starting XI for a crucial Premier League clash against one of Liverpool’s fiercest rivals, he dealt with the threat of Anthony Martial with intelligence and composure.
His ability at right-back has been proven but even in his short spell as a midfielder in Saturday’s Merseyside derby, Alexander-Arnold looked bright and energetic.
He was bold in his eagerness to attack despite presumably coming on to control and see out Liverpool’s lead and almost grabbed what would have been a story tale goal at the Kop end.
As well as displaying real quality on the right flank in both defensive and attacking roles, Alexander-Arnold made heads turn in pre-season when he played as a midfielder against Tranmere Rovers, Fleetwood Town and Wigan Athletic.
It was an experimental box-to-box role which he often undertook in the summer but he also dropped into the holding role at times before being used as a right-back against Huddersfield Town, AC Milan and Mainz 05.
There has yet to be a position in which Alexander-Arnold has not impressed in while on first team duty so he has certainly left plenty of options open for himself.
Where will he play in the future?
Steven Gerrard believes Alexander-Arnold has a key role to play in the future of Liverpool and England and dedicated a paragraph in his autobiography to the future of the rising star.
Gerrard says he “has a terrific chance of making it as a top professional. He’s quite leggy but he’s got a lovely frame and seems to have all the attributes you need.
“Trent is another scouser and apparently, just as I tried to be John Barnes and Steve McMahon, he grew up pretending to be me while playing in the Merseyside parks.
“He can play as a number six, a holding midfielder, but he’s versatile and I’ve seen him fill various positions. I know England are all over him.”
Clearly, his park footballing days have paid off as he has demonstrated all the necessary skills to undertake a box-to-box role like Gerrard in his prime for Liverpool.
Perhaps that is the position Alexander-Arnold will grow into after he has established himself as a regular first-teamer.
However, he is currently providing excellent cover for Clyne at right-back and his ability to provide accurate service from the wing is something that makes him an attractive asset for Klopp and his style of play.
Clyne’s form seems to have dipped this season and Alexander-Arnold is in prime position to pounce. He could become Liverpool’s starting right-back next season and from there, he is likely to grow into an all-around midfielder.
But for now, his versatility is offering him plenty of opportunity to flourish – could he even be one to profit in Sadio Mane‘s imminent absence?