Last season was a coming-of-age story for Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool, but he has eclipsed that with a record-breaking, trophy-winning campaign.
When 2017/18 got underway, Alexander-Arnold was still a relative unknown outside of Liverpool.
The youngster was blooded by Jurgen Klopp with thrilling results, however, and he emerged as one of Europe’s leading young talents in the nine months that followed.
A Champions League final was reached for his boyhood club, while a place in the England squad that made the World Cup semi-finals further highlighted his breakneck progress.
As a new season dawned back in August, big things were again expected of the lifelong Red, but few thought it would end in such memorable fashion.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, 2018/19
Started: 38 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 2
Unused sub: 7
Our Overall Season Rating: 9
Average TIA Player Rating: 6.71 (Rank: =14th)
Last year’s average TIA Player Rating: 6.79
It is no secret that a fair chunk of Alexander-Arnold’s years in the academy saw him used in a midfield role, whether it be as a deep-lying No. 6 or in the box-to-box mould of his hero, Steven Gerrard.
A technically supreme and athletic figure, the general consensus was that his senior future lay in the middle of the park, but Klopp thought otherwise.
Perhaps it was partly down to luck that Alexander-Arnold shone so bright at right-back, having been thrown in there because of a lack of opportunities further forward, but it paid off handsomely.
Last season saw the West Derby favourite add an extra dimension to Liverpool’s attacking play, but that went up another gear in 2018/19.
It took time for Alexander-Arnold to hit his stride, perhaps due to tiredness after a gruelling previous campaign and his World Cup commitments.
Performances were solid rather than spectacular and it wasn’t until late September that he registered his first assist of the season.
From then on, Alexander-Arnold never looked back, as he and the equally influential Andy Robertson underwent a thrilling goal and assist competition.
For all the surging runs, tenacious tackles and even one stunning free-kick at Watford, it was Alexander-Arnold’s Gerrard-esque delivery that stood out most.
A hat-trick of assists came his way against the Hornets at Anfield and perfectly weight passes for Mohamed Salah, against Fulham and Porto, also stood out.
A well-worked corner routine also allowed Gini Wijnaldum to score a vital goal at Cardiff, while Salah again benefited in a must-win game at Newcastle.
By the time the Premier League campaign ended, Alexander-Arnold had recorded the most assists by a defender in the competition’s history (12).
League glory may have evaded the humble youngster and his team-mates, despite a stunning effort, but they weren’t to be denied glory of some kind.
Boyhood Dream Fulfilled & THAT Assist
It feels right that assists are the main point of focus in Alexander-Arnold’s season, particularly when one of those was a contender for the most iconic moment of 2018/19.
Having hurdled a Champions League group containing Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli, and then Bayern Munich and Porto in the knockout stages, Barcelona loomed in the semi-finals.
The 3-0 defeat at the Nou Camp was a harsh scoreline—Alexander-Arnold was left out in favour of Joe Gomez, which backfired—but at Anfield magic happened.
Alexander-Arnold’s quick thinking to take a corner early was inspired, allowing Divock Origi to fire home and send the Reds into the final.
To showcase such a clear mind in a cauldron of pressurised noise, in one of the biggest matches of his career, spoke volumes about the maturity Alexander-Arnold possesses.
Thanks in part to that act of mastery, Liverpool’s season came down to a season-defining night in Madrid, in which Tottenham were overcome in relatively serene fashion.
Alexander-Arnold impressed, firing one effort narrowly wide and making a key tackle on Son Heung-min, on an evening when he became the youngest player to start back-to-back Champions League finals.
Imagine being 20 and earning European glory for your boyhood club—Trent truly is living the dream of millions of supporters around the world.
The win in Madrid was the perfect finish to a magnificent season for Liverpool and their brilliant right-back was a prominent figure throughout.
He also won his light-hearted battle with Robertson, with 16 assists to the Scot’s 13.
The frightening thing about Alexander-Arnold is that he is still far from the polished footballer—no surprise, given his tender age.
He still finds himself in the infancy of his career, and provided he can avoid serious injury the sky is the limit.
That may sound like needless pressure on a young player’s shoulders, but like his idol Gerrard, he will only thrive under such expectations.
So what about improvements?
Alexander-Arnold’s assist tally suggests he can’t improve too much in terms of his final ball, but finding the net more regularly could be an area to work on.
No goals in open play during the season has to be considered disappointing—this isn’t Gary Neville we’re talking about!
There are still question marks surrounding Alexander-Arnold’s defensive ability, too, which is why Gomez was preferred in Barcelona.
He has come on leaps and bounds in that area, but it is still clear that opposition managers do occasionally target him.
It is clutching at straws when it comes to picking out shortcomings, however, when in truth Liverpool have one of the world’s most exciting full-backs in their ranks.
Best moment: The assist against Barcelona.
Worst moment: A torrid evening away to Arsenal in November.
Role next season: Key player, continuing to cement his place as one of Europe’s premier right-backs.