It’s been another fairytale season for the Scouser in our team.
While the jubilation following Liverpool’s title was seen throughout this close-knit group of players and staff, few at the club will have felt the enormity of lifting the Premer League trophy as much as the West Derby-born right-back.
Alexander Arnold is only 21 years old, yet even before this title win he already had a larger-than-life mural, depicting him wearing his increasingly famous No. 66 shirt, covering the side of a house just off Anfield Road.
There is a temptation to raise local stars too high, too soon, but Trent is the real deal—as he’s shown throughout 2019/20, and by the fact that in his short career he’s already played a big part in Champions League and Premier League triumphs.
And he’s not only in this team because he’s a local lad. He would probably walk into any team in the Premier League, and into most in Europe, given what he offers down the right flank.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, 2019/20
Started: 43 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 6
Unused sub: 1
Overall Season Rating: 9.5
The most immediate thing to notice when summing up Trent’s talents during the 2019/20 season is his now-familiar creativity. He finished second only to Kevin De Bruyne for total assists in the league, with 13, and ranks well for most creative stats.
In terms of progressing the ball forward, no one in the league was better. According to FBref, he made 459 progressive passes, with the next best, De Bruyne, well behind with 353.
He was second behind the Belgian for expected assists (9.6); fourth for shots created (151) behind De Bruyne (220), Jack Grealish (184) and James Maddison (168); and third for goal-creating actions (24) behind De Bruyne (33) and Riyad Mahrez (30).
He led the league by some distance for crosses attempted, with 382 to De Bruyne’s 304, and crosses completed 81 to 75, according to WhoScored.
Though key passes and chances created are seen as the stats of an intelligent playmaker, racking up big numbers for crossing, whether as a team or as a player, can invite criticism, as completion percentages are nearly always low.
Crossing can often seem wasteful, especially on the increasingly rare occasion Trent miscues a delivery, but there’s a difference between crossing as part of a bigger plan and the hit-and-hope balls into the box sometimes seen in the Premier League.
It’s seen as a low-percentage tactic, but when a team has someone with Trent’s accuracy, as demonstrated by both his dead-ball delivery and passing in open play, a low percentage first-ball (ie. the cross itself) can become a very dangerous second ball in the right areas.
The company Trent keeps when it comes to creativity are all attacking midfielders or wingers.
This shows how important he is to Liverpool’s unique style of play and their much-lauded creativity from the full-back positions, one of the things which have helped give them the edge over other teams in the Premier League.
His action areas on the pitch are shown on the map below from Smarterscout:
Andy Robertson isn’t too far behind him in these areas, indicating that Jurgen Klopp’s current style relies heavily on full-backs who do something many other full-backs don’t—and even if others are trying to do it, none are anywhere near matching Trent at the moment.
Given the amount Man City continue to spend on full-backs each season, it’s something they have tried but failed to match in the role.
Tactically, teams are already starting to put more emphasis on stopping the supply from Liverpool’s full-backs, so Trent will have to learn to deal with the extra attention he will no doubt receive from opposition defenders next season.
He’ll also have to adapt to different tactical plans over the course of the next few years at both club and international level.
One thing the opposition can do little to stop, though, is set-piece prowess.
Two of Alexander-Arnold’s four goals in 2019/20 were from free-kicks, and he’s gaining a reputation as something of a specialist in this area. Four of the eight goals in his Liverpool career to date have come from such situations.
Though Alexander-Arnold is known primarily for this creativity from right-back and his technique in striking a dead ball, perhaps his biggest assets to Liverpool currently are his fitness, endurance and, as a result, his availability.
The club have little in the way of like-for-like senior backup in the full-back positions, which is a risk given how vital this role is to how the team operates, but in Alexander-Arnold and Robertson they have players who are almost always available.
If they are rested, it’s usually by choice rather than any issues with injury or suspension.
Alexander-Arnold started 35 of Liverpool’s 38 Premier League games, and came off the bench in the other three. Only Virgil van Dijk, who played every minute of every game, played more minutes in the league, and two of Trent’s sub appearances came with the title already won.
He was rested for all domestic cup games, so maybe it’s no surprise that Liverpool didn’t go far in those given their lack of similar backup in this area.
Neco Williams could be about to step into that role, given his 2019/20 season was similar to Alexander-Arnold’s 2016/17 campaign, but Liverpool are still lucky their star right-back is around and fit when needed.
Another underrated aspect is speed. It’s immediately noticeable when another player comes into this position and they simply can’t get up and down the flank as quickly as Trent and Robertson.
Provided he remains fit, the future for Alexander-Arnold is more about how Liverpool choose to use him than any notion of him declining in quality or moving elsewhere.
Given his Scouse roots and an ability that perfectly matches what Liverpool need at right-back, and possibly in other positions in the future, he’ll more than likely be a one-club man—a rarity in modern football.
He has the potential to become a Liverpool great, and this Premier League win means he’s well on the way already.
“What we want to be is the spot for everybody with a Scouse soul,” Klopp said recently, adding: “Maybe in 10 years it would be great if we could have a team full of Scousers.”
Alexander-Arnold of West Derby is set to be the leader of the Scousers, and any other players who find themselves in this team further down the line.
Best moment: A perfect performance at Leicester on Boxing Day.
Worst moment: The back-pass that led to Watford‘s third in February.
Role next season: First-choice right-back, one of the best in the world.