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Trent Alexander-Arnold still redefining full-back role after best season yet

He’s been Liverpool’s main source of creativity for some time, but 2021/22 was the season Trent Alexander-Arnold took his game to new levels.

It’s easy to forget how young Liverpool’s No. 66 still is, such is his influence on Jurgen Klopp‘s team.

At the age of 23, Alexander-Arnold has now won every single major trophy available to him with his boyhood club, after completing his collection with the League Cup and FA Cup last season.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, 2021/22

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 14, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold kisses the trophy after the FA Cup Final between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. The game ended in a goal-less draw, Liverpool won 6-5 on penalties. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 47 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 0
Unused sub: 5
Goals: 2
Assists: 19

Overall Season Rating: 9.12

 

Mr. Irreplaceable

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 16, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This was Alexander-Arnold’s best season yet and the numbers back it up.

It only took him until early March to pass his previous season-best assists record of 15 across all competitions. He’d go on to register four more before the end of the campaign. All from right-back.

Mohamed Salah was the only Premier League player to provide more assists than Alexander-Arnold in the competition last season.

He will want to improve on his goal tally, especially as he takes the vast majority of Liverpool’s free kicks, but the goals he lays on for others more than make up for that.

There was also a slight tweak to his position to allow him to affect games from central areas more often.

“Of course he is still in the right-back position to defend especially, then he’s a right winger, then he’s an eight, a six, a playmaker,” Klopp said of his No. 66 in December.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 15, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates scoring the 1st goal during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 1 game between Liverpool FC and AC Milan at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Currie/Propaganda)

Alexander-Arnold’s influence on this team is stronger than ever. Some might argue that he has become Liverpool’s most important figure.

Players with the quality of Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Salah will always be missed when they’re not in the team, but they can at least be replaced by players with similar attributes.

The same can’t be said when Alexander-Arnold is missing. When he doesn’t play, Liverpool lose their main creative outlet, with Joe Gomez, Neco Williams and even James Milner having sizeable shoes to fill.

He is a truly unique talent and there is no like-for-like replacement.

That is something Liverpool have looked to address this summer, with the imminent arrival of Calvin Ramsay.

Alexander-Arnold’s importance to this team cannot be understated.

 

The ‘can’t defend’ myth

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 7, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“If anybody says to me Trent cannot defend, they should come to me, I’ll knock them down. Honestly, I cannot hear that anymore. I don’t know what the boy has to do!”

That was Klopp after Alexander-Arnold kept the very lively Gabriel Martinelli quiet when the Reds beat Arsenal to reach the Carabao Cup final in January.

It was just one of a number of astute defensive displays from Alexander-Arnold in 2021/22. As a result, those lazy claims that he is not a good defender now barely have a leg to stand on.

He was solid in the FA Cup semi-final vs. Man City as well as both Wembley meetings with Chelsea.

And Liverpool kept 32 clean sheets throughout the season, Alexander-Arnold was on the pitch for 25 of those.

There’s an acceptance that Liverpool’s style of play brings its own risks, especially for Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. That was evident in the Champions League final, when Real Madrid broke away and Vinicius Jr scored the winner on Alexander-Arnold’s side of the pitch.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 10, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

More often than not, though, the advanced positions he takes up will lead to good things for Liverpool. It has become a key component of this team.

Not England’s, though. “Why make the best right-back in the world a midfielder?” was Klopp’s very valid question after Gareth Southgate deployed Alexander-Arnold in midfield in a World Cup qualifier against Andorra in September.

“I don’t know anybody who is like Trent. Who is a right-back and is that decisive and influential and all these kind of things,” Klopp added after that victory at the Emirates in January.

“I really don’t like always when they mention his defending, ‘defensively he’s not that good, but he’s offensively better’.

“The package of Trent is insane.”

 

A new challenge next season?

MILAN, ITALY - Tuesday, February 15, 2022: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold applauds the supporters after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg game between FC Internazionale Milano and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp has never really had the luxury of being able to rest and rotate Alexander-Arnold.

Williams has emerged as Liverpool’s second-choice right-back in recent years, but not one that has been relied upon on the biggest stages. After a successful loan spell at Fulham, in the second half of last season, he is expected to move on in search of regular games this summer.

The likes of Milner and Gomez have also been used as makeshift right-backs, but the signing of Ramsay should help ease Alexander-Arnold’s workload next season after exceeding 40 club games in each of his last four campaigns.

It’s believed the club view the young Scotsman as a player who will be able to operate in a number of positions on the right side of the pitch, and were attracted to his passing range and technical ability.

But it’s having another good right-back option that will have really appealed to Klopp. Ramsay is an attacking full-back who, at just 18 years of age, registered nine assists in all competitions last season, and is clearly a player Liverpool see thriving in their environment.

2G93C4D Calvin Ramsay of Aberdeen during the UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round, first leg match at Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen. Picture date: Thursday July 22, 2021.

You only have to look to the opposite side of the defence to see why having two solid full-back options can be beneficial. After a difficult first season for reasons out of his control, Kostas Tsimikas provided excellent back-up to Robertson in 2021/22.

Klopp has no qualms using Tsimikas in some of Liverpool’s biggest matches and will be hoping a signing like Ramsay will give him more opportunities to take his No. 66 out of the limelight when necessary.

Ramsay is very unlikely to threaten Alexander-Arnold’s status as first-choice right-back, though. The West Derby-born full-back is no longer a boy in this team and, having won all there is to win for Liverpool, should now be considered one of Klopp’s more experienced performers.

The Scouser in our team is only getting better.


Best moment: Winning the FA Cup and completing his collection of all six major trophies with Liverpool.

Worst moment: Watching Vinicius Jr score the winning goal in the Champions League final on his side of the pitch.

Role next season: Continue to improve his game amid the likelihood of fresh competition from a new arrival at right-back.

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