Liverpool coach ‘gambled’ his salary on Trent Alexander-Arnold change working

It was a bold move for Liverpool to switch systems, after years operating in an orthodox 4-3-3, and Pepijn Lijnders gambled his salary on it working.

Towards the end of last season, Jurgen Klopp set his side up in a new-look formation: a 4-3-3 out of possession, Trent Alexander-Arnold was given freedom to move into midfield.

With the ball, Liverpool are now closer to a 3-4-3, with Alexander-Arnold playing alongside the defensive midfielder and Andy Robertson becoming a centre-back.

There remain flaws to the approach, as has been seen throughout pre-season and these early weeks of the new campaign, but its virtues were on show in an unbeaten end to 2022/23.

Speaking on the Training Ground Guru podcast, Lijnders revealed that it was his plan to change setup – and that he bet his salary on Alexander-Arnold’s role paying off!

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 10, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders (L) during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“We wanted an extra player, but above all, we wanted Trent Alexander-Arnold in the middle,” he recalled.

“Because we all know from the inside he can go everywhere, even the shots from distance, that he can find the forwards in the way nobody else can.

“He plays the passes the forwards like to receive!

“I remember the discussions before, and I said to Jurgen ‘please, I will give all my salary for next year, all my salary, if it doesn’t work – but we have to try, because this boy, from the inside, will be a present’.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 13, 2023: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The system was first introduced in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal in April, with Liverpool going on to win the next seven games on the bounce before back-to-back draws to close the season.

“The team became compact again with the ball, the team became together again,” Lijnders explained.

“We were really balanced, we didn’t suffer counter-attacks how we suffered them before.

“Sometimes a change like that is enough for players to feel free again and to feel comfortable.”

It is clear that Liverpool are still ironing out the kinks in the 3-4-3, particularly with new additions in midfield, but the hope is that it proves successful in the long term.

Alexander-Arnold has spoken about the freedom of his new position, while Lijnders is confident his gamble worked out.

“The year before we already moved him more often inside, in the 10, in a much more flexible way,” Klopp’s assistant added.

“But now we felt like we needed to do something.

“It was cool. I love that, when these things work out. And I didn’t lose my salary – that’s more important!”