Liverpool fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold is having one of the best turnarounds this season but in a more odd position for him and the fans. Jurgen Klopp is adjusting him to a more free-roaming role in the midfield, where he plays right next to Fabinho. He is still named as a right-back on paper, but he plays more inverted or even as a midfielder on display. This change has benefited not only Trent Alexander-Arnold but also The Kop’s record.
Reduced Defensive Duty
The English player started the season as a right-back, constantly losing his man in marking and leaving holes in the defense. Liverpool’s injury list didn’t support him either when trustworthy center-back Ibrahima Konate was absent for a big chunk of the first half. However, his lack of confidence in the defense was still quite visible as the season resumed after the World Cup. In the two legs against Real Madrid in the Champions League Quarterfinals, Vinicius Jr. had him beat on almost every one-on-one.
As he plays as a center midfielder, Alexander-Arnold’s defensive duty has been tremendously reduced. He only works as an initial defensive layer, and Ibrahima Konate does the rest with the help of Henderson or Fabinho. The French center-back, being in fine form, bosses the entire right flank and covers up all the space left behind. With less reliance on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defending ability, Liverpool’s backline tightens up better.
Exploring Quality Passes
Trent Alexander-Arnold has always been one of football’s best chance creators. In the Premier League this season, he ranks first in Pass Progression Value and second in Passes into the Final Third, which makes him an invaluable attacking piece. Not to mention, he is a high-volume (99th percentile in passes) and high-quality passer (90th percentile in key passes). Especially when Thiago Alcantara struggles to find minutes with his injuries, Jurgen Klopp needs the Englishman’s creativity more than ever. Almost every dangerous attack goes through the magical feet of TAA.
More than a month after the shift, starting from the Arsenal game, Trent Alexander-Arnold registered six assists. He also put up over two key passes per game within that span. The results of his playmaking ability have been astonishing – Liverpool experiences eight-straight unbeaten games, including seven wins.
In the latest match against Leicester City, Trent Alexander-Arnold also curled in a beautiful strike off the free-kick to put the nail in the coffin – this was his second goal this season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold at Midfield – a Recipe for Success?
Switching a player from a defender to a midfielder is common in modern football. Manchester City’s coach Pep Guardiola sparked this wild idea at Bayern Munich by dragging Phillipp Lahm and Joshua Kimmich from the right to the midfield. This season Pep even brought John Stones – a center-back – to play as a defensive midfielder. These tests all had phenomenal outcomes.
The sample size for this experiment by Jurgen Klopp is small, as Trent only started playing more in the middle of the park after their elimination from the Champions League this season. The true tests in the European stage are still to come. But in the Premier League, it has worked for them in the contention for a Top Four spot. If Trent Alexander-Arnold can continue this form going into next season, Liverpool can be a formidable side once again.
And for the English fullback (or now midfielder), he could become a Joshua Kimmich 2.0 and thrive as one of the best playmakers as a center midfielder. With that, his chances on the national team might open up more.\
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