“In the best team in Europe, the best playmaker is a right-back from West Derby. It’s mad. It’s strange. I have never seen a full-back have such an influence on a team before.”
Jamie Carragher’s assessment of Trent Alexander-Arnold summed it up on a night when Liverpool once again owed the victory to the delivery of their right-back.
Alexander-Arnold whipped in a wonderful cross for Georginio Wijnaldum to open the scoring against West Ham on Monday Night Football but things got tricky for Liverpool after that. Jurgen Klopp’s side were behind midway through the second half.
But after Lukasz Fabianski allowed Mohamed Salah’s shot to slip through his fingers, Alexander-Arnold intervened again – setting up Sadio Mane for the winner late on.
The technique for the first cross was astonishing but Alexander-Arnold has made it the norm. Thanks to Wijnaldum’s goal Liverpool have now scored with 14 headers this season – the most of any team in the Premier League.
Much of that is down to the delivery, as Gary Neville explained.
The quality of the delivery
“What staggers me about Liverpool is that he doesn’t have two big strikers he is going to hit and they are going to get loads of headed goals,” said Neville. “He has the likes of Mane, Salah and Wijnaldum in there and they score headers from his crosses, he is that good.
“His quality is out of this world.”
Watford vs Liverpool
February 29, 2020, 5:00pm
Typically, when speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Alexander-Arnold was rather more magnanimous about his role in the team’s success.
“It’s down to my team-mates around me as if they’re not making the runs, those crosses are just going out of play,” he told Sky Sports. “It’s down to the attackers and the team, but I’m happy with how things are going so far.”
The stats behind his success
Whoever is responsible, Alexander-Arnold has created 73 chances in the Premier League so far this season. That’s far more than any other Liverpool player – more than any other Premier League player with the exception of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
- Mane beats West Ham late on
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Against West Ham, the 21-year-old England international registered his twelfth assist of the Premier League season – equalling his own record that he set for a defender last season.
With 25 assists in total in his Premier League career, Alexander-Arnold is the third youngest player in any position to reach that mark – behind only Cesc Fabregas and Wayne Rooney.
As Carragher suggests, that is appropriate because Alexander-Arnold is much more than a mere defender. He is the creative outlet for this Liverpool team.
“Sometimes you get carried away talking about a player,” said Carragher. “But when you think about the best in that position – I’m talking about Cafu and Dani Alves – they were world class in that position. He is actually running the game from full-back.
“What makes him special is that it is like having Kevin De Bruyne at right-back. It’s like having a midfield player at right-back.”
Does the future lie in midfield?
So could Alexander-Arnold move into midfield one day? “A lot of people have said that about him moving into midfield but I am not sure he would create more there than what he is creating now,” added Carragher.
“What you find when you play as a full-back is that you are always the out-ball. The full-back is normally on so you often get that time to get your head up and pick somebody out. I think sometimes in midfield, there is somebody on you all the time.”
Alexander-Arnold acknowledged this difference himself.
“The main difference I’ve noticed is when you receive the ball in the middle of the park, there’s players all around you,” he explained.
“But when you’re on the touchline, you understand there’s no one behind you so there’s less need to be checking your shoulders – you don’t need to have your head on a swivel so much.”
As a result, Carragher expects Alexander-Arnold to continue in his current role. They are unlikely to find anybody better.
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