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Trent's a world-class fullback BUT he has to be mindful to avoid the kind of defensive errors made v AC Milan 🧐
The 22-year-old was found guilty of playing a role in the two goals the Reds conceded in their Champions League group stage opener
Trent Alexander-Arnold: a polarising figure.
It just doesn’t sound right, does it? At the very least, it shouldn’t, in our view.
Yet, as has been the case for many a star, we must acknowledge that not all will be fans of a talent we can objectively say is world-class.
The Englishman’s defensive capabilities has been a stick neutrals have repeatedly used to beat him over the head with.
To be completely fair, there was clear evidence on offer to support such treatment during Liverpool’s Champions League group stage opener with AC Milan, with the defender found to be guilty of ball-watching and failing to track back for the goals conceded.
In the 22-year-old’s defence, Jurgen Klopp’s tactics do demand his presence higher up the pitch, linking up with the midfield and Mohamed Salah down the right-flank as he did to devastating effect against the Serie A giants.
Nonetheless, Stefano Pioli’s men ruthlessly exploited the space left behind the right-hand side, with two quickfire goals that saw Milan take the lead at the end of the first-half completely against the run of play.
Throwing rose-tinted glasses to one side, the fullback’s errors were undoubtedly costly, though thankfully not to such an extent that it impacted upon the end result.
However, to say that Trent is defensively challenged - in other words to imply that there is a chasm between his attacking and defensive capabilities - is incredibly wide of the mark; not to mention somewhat dangerous.
We’ve seen such irrational thought lead pundits like Gary Lineker to suggest that perhaps the No.66 would be more suited to a midfield role where he can better impact the game with his passing range and driving runs with the ball.
Eager to please, Gareth Southgate succumbed to temptation and fielded the Liverpool star in a midfield trio alongside skipper Jordan Henderson and Borussia Dortmund prodigy Jude Bellingham.
The experiment, as has been well-documented, did not work.
Jurgen Klopp practically laughed off the suggestion, questioning why on earth anyone would be inclined to play ‘the best right-back in the world as a midfielder’.
The argument some may be inclined to make is that if we didn’t already have a world-class array of central midfielders, perhaps the German would have been likewise ensnared by the prospect.
But, as Klopp noted, we’re not talking about just a ‘good’ fullback - we’re on about a ‘world-class’ (and objectively so) fullback.
There are kinks in the player’s game that do still need to be worked out, as our clash with AC Milan highlighted.
However, it seems some are awfully quick to forget that Alexander-Arnold still has many years of football left in him - being only 22 years of age - and the defensive irregularities some are keen to harp on about aren’t quite as regular as they suspect.
Fundamentally, it all boils down to this: arguments about his best position massively overlook just how good he is in his current role.
Regardless, as Southgate’s failed experiment has proven, one of the few opinions on the Academy graduate we need to continue to seriously consider, as ever, remains Klopp’s.
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