An article in the Irish Times has got thousands of Reds talking again – after it lit a fire under the old argument that Trent Alexander-Arnold should move into midfield – following the recent criticism of his defensive ability.
Journalist Ken Early wrote an interesting piece in which he compared Trent to the Premier League’s other world-class creator, Kevin de Bruyne.
He explains how De Bruyne receives none of the media bashing for messing up defensively and is instead praised solely for what he does with the ball at his feet…
The pair are technically similar in their ability and Early reckons Trent would benefit individually from the switch.
“You know who this sort of thing never happens to? Kevin de Bruyne,” he began. “It’s not as though De Bruyne is never involved in a defensive shambles. There have been a couple of occasions this season when he has been exposed by system breakdown. Remember Giovani Lo Celso’s goal in Spurs’ 2-0 win over City in November, or Luke Shaw’s in Manchester United’s 2-0 win at the Etihad? In both cases, a City full back was caught out of position and De Bruyne was forced into a doomed 50-yard chase after an escaping attacker, red-faced and blowing hard.
“Do you remember people talking about what a defensive liability Kevin de Bruyne is? “De Bruyne’s fine, as long as the ball doesn’t go behind him”?
“It’s different when you’re Kevin de Bruyne at right back. Until recently, Alexander-Arnold seemed content to excel in his adopted position, telling Carragher last summer: “I think about how I can go about becoming the best right back the Premier League has ever seen . . . At right-back I am finding I have more touches of the ball than anyone, even more than I would in midfield. For now, it’s not broke, so no need to fix it.”
“How about now? Liverpool’s system has broken down. Alexander-Arnold’s assists have dried up just as his defending has come under more pressure. Ploughing his little furrow out wide, he gets much criticism and little glory. His goal on Saturday was a glimpse of what might be possible if he played in the middle. Imagine he could do that full-time, like the other Kevin de Bruyne, instead of having to think about foot patterns so Ferland Mendy doesn’t walk past him again on Wednesday night.”
Well, does he have a point? We have no doubt Trent would eventually excel in midfield – but there’d be a serious adaptation period and now is frankly not the time.
And what’s more, there is nothing wrong with being the world’s best right-back. His redefining of the position helped Liverpool win the Champions League and the Premier League at a canter – and the issues this season have been much more about the lack of centre-backs next to him and the struggles he had because of COVID-19 and the fallout from the illness.
Get Trent at right-back with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez beside him and we simply don’t need to have this discussion.
He’s more than capable of influencing the game in the manner he wants to from the right flank. It’s not right-back, it’s a marauding right-sided playmaker role, which is how he managed to get the ball on the left-side of the penalty area for the marvellous winner v Aston Villa.