Versatility is one quality that helps players thrive in the modern game. With competitions for places increasing, a player must be comfortable playing across multiple positions to have a top career. But the ability to relocate to a new position altogether is unparalleled. Few players have thrived after switching positions in their careers. Trent Alexander Arnold is the recent player on a long list trying to shift from his natural position in order to fulfil his potential.
Liverpool talisman Trent Alexander Arnold is a crucial player for his side at such a young age. His ability to influence games from right-back is extraordinary. Trent was universally praised for his vision and impeccable passing range. With his skill set, there were shouts of a move to midfield. It finally materialized when he played in the midfield for England. In a new position, Trent struggled initially against Andorra before finding his feet as a midfielder. He was making few late runs and tried his usual crossing.
Crucially Alexander-Arnold does not sound like someone itching to change his position. He does not play in midfield for Liverpool and he has previously spoken about his desire to redefine the role of a full-back. Playing there has made him famous and he looked much happier against Andorra after moving back into defence in the second half.
Alexander-Arnold has made his name as a right-back since bursting onto the scene at Anfield, and his effortless ability to spray the ball around the pitch and create chance after chance have seen him labelled as one of the best full-backs in world football.
It’s not all he’s been labelled, though. The Liverpool star’s defensive awareness and reading of the game have been called into question, particularly during the period when he was left exposed by the absence of the £75m comfort blanket that is Virgil van Dijk.
That dangerous attacking play combined with the occasional lapse at the back have seen many call for him to be tested in the centre of midfield – something that has yet to come to fruition. Jurgen Klopp sees no reason to enforce that change on the player, and understandably so.
Trent Alexander Arnold Overall Career Stats
- Apps (Subs): 206 (24)
- Goals (P): 10 (0)
- Assists: 48
- Yellows: 22 (0)
- Reds: 0
- Min Played: 16456
Alexander-Arnold averaged over 100 touches per 90 minutes for Liverpool last season. That was far more than Liverpool midfielders Naby Keita and Georginio Wijnaldum, who saw much less of the ball. It was even more than famed midfield playmaker Thiago Alcantara.
Against Andorra, in a game that England completely dominated throughout, Alexander-Arnold had a taste of why that is the case. Playing in midfield requires different movements to find space and with bodies all around him, he struggled to free himself.
In fact, there was a 10-minute period in the early stages of the first half in which he had only two touches of the ball – and one of those was a throw-in. In total, he had 33 touches in that opening 45 minutes.
Whether he has the tactical discipline to play in midfield can only be discovered by playing him there, but wherever his future lies, Alexander-Arnold must develop his game. At right-back, he needs to become more alert to danger, while in midfield, he would have to learn the role properly.
But there certainly seems to be a different kind of player waiting to burst out of Alexander-Arnold’s body. When a right-back scores a winning goal by being in the left-hand side of the opponent’s penalty area in the 90th minute of a game, it suggests that there is plenty more to give than merely patrolling the right side of the pitch for the rest of his career.