Patrick Mills writes a detailed scout report about Trent Alexander-Arnold, the Liverpool and England right back.
Liverpool have a long history of blooding homegrown talent. During the Premier League era, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, amongst others, have graduated from the club’s youth system. In more recent times, the likes of Jon Flanagan, Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing and Jordan Rossiter have failed to make the grade. The Red’s current head coach Jurgen Klopp has continued the tradition of giving academy player’s a chance. While Sheyi Ojo, Ben Woodburn and Ovie Ejaria have all impressed on occasion, there is one youngster in particular who appears most likely to nail down a place in Klopp’s squad moving forward.
Who is Trent Alexander-Arnold?
Born in West Derby, near Liverpool’s Melwood training centre, Trent Alexander-Arnold joined the club at the age of 6. He is the nephew of Manchester United club secretary and former Reading and Millwall player John Alexander. Equally adept in central midfield, Alexander-Arnold is expected to forge a career at Right-Back. He has represented England from Under 16 to Under 19 level but many believe that, despite being just 18, he is ready to make the step-up to Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 squad. Having been part of Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the US in the summer of 2016, Alexander-Arnold was on the bench for their first game of the competitive season, a 4-3 win away at Arsenal. He then made his first start in a 2-1 victory over Spurs in the EFL cup. After the game, Anfield great Graeme Souness said that Arnold had “all the attributes to become a top player”. He went on to put in a man of the match display against Leeds United in the next round, assisting Divock Origi’s opener, as seen below.
Prior to that fixture, the last time Liverpool had played Leeds was in 2009, with Alexander-Arnold as mascot. His first Premier League start came in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford, highlighting the trust Klopp has in him. Another club legend, Steven Gerrard singled Arnold out for praise in his autobiography ‘My Story’, tipping him for a bright future.
What is his Style of Play?
Alexander Arnold is very much an attack-minded fullback in the modern mould. Given that Liverpool play an extremely offensive game, he is perfectly suited. He enjoys dribbling down the line or receiving from an inverted winger before delivering a cross. He also makes movements infield himself and frequently makes free man runs to get on the on the end of a move in a similar manner to Real Madrid’s Marcelo. His versatility with regards to his movements and capabilities in different attacking zones makes him a perfect fit for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool’s current philosophy of rotational positional play or ‘total football’.
What are his Strengths?
Despite spending much of his youth in Central-Midfield, Alexander Arnold has the physical and technical profile to excel as an attacking fullback. His close control, endurance, pace and dribbling abilities mean he is capable of making overlapping runs or carrying the play forward himself from deep. He also has the passing range to switch the play and the capacity to find teammates with crosses. Additionally, he has a tendency to make underlapping runs and as a result, has an exceptionally good scoring record for England’s Under 19’s, scoring 7 goals in 8 appearances. These include doubles against Croatia, Wales and Spain, making him pivotal in the qualification of Keith Downing’s side for the European Championships later this year. One of Alexander-Arnold’s goals against Spain can be seen below.
Liverpool’s first team development coach Pepijn Lijnders, who coached the likes of Memphis Depay in his previous development role at PSV, had this to say:
“He has something extra, a certain insight and creativity that makes him able to play unpredictable passes,” he said.
“He is quick in mind, knows what’s going to happen and has the capacity to improvise—this opens up situations for himself or for others.”
“Our playing idea is to create chance after chance, from each position taking this initiative. A right defender who can create and can dominate the complete right channel.”
“In my opinion, he is one of the most all-round talents in Europe with a ‘team first’ attitude.”
Individual highlights of Alexander Arnold’s man of the match performance against Leeds can be seen below.
What are his Weaknesses?
Alexander Arnold is currently behind only Nathaniel Clyne in the pecking order for a regular starting berth with Liverpool. In a recent interview, Clyne acknowledged the competition provided by his understudy and pointed out that, along with his obvious attacking talents, Arnold was “good defensively, too”. However, it seems his manager thinks he has some work to do in this department.
“He is an outstanding player but the area he can improve most is his defensive side. You have to involve other skills in your game. That’s the next step for him. Offensively he is closer to 100% than defence, that’s what we’re working on.”
If he can take Klopp’s advice on board and continue to work with the reputable Lijnders, it appears conceivable that Trent Alexander-Arnold will become a household name over the next few years. If he fulfils his potential, there’s a good chance he’ll dispossess Clyne and Kyle Walker at Right-Back for club and country respectively.
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