It’s a debate that has been roaring on for months and months now, but Trent Alexander-Arnold is a pretty good footballer if you weren’t already aware.
The Premier League and Champions League winning right-back has come under severe criticism this season for some below-par displays as Liverpool struggled to defend their crown, and was recently left out of the England squad ahead of Euro 2020.
But the 22-year-old roared back at his critics this past weekend with a late winner against Aston Villa to snap a six-game losing streak at Anfield.
It was a performance that saw Trent get back to what he does best, with good passing and ball striking technique. He also had more touches than any other player on the pitch, while also completing the most tackles of any Liverpool player.
The winning goal showed the brilliance he can bring in the final third that many other of England’s options at the back don’t have, with a superb strike. Alexander-Arnold found himself on the left hand side and as the ball broke loose to him, he cut inside and unleashed a wonderful curling strike into the corner to beat Emiliano Martinez and seal all three points.
It was a reminder to many of the ability he possesses, but in the prior game against Real Madrid it was a reminder of what he still needs to work on.
The Spanish giants targeted Alexander-Arnold, building up their play on the right wing before a quick switch of play through Luka Modric and Toni Kroos to Vinicius Jr who would have him isolated.
It worked a treat as the Brazilian youngster scored twice on the night, while a failed attempt led to Alexander-Arnold’s attempted header back to the goalkeeper falling short and Marco Asensio lifting the ball over Alisson to score himself.
When watching both games, it makes it very obvious what Alexander-Arnold is right now. He’s a great young talent who still needs his game to develop to reach the pinnacle of what he could become. Sounds like a standard 22-year-old.
The issue he has is that he’s already been at the top of the game. He was a key part of Liverpool’s success over the last three seasons as they reached consecutive Champions League finals, then had a record-breaking Premier League season in which they failed to lift the title. But he was also instrumental in the Champions League title they won but also the record-breaking season they had in which they won the league title.
Most of those contributions came in the offensive third though, with assists and goals rather than actual defensive actions. Yes, Liverpool had a great defensive record with him as part of the defence, but they keep the ball for the majority of their games.
When he is tasked with actually defending against tricky wingers, it’s not a surprise that the opposition target him just like Real Madrid did.
He is however, an exceptional talent. There isn’t an England full-back as good as him on the ball and in games where they will look to dominate the ball, he is the best option. When it comes to the big teams where they won’t have the ball as much and will need to deal with a palpable threat out wide, they have better.
It’s evident that his form hadn’t been great recently and leaving him out of the most recent squad wasn’t the worst decision in the world. But going forward, especially at Euro 2020, Alexander-Arnold should absolutely be on the plane.
A squad is about covering all scenarios you could potentially come up against and with Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker they have those scenarios covered. Leaving him out of the squad entirely would just reek of an excuse for failure in the tournament, with a built-in reason for people to blame if the side inevitably failed to break a team down. But they have got so many options that Southgate has to consider them all.
Alexander-Arnold is already one of the best right-backs in the world because of what he offers going forward – which is just as important for a top team in this day and age as what they offer defensively.
However, lets just relax with comparisons to all-time greats or putting him in all-time lineups. He’s great but still developing and there is nothing wrong with that.