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FIFA Club World Cup 2019: Liverpool vs Flamengo - tactical analysis tactics

How Trent Alexander-Arnold’s rise encapsulates Liverpool’s surge under Jürgen Klopp

Welcome to the new age, where the full-back reigns supreme. Liverpool’s wide defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have contributed a combined 16 assists in the Premier League this season, proving that creativity need not be restricted to forward or midfield areas.

But even the statistics don’t do justice to the impact Alexander-Arnold and Robertson have on this Liverpool team, who are now odds-on to win the title in the latest betting on the English Premier League. It’s the impetus the two full-backs give to the team that makes all the difference, driving their teammates up the pitch through their athleticism and confidence on the ball.

Alexander-Arnold, in particular, has been emblematic of Liverpool’s emergence as the best team in the world. This local lad who has come up through the ranks of the youth system is reflective of Liverpool’s rise from relative Premier League obscurity in seasons prior to Jürgen Klopp’s arrival, to the well-oiled winning machine we see today.

There is a photo which does the rounds now and then of Alexander-Arnold sat in a dugout around 2009, his shirt baggy and ill-fitting, a captain’s armband in place. If you had told him then that 10 years later he would have played in two Champions League finals and helped deliver Liverpool’s sixth European Cup, he might not have believed you, but his emergence is down to his determination to establish himself and the stewardship of Liverpool boss Klopp.

Alexander-Arnold made his senior debut in October 2016 in a League Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur, but it was his Premier League debut where he really caught the eye. Then 18 years old, the right-back was given a baptism of fire in the Premier League, called in as a late replacement for the injured Nathaniel Clyne against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Within the raw, inexperienced player on show that day, you could see the potential. Alexander-Arnold’s journey since then has been one of marked improvement year on year, to the point where he is now widely considered one of the best right-backs in the world.

It’s a rise that has coincided with Liverpool’s collective improvement under Klopp since the German has taken charge. The team have grown bolder, more assured of themselves, stronger in every area, and infected with an insatiable hunger for victory. All of that can also be said of Alexander-Arnold on an individual level. He has gone from mere potential to be special to the living, walking, crossing definition of attacking excellence from deep positions.

This was manifest in Liverpool’s now-famous 4-0 Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona last May, where Alexander-Arnold’s wicked low cross allowed Georginio Wijnaldum to slide home, before an instinctive bit of quick-thinking at a Liverpool corner set up Divock Origi to score the winner. It was the ingenuity of a far more experienced player, but Alexander-Arnold has a footballing brain far beyond his years. At 21, he has already amassed over 100 appearances for Liverpool, and with his improvement still continuing apace, there seems no reason why he shouldn’t have a long and decorated career at the club.

This season has seen the defender make a significant contribution to a team that could be set for a record-breaking campaign. Only Kevin De Bruyne has recorded more assists in the Premier League, and Alexander-Arnold has even chipped in with a couple of goals to boot. It looks increasingly likely that Liverpool and Alexander-Arnold will be Premier League champions this season, and it will be another feather in the cap for a young right-back whose potential appears limitless.