ODE TO ALEXANDER-ARNOLD
News broke this afternoon of Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold extending his contract to 2025, with the 22 year old being elevated into the top echelons of earners at the club.
This is just reward for a player who has slowly but surely rose to become Liverpool’s principle creator, and all from a defensive position. His importance to the side could not be overstated as his friendly competition with fellow full back Andy Robertson, has completely transformed the role of a full back.
We take a look at his story so far, in an ode to the exceptional talent, that is, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“Its like having Kevin De Bruyne at Right Back.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold joined the Liverpool Academy as a six year old. Born and bred in the city, Trent went on to captain the U16 and U18 teams under Pep Ljinders. It was also during his time in the academy that he converted from a central midfielder to a right-back, as it was the position that offered him the clearest path to the first team with there being no backup for Nathaniel Clyne following Jon Flanagan’s injury hell and subsequent departure.
Trent excelled in the new role and as a result of his rapid progression was selected as part of the first team squad by manager Brendan Rodgers for the team’s final pre-season friendly against Swindon Town ahead of the 2015/16 season. Trent made his unofficial debut for the club in a 2–1 win at the age of 16. He was given his professional debut by Jurgen Klopp on 25th October, 2016, starting in a 2–1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the fourth round of the EFL Cup. His performance earned him a spot in the EFL Cup Team of the Round.
He started in Liverpool’s next EFL Cup match later that month against Leeds United and was named Man of the Match for his performance after registering his first assist for the club. He then made his Premier League debut on 14 December, coming on as a late substitute in a 3–0 win over Middlesbrough, before making his first league start in a 1–1 draw away to Manchester United in January 2017, where he kept an in form Anthony Martial largely under wraps. Having made 12 appearances across all competitions (and providing 1 assist), he was named Liverpool’s Young Player of the Season. His star had just begun to rise.
In the buildup to the following season (2017–18), regular right-back, Nathaniel Clyne suffered a serious back injury which afforded Alexander-Arnold the opportunity to rotate with Joe Gomez during the early stages of the campaign. He scored his first goal for the club when he struck home from a free kick in a 2–1 first leg Champions League play-off round win over Hoffenheim. He scored his first Premier League goal for Liverpool on Boxing Day, netting in a 5–0 win over Swansea City at Anfield. The club’s trust in him was paying off. They could have easily dipped into the transfer market to find a replacement for the stricken Clyne but chose to go with their young talents in him and Joe Gomez.
In March of that season, Alexander-Arnold endured his most difficult spell with the club to date, after struggling against Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford in successive weeks. Nevertheless, he retained the trust of Jurgen Klopp and his position in Liverpool’s starting line-up to become the youngest English player to start in a Champions League quarter-final match. He performed strongly in a 3–0 win over English rivals Manchester City in April and was named Man of the Match. He earned praise from the media for his ability to nullify City winger Leroy Sané and his mentality to bounce back from a tough couple of weeks.
He won the Liverpool Young Player of the Season award for the second season running and became the youngest Liverpool player to start in a Champions League final when he was named in the starting line-up against Real Madrid. Tasked with marking the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo, he performed admirably though Liverpool ultimately succumbed to a 3–1 defeat. Come the end of the season, he had scored three goals, provided 3 assists while creating 34 chances in 33 appearances across all competitions. He was nominated for the Golden Boy award where he finished runner-up to Ajax defender, Matthijs De Ligt.
He continued to enhance his burgeoning reputation in the season thereafter. Alexander-Arnold elevated his game further to become a playmaking right back. He became the youngest player, aged 20 years and 143 days, to record three assists in a single Premier League match when he set up three goals in a 5–0 win over Watford. His domestic form was rewarded later in April when he was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award. Although the award was won by Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, Trent was later named in the PFA Team Of The Year .
In May with Liverpool trailing Barcelona 3–0 on aggregate after a first-leg defeat (which Trent was cruelly benched for), he recorded two more assists, including “the best assist of his career” for Origi’s winning goal, to help the club to a 4–3 aggregate victory and progress to a second consecutive Champions League final. On the final day of the domestic season, Alexander-Arnold provided another assist to break the Premier League record for the most assists by a defender in a domestic campaign, with 12.
He then started in the Champions League final, putting in an assured showing against the dangerous Son Heung Min, as Liverpool clinched a 2–0 win over Tottenham. He was later named in the competition’s Team of the Season and nominated for the Defender of the Season award. He was now the best right back in world football. Quite the rise for the young Scouser. He finished 2019/20 with a personal record of 1 goal, 16 assists and 86 chances created in 40 appearances.
Alexander-Arnold began the 2019–20 campaign with his position as Liverpool’s right-back cemented, no longer was he rotated with Gomez, as his defending had come on in leaps and bounds. He was nominated for the 2019 Ballon d’or award, alongside six of his Liverpool teammates. He was voted as the 19th-best player in the world at the Ballon d’Or ceremony, and the highest-ranked full-back. Team success followed too as he played his part in Liverpool winning the UEFA Super Cup on penalties. Trent assumed responsibility to take and convert his penalty in the shootouts.
Upon returning from a successful FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar (where he came off the bench to provide the match winning assist in the semi final), Liverpool recorded a 4–0 league win over second-placed Leicester City in a match which Alexander-Arnold played a hand in all four goals by scoring one, assisting two, and winning a penalty which was converted by Milner. He was later rewarded for his form with the Premier League Player Of The Month award, becoming the first full-back to claim the honour since 2007. Further recognition followed at the turn of the year, when he was named in the 2019 UEFA Team of the Year.
Alexander-Arnold helped Liverpool win their first league title in 30 years, and their first in the Premier League era and with the title secured, he broke his own assist record on the penultimate day of the campaign when he set Firmino up to score in a 5–3 win over Chelsea. For his contributions during the season, he was awarded the inaugural Premier League Young Player of the Season award, won the PFA Young Player of the Year accolade and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. He finished with 4 goals, 15 assists and a whopping 118 chances created across 49 appearances.
Alexander-Arnold continued to feature prominently for Liverpool during the 2020–21 campaign and, on 9th December, became the youngest-ever player to captain the club in European competition, and third-youngest in any competition, when he donned the armband during the Reds’ 1–1 Champions League draw against FC Midtjylland. Later that month, he was named in the 2020 FIFA FIF-PRO Men’s World XI all the while Liverpool set about its domestic title defence by topping the league standings by Christmas.
However, both his and the club’s form waned in the second half of the campaign which culminated in Alexander-Arnold’s highly-publicised omission from Gareth Southgate’s England squad for March’s 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualification matches. As a result, his performances came under intense scrutiny and he was criticised for making defensive errors during Liverpool’s 3–1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League. In the Premier League, his form improved and he was lauded for his game-winning performances against Arsenal and Aston Villa, providing an assist in the former fixture and scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute of the latter fixture.
Losing all the usual centre backs at the club didn’t help as Trent assumed more of a leadership role in the backline and had to adapt his game to make up for the inexperience of Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams. The most challenging season of his career till date and he still had some very good moments and underlying figures as he managed 2 goals, 9 assists and 105 chances created in 45 appearances. That summer, he was named in England’s squad for EURO 2020 but missed out on adding to his 1 goal in 13 caps after picking up a calf injury in the last warm up game.
Trent is a world class right back and rarely misses games though injury. 94 appearances across the past two campaigns speak of a player that stays fit for the most part. Still just aged 22, he is Liverpool’s most creative outlet, and if he can play another 40+ games this season, the club will be better for it. His dream of one day captaining his boyhood club, just came a step closer with this new deal. His sheer will continues to power him to record breaking performances and achievements. Long may it continue.