Liverpool have struggled for form this season with Trent Alexander-Arnold coming under particular scruntiny.
The international break may have come at the right time for Liverpool. Against the backdrop of a meek 1-0 loss – and 6-2 aggregate defeat – to Real Madrid, which resulted in the Reds exiting the Champions League, the mood on Merseyside is again a sombre one.
No silverware will be added to the Anfield trophy cabinet, with the best Kopites can hope for is a Premier League top-four finish. Even that looks a monumental challenge after an insipid 1-0 reverse to basement outfit Bournemouth.
Certainly, it’s been a season no-one predicted. Momentum has persistently eluded Liverpool. Consistency has been found wanting.
And while there’s no game for the Reds until they visit Manchester City on Saturday 1 April, there will still be plenty of debate among supporters. The summer transfer window, Jude Bellingham and owners Fenway Sports Group are all hot topics of conversation.
As is the form of Trent Alexander-Arnold. The 24-year-old has come under scrutiny throughout various stages of the campaign – most recently in the loss at the Santiago Bernabeu. Alexander-Arnold was accused – not for the first time in his career – of switching off defensively and losing Vinicius Jr in the build-up to Karim Benzema’s winner.
Indeed, Alexander-Arnold was put under the microscope when the two sides met in last year’s Champions League final in Paris. It was Vinicius who scored the only goal of the game when he finished at the back post in the second half – with some arguing that the England international failed to track the run of the Los Blancos dangerman.
For all of the praise that has been lavished on Alexander-Arnold since breaking into Jurgen Klopp’s side in 2017 – and helping restore Liverpool to the pinnacle of European football – he finds himself in perhaps the most challenging of his Anfield career. The West Derby-born right-back’s defending has never been a paragon but the Reds’ lacklustre form has meant it has come under fire.
The solution to rejuvenate Alexander-Arnold, some feel, is to switch him from the rearguard to midfield. It was the position he playing coming through the academy ranks and his range of passing could offer Klopp’s ailing engine room a fresh dimension.
Certainly, Jamie Carragher believes that it’s a change that Klopp has to consider. Writing in The Telegraph, the former Liverpool defender said: “In terms of his passing range, Alexander-Arnold is as good as anyone in Europe and the closest Liverpool have to Kevin De Bruyne or Steven Gerrard. Given how desperate Liverpool are for a creative midfielder, would turning him into a No 8 so he can fill those areas to whip those extraordinary passes into the penalty area be such a radical move? With Stefan Bajčetić out for the season, would Klopp even consider it as an immediate measure?
“I am convinced Alexander-Arnold will return to midfield eventually, whether it is in his late twenties or early thirties. It does not matter how many medals a player has won, the best will always be looking at ways to get better.”
Carragher isn’t alone. Plenty of fans are clamouring for Alexander-Arnold to be deployed in the middle of the park. England manager Gareth Southgate even experimented with it. In a 4-0 triumph over Andorra in September 2021, Alexander-Arnold started in midfield – yet was moved to the right-hand side of defence after 45 minutes.
But why make the best right-back in the world a midfielder? I don’t understand that really. As if the right-back position is not as important as the others. If people say that I struggle to really understand how you could think that.
“Some people think that because he plays 10 yards further up on the pitch he would be more influential. Being more influential than Trent Alexander-Arnold in the last how long he has played for me is really tricky and you need to have a proper look to find somebody.”
Granted, things have changed since 18 months ago when Klopp made those comments. Liverpool were at the beginning of what would turn out to be an almost history-making season as they fell just two games short of completing an unprecedented quadruple. Now they stand to be humbly demoted to the Europa League.
But Klopp’s sentiment on Alexander-Arnold could still stand. The German may believe that keeping Alexander-Arnold in his current berth and playing his way back into form is how the Reds can benefit.