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Trent Alexander-Arnold has never recorded two goals in a single game for Liverpool. He may have believed he achieved this feat during their thrilling 4-3 victory against Fulham, but upon review, it was determined that his first goal, a spectacular free kick that hit the crossbar and went in, actually deflected off of Bernd Leno’s back and was credited as an own goal for the goalkeeper. With this level of performance, it’s only a matter of time before he scores two goals in one game.
But there was no uncertainty when it came to No.66’s name appearing on the scoresheet after 88 minutes. This secured the comeback win and three crucial points in the Premier League with a powerful shot from the edge of the box.
The impact of his attacking skills in the game and his winning goal have earned three extra points for his team in their last two league matches. This has sparked discussion about whether Jurgen Klopp should permanently move his vice-captain from right-back to central midfield. However, the Anfield manager must also take into account other factors besides Alexander-Arnold.
The manager may argue that despite being labeled as a defender, the 25-year-old is consistently finding himself in strategic and impactful positions on the field. However, his game-changing performance against Fulham occurred after a tactical adjustment by Klopp, placing him in a central double pivot position as the team pushed for a draw and ultimately a win.
There are numerous factors to consider, but also many potential paths to pursue as Liverpool looks for a solution regarding Alexander-Arnold’s optimal, consistent, or even permanent position in the future.
Initially, they have the option to maintain the current situation. Coach Klopp has not been eager to convert Trent into a midfielder right away, only occasionally playing him in a different position in cup games. While Alexander-Arnold moving to the center from his usual right-back spot can aid in building attacks, it may not always improve team unity in defensive and transitioning stages. However, there is always the possibility to make changes during a match, as seen against Fulham.
The Scouser’s advancement presents three potential options, each with its own consequences. If Alexander-Arnold is no longer playing as a right-back, who will take his place? Joe Gomez has performed well in that position this season, but lacks the creative abilities and passing range of his teammate. It is also unlikely that someone else would be asked to fulfill the same responsibilities as Alexander-Arnold if they were permanently placed in that position – tactically, Liverpool would need a different type of player as a full-back rather than replicating what Trent does from a midfield position. Would Liverpool need to look for a new player in the transfer market? Are young players Conor Bradley and Jarrell Quansah ready to step up and become regulars in the first team? Bradley could potentially play on the right if an internal solution is preferred, while Quansah could see more game time if Gomez returns to playing centrally.
The financial situation at Anfield typically does not involve frequent or unexpected spending during the middle of the season. Additionally, high-quality full-backs for the first team are usually expensive, despite the availability of potential candidates and a revised tactical strategy being developed at the Kirkby Training Centre.
Aside from his position as a right-back, Trent’s role in the middle of the field is currently undefined.
He has occasionally played as the No.6 in Klopp’s typical trio, utilizing his passing abilities from a deeper position. However, when he moves to the center from the right-back position, he becomes a dynamic and attacking partner to the holding midfielder. This allows him to create chances and switch positions effectively. The question then arises about his role in goal-scoring opportunities. As the deepest player, can Liverpool risk him moving forward and potentially losing defensive stability, especially with two aggressive No.8s ahead of him? Additionally, Alexis Mac Allister may not be performing at his best as a No.6 currently. Would pushing both players up one position ultimately benefit the team more?
As an eight, Alexander-Arnold has potential to bring value, but transitioning to a different role will require significant adjustments in strategy and positioning.
However, during the match against Fulham, his winning contribution came unexpectedly. The manager had made changes to the usual formation, opting for a two-man midfield. Wataru Endo, who later scored the equalizer, was able to advance forward and bring balance to the team. He also provided cover and acted as a holding player to give a foundation and some organization for the attacking players.
Considering Klopp’s past patterns of making adjustments and most importantly, finding a successful lineup, it would not be unexpected to witness another small change in Liverpool’s formation, resulting in their consistent victories against opposing teams.
Wherever he ends up and however Alexander-Arnold is used game-to-game, the one thing which does look certain is that as a central cog in the team, the current Liverpool right-back will only continue to have an even greater influence as a world-class player of game-defining quality.