Trent Alexander-Arnold is a 21-year-old right-back playing for Liverpool. Since his emergence into Liverpool’s starting XI, Alexander-Arnold has taken the Premier League by storm. In the 2018/19 Premier League season, the youngster marked a fantastic season with 12 assists. This season, the energetic and dynamic right-back has not slowed down. Alexander-Arnold has 10 assists to his name and is showing no signs of stopping. His success is due to a combination of his superb talent and Liverpool’s tactical system. The Reds have won 22 matches and drawn one, boasting the league’s best defensive record and a free-flowing attack that outscores their opponents. This tactical analysis and scout report will examine exactly how TAA achieves his success.
Liverpool’s tactics encourage Trent Alexander-Arnold to become a key creator. Despite being a right-back, Trent is always providing for Liverpool’s front three. His eagerness to take up attacking positions coupled with his crossing and passing ability makes him an elite right-back.
Jurgen Klopp’s high-pressing tactics encourage Trent Alexander-Arnold to be in attacking areas. The young Englishman consistently finds himself taking up favouring attacking positions in opponents’ half of the pitch. His traditional position as a right-back is questionable due to his incredible attacking statistics.
After 22 starts for Liverpool (in the Premier League) this season, he achieves a KP90 of 2.78. This means that he creates around three chances per match that lead to a shot for one of his teammates. In contrast, Andrew Robertson (Liverpool’s left-back), achieves a KP90 of 1.44. These numbers highlight that Klopp utilises Trent Alexander-Arnold’s attacking threat to create key chances for his team.
In the analysis below, the ball has just been turned over and Liverpool have been building possession. As James Milner pushes forward, Trent Alexander-Arnold analyses the available space to slot into. Wijnaldum’s (number five in the bottom left side of the image) positioning as the pivot player allows for Liverpool’s right-back to move forward. As Leicester City gets attached to the ball, Trent Alexander-Arnold occupies the space between the left-back (Chilwell) and left-winger (Perez).
Despite being so forward, the young right-back is correct in his tactical positioning. Just after this phase of play, Trent Alexander-Arnold benefits from exposing the Leicester defensive shape. The ball flows across the pitch and enters the right attacking channel.
Trent’s ability to be comfortable and willing to push into the final third creates problems for the opposing left-back. Here, Chilwell has to engage the ball, leaving Trent Alexander-Arnold to cruise into open space. This attacking phase results in a Liverpool goal, adding yet another assist to his statistics.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ability to cross the ball has caused shock waves around the Premier League. In 2018-2019, he registered 12 assists. This season, after only 23 games played, he has 10 assists to his name. The reason for these high numbers is due to his attacking positioning shown above and his ability to cross the ball at a world-class level. The England international is dangerous from a wide array of situations. Liverpool’s right-back has delivered six assists from the corner flag, making him a league leader in set-piece delivery.
Furthermore, the number of crosses Trent Alexander-Arnold produces significantly outweigh those of his closest competitors. Trent has put in 239 crosses (first in the league) compared to Kevin-De Bruyne’s 213 (second in the league). Only Kevin De Bruyne has more assists than Alexander-Arnold (due to the fact he plays in a significantly more advanced position on the pitch).
The number of crosses demonstrates how often Trent Alexander-Arnold consistently finds himself in the attacking third. In the analysis below, you can see that his positioning is so advanced even though Liverpool are left exposed (if Milner was to lose the ball). There are five Sheffield United players ahead of him, yet he holds his position. This is one of the main reasons how Trent has become a world-class right-back. His skill set combined with his team’s tactics allows him to find space.
In the tactical analysis (below), Trent Alexander-Arnold becomes a fourth forward in his attacking positioning. As Salah pinches in, Trent Alexander-Arnold takes up space on the channel. This allows for Liverpool to get an extra man into the box. If Roberston decides to cross, Salah will be there to contend for the ball. That action by Salah frees up space which Trent can then occupy, giving Liverpool an advantage in the final third.
Passing locker: long ball & early ball
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s passing arsenal would make many players jealous. Regardless of his position on the pitch, he can hit fantastic long balls. This creates more attacking width for Liverpool. When the ball is switched with accuracy, Liverpool players will be in a more progressive position. Trent averages approximately five long balls per match out of the typical 67 passes he makes. This is a significantly high percentage and it allows the pitch to expand.
This graphic shows the number of times Trent and Andrew Roberston have exchanged long balls. Doing this allows Liverpool to change the point of attack quickly and effectively. By skipping the centre-backs, it can catch the opposition out of their defensive shape.
Another pass that the England international has in his locker is the early cross. When he receives the ball just inside the oppositions half, Alexander-Arnold sometimes picks out a curling ball in behind the centre-back. Such delivery is devastating as the likes of Mane and Firmino use their pace to latch onto the ball.
The tactical analysis above shows how impactful the early ball is for this Liverpool team. Trent receives the ball just inside Tottenham’s half and immediately looks for the run of Sadio Mane behind the centre-backs. Due to his 23% cross accuracy, the young full-back can hit his target once every four times. In this example, he ends up delivering a beautiful ball into the path of Mane, creating yet another key chance. Liverpool can only achieve chances like this due to Alexander-Arnold’s skillset.
Another example of the early ball happens in the same match, this time with his left foot. The Liverpool players know that the Englishman has the ability to deliver the ball behind the centre-backs. These pockets of space are created out of nothing and put so much pressure on opposing teams. Klopp’s willingness to encourage these types of passes from Trent allows him to be a creator in this Liverpool team. Trent Alexander-Arnold is a “creator in the channels,” referring to his ability to cross the ball with deadly accuracy in the attacking channels of the pitch (meaning the space between the edge of the box and the touchline).
This scout report and tactical analysis show how Trent Alexander-Arnold is a world-class right-back. This claim is no understatement due to his ability to find space in the attacking third and the number of assists he has in this high octane Liverpool team. He is creating a new style and definition for what it means to play as a full-back. Traditionally, full-backs are undervalued by the general public.
Even Trent acknowledged that himself as he has said: “No one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville.” For those who don’t know who Gary Neville is, he is arguably one of the Premier League’s best and most consistent right-backs. However, attacking was never a focal point of his game. Now, Trent Alexander-Arnold is redefining that stigma around what it means to be a full-back. At only 21 years of age, the sky’s the limit.