Trent Alexander-Arnold excels in new role as Liverpool demolish Leeds

LEEDS, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Trent Alexander-Arnold prepares to take a free kick during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Liverpool FC at Elland Road on April 17, 2023 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
LEEDS, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Trent Alexander-Arnold prepares to take a free kick during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Liverpool FC at Elland Road on April 17, 2023 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

You could live at Anfield and still not have the faintest idea which version of Liverpool will show up on any given day. The Reds have beaten Manchester City only to lose to Nottingham Forest two matches later. Recorded a historic 7-0 victory against bitter rivals Manchester Utd before a defeat at Bournemouth, and spectacularly fought back for a draw from 2-0 down to league leaders Arsenal only days after an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.

As enjoyable as Liverpool’s 6-1 win away at Leeds was for supporters, it does beg the questions of where this side has been for much of the season and why they have struggled to replicate such performances consistently. The past several months have been replete with false dawns so it’s understandable that despite the dominance of Klopp’s men at Elland Road, not too many supporters can say with confidence that the Reds have finally turned the corner.

However, a key modification in Klopp’s setup looked to be a promising first step as the German looks to rebuild his side for next season. That adjustment took place in the midfield, into which right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold repeatedly drifted and where he asserted total authority. While Alexander-Arnold’s defensive deficiencies have proven easy for opponents to exploit this season, his passing range and ability on the ball remains one of the finest on the planet. The right-back’s positioning further inwards allowed him to harness those qualities to far greater effect. And on Monday, he had two spectacular assists to show for it.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 04: Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool FC at Molineux on February 4, 2023 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images) /

Alexander-Arnold’s repositioning was just as impactful a week earlier as the Reds battled back from two goals down to claim a point against Arsenal. A poor first half saw Liverpool trail 2-0 before pulling a goal back, but their level improved massively with the Englishman stationed further inwards to distribute the ball more frequently, and indeed quite effectively when his cross found the head of Bobby Firmino for the equalizing goal.

The question Klopp now faces is whether to start Alexander-Arnold as a midfielder, or to keep him at right-back, but continue to have him drift inwards. In Klopp’s most successful seasons, his system relied heavily on the threats from his fullbacks charging forward from out wide, where Alexander-Arnold has racked up the bulk of his incredible tally of assists. If Trent Alexander-Arnold does retain a more central position, Liverpool will also depend heavily on the likes of Ibrahima Konate and Virgil Van Djik to cover for the space he leaves open, and while the two center-backs can certainly shoulder that responsibility, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez have shown few signs this season that they can do the same when in the side.

On the other hand, the deployment of Trent Alexander-Arnold centrally has provided a massive boost to an otherwise ineffective midfield. The Liverpool faithful have cried out for reinforcements in the middle of the park since the early days of the campaign as Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have performed well below the standards set in past seasons and Thiago has repeatedly been sidelined with injuries.

Anfield will certainly see more midfielders arrive this summer, but Liverpool’s reluctance to meet Borussia Dortmund’s asking price for Jude Bellingham points to the limits of the club’s spending power. If Liverpool find themselves priced out of other targets, Trent Alexander-Arnold is a serious alternative for Klopp to consider.

While a frustrating campaign has underscored the weaknesses within Liverpool’s squad, its forwards continue to deliver. Jota looked back to his best with two well taken goals, his first in over a year. While Salah claimed two for himself and Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo both added their names to the scoresheet.

Monday’s victory will do little to boost the Reds’ top-four hopes as they remain nine points behind 4th placed Newcastle with only eight matches still to play. Nonetheless, it offered a timely reminder that with Klopp looking to guide his side back up the Premier League table next season, he already has a strong foundation to build upon.