Jurgen Klopp on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s central role for Liverpool and improved defending

Trent Alexander-Arnold is flourishing in his new hybrid role with six assists in five games and Jurgen Klopp believes it’s a “breath of fresh air”.

Klopp has deployed the 24-year-old in central areas for five games running, with flashes of promise emerging from the get-go during the 2-2 draw with Arsenal in early April – teeing up Roberto Firmino for the Reds’ late equaliser.

The England international proceeded to notch two assists in the 6-1 win over Leeds and registered 153 touches – the second-most of any player in a Premier League game this season.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Liverpool against Tottenham in the Premier League

“We’ve always known he has the potential to do it,” Klopp told Sky Sports. “But, to play a role, it’s not about a player. It’s about having the whole system in place. You have to set it up. We have to train.”

Liverpool are bearing the fruit of their labour: the full-back has registered 53 assists since his debut in 2016 – bettered only by Kevin De Bruyne and team-mate Andy Robertson – but had created only two goals during this campaign until facing the Gunners last month.

Since then, he’s registered six assists in five games.

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Per 90 minutes, that equals to being 13 times more effective. But it isn’t just assists: all key attacking metrics have spiked significantly: expected assists, chances created, assists in the opposition half and he’s getting more of the ball.


speaking to Sky Sports NewsAlexander Arnold said: “It’s not just been [discussions between] me and [Klopp]it’s a team system.

“It’s getting the best out of players and finding a system that works best for us that is a little different from what we are used to do.

“I definitely do [enjoy it]. I wouldn’t say it’s further up. It’s not like I’m getting in the box and scoring goals. It’s more in the center of the pitch and I enjoy getting on the ball and passing and being creative in those areas.”

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Alexander-Arnold talks to Soccer Saturday’s Johnny Phillips about the support of family throughout his Liverpool career

The heat maps below show the stark difference of his positioning since the turn of April, showing how the unconventional full-back has been venturing into the central third far more frequently.


The touch maps below break down his new role by match, revealing these regular central forays after being benched for the goalless draw with Chelsea following the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.


Jamie Carragher was full of praise for the full-back’s hybrid role in his Monday Night Football post-match analysis following the victory over Leeds, suggesting only Kevin De Bruyne matches him for defence-splitting passes.

“His role from midfield in the second half against Arsenal was almost like a Steven Gerrard performance, where he was a bit everywhere and there was a lot of running involved,” said Carragher.

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“Trent has provided quality from an unconventional full-back position – he plays the role differently. But, for me, watching him in midfield, getting more involved, running the game, I think this is almost perfect for him.

“I don’t really care where Trent is on a team sheet. I want to see him on the ball [in the region highlighted below] because, if he’s on the ball in those areas, whether he’s playing midfield, full-back, wing-back, or on the right of a midfield three, there are very few players in world of football who could match him.

Jamie Carragher wants to see Trent Alexander-Arnold working inside the opposition helped

“Klopp and Liverpool have to find a way [to utilise his strengths], as they have done for the last four or five years as a full-back. If that position isn’t working this season, then as a midfield player. Your job as coaching staff is to make sure you get that man on the ball.”

Indeed, Liverpool had done exactly that. “People said his defending is not good,” said Klopp. “This year, that discussion took over because we, as a team, were not defending well.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in an advanced role or a right-back position. It starts in the frontline, if they don’t defend as well, the midfield doesn’t know where to go as the distances are too big.

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“Trent is then too far advanced as to where we’d like him and then the last line is a little bit too deep and then all of a sudden, there’s a complete breakdown. We ended up in a lot of situations where Trent was too late and he couldn’t get a feeling of the situation. Defending is all about timing and if the distances are too big, then there’s no timing possible.

“People started saying: this winger is quicker than Trent. That was the case two or three years ago – so that’s not important.

“We had a successful formation for years, we had it in our minds where, if we had to change something, that could be something. He’s still defending in the right-back position and we had a lot of games last season when we played him in an advanced role. Now, it’s a bit more central.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been playing in more central areas, instead of staying in his usual right channel

“But you have to set up the rest of the team as well. It’s not just done by putting a player in a different position. We had time for that [a few] weeks ago, when we had an eight or nine-day training spell and we used it for that. It worked out and it’s very important how the last line adapts.

Liverpool’s break to drill

Liverpool enjoyed a three-week break after the 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth on March 11, with the Fulham game rescheduled due to the Cottagers’ FA Cup quarter-final clash with Manchester United, before a two-week international break – when Alexander- Arnold was omitted from the England squad.

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Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher takes a closer look at Jurgen Klopp’s touchline behavior in Liverpool’s 4-3 win against Tottenham at Anfield

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“The real reason for the improvement is the general defending. There are moments where we defend well and Trent can pop up in a different space. But it’s helped Fabinho as well. You can see how he’s flourishing now. Cody Gakpo is a perfect player for the central space. Everybody buys into it. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

“We will have a proper pre-season. We will have two more weeks for the holiday. That doesn’t mean the holiday is longer, but the pre-season will be longer and we will make sure we will be ready for a proper fight next year. We will be closer next year.”