WIDE OPEN TITLE RACE
Trent has turned into Liverpool’s heartbeat
By LEWIS STEELE
WITH adidas Predators now on his feet, it seems Trent Alexander-Arnold is turning into quite the predator in a goalscoring sense, too.
Since signing a £26million boot deal with the German company, Liverpool’s vice-captain has put in two majestic performances and scored two goals.
Alexander-Arnold will argue he has scored three, mind. He was denied one in Liverpool’s comefrom-behind win over Fulham on Sunday as his free-kick bounced in off goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s head.
But there was no need to convene the Dubious Goals Panel for the other two strikes, both clean shots from distance. First, he salvaged a vital point at Manchester City, then he scored a last-gasp winner in the seven-goal Fulham thriller.
They have earned Liverpool three points, a valuable draw on the road and a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat as Marco Silva’s Fulham threatened one of the greatest smash-and-grab wins in recent memory. Those points could be pivotal in the title race.
Fulham would have been the first side since Leeds in October 2022 to win at Anfield in the league but instead the Kop was left toasting Alexander-Arnold and chanting about ‘the Scouser in the team’, the local lad lapping up the praise that came his way.
That ‘Scouser in the team’ is more crucial than ever for Liverpool and England, maturing into a leader on and off the field after spending time in the off- season plotting how to start a personal cycle of success for club and country.
Alexander-Arnold chose to go to an individual training camp in
Portland, Oregon, and spent time reflecting on how to improve. His target for the season was to play a pivotal role in returning Liverpool to glory and also leading England to Euro 2024 success.
He often has the maturity to reach out to coaches and ask for advice, with Gareth Southgate and assistant Steve Holland on that list. Klopp and right-hand man Pepijn Lijnders have also been crucial.
Both Klopp and Southgate have said he will be integrated into more of a creative role in the coming year or so, which is reflected in Alexander-Arnold being called a ‘midfielder’ on official documents when England name their squads.
It is not just Liverpool and England who see Alexander-Arnold as a global star. Adidas recently signed him up on a multi-year deal to make him one of the faces of their next generation, alongside Jude Bellingham and Barcelona’s Pedri. He will get his own signature range of boots.
He knew he could improve his leadership attributes, too. During a training session at the Singapore National Stadium in July, Klopp called Alexander-Arnold over for a chat. The full back thought it would be about tactics but, instead, he was told he was the new vice-captain.
From that point on, the boyhood Liverpool fan knew he had to step up. He was already an influential figure in the dressing room, but Alexander-Arnold has spent time working on his leadership skills, taking on an unofficial mentoring role for younger players.
On the pitch, the 25-year- old is growing as a midfield maestro. It would be remiss to ignore that his strolls into central areas sometimes leave Liverpool exposed on their right flank. On Sunday, 44.8 per cent of Fulham’s attacks came down that side, a clear gameplan from Silva to take advantage of Alexander-Arnold vacating his station and moving into midfield.
But the qualities AlexanderArnold brings in an attacking and playmaking sense outweigh the defensive frailties it might cause in
Liverpool’s system. He had 102 touches against Fulham, dictating from the middle.
‘He is the heartbeat of the team, he has a bit of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso about him,’ said Jermaine Jenas on Match of the Day 2, with fellow pundit Leon Osman adding it could be time for Alexander-Arnold to move into a midfield role full-time.
Playing in midfield is nothing new for the boy who often featured there for Liverpool’s youth teams. But after excelling in an attacking sense from full back, there is a feeling he can form a formidable trio with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham for England at the Euros next summer.
Many former youth coaches speak of Alexander-Arnold’s ability to absorb information and learn from his mistakes. Lijnders and Holland have spent a generous amount of time in training helping him understand tactical nuances of the game.
‘When he has the ball at his feet and is free he can put the ball wherever he wants,’ said captain Virgil van Dijk. ‘That is a big quality, we all know it and opponents know it.’
Alexander-Arnold knows he is still young and has plenty to improve on. But he is turning into the heartbeat of the Liverpool team and can follow suit for England. For club and country, the sky is the limit.
dmg media (UK)