Only a year ago Trent Alexander was a player that was marked down as the 3rd or 4th choice right back for England, by the current Three Lions manager. Gareth Southgate has always preferred that extra defensive solidity, which perhaps restricted Liverpool’s number 66 in his desire to make a true international impact. Whatever brilliance came his way (whilst in his Liverpool red), the difference between both his club and international managers could not be bridged. Under the guidance of his infectious German coach, TAA was built into the most attacking and ferocious playmaking fullback the Premier League has ever seen. That kind of expansive football has never translated into what England have become (under the former Middlesbrough manager), which is the key reason why he was limited to just 18-caps.
Until this past weekend, that is.
We have heard in the early part of this week how Trent & Gareth have been discussing the possibility of carrying over his Liverpool evolution, so that his international team can reap the rewards of his recent positional alteration. In the back end of last season, we saw a hybrid role come to the fore that allowed the academy product to create a midfield double pivot with Fabinho. This system adjustment was an in-possession trait, one which helped create both a controlling and overwhelming effect in the opposition half. Though the tactics and personnel are still to be ironed out at Anfield, there is no doubt that the previously disheartened fullback became rejuvenated as the tempo setting midfielder of his beloved reds. The internal confidence (in his own ability) was never in question, however, the attacking force that was built (by Klopp) underprepared him for last year’s midfield limitations ahead of him. The former Champions League winner became the target for most opposition attacks, with next to no support on the varying RCM’s ahead of him. With that campaign of horror descending into the deep abyss, it was a dramatic decision to change the role of Trent, by ushering him into the centre of the park. To say that alteration has been a success, would be a massive understatement.
Liverpool is a footballing powerhouse that are still in transition, yet it would be hard to argue the merits that may eventually prevail. The fanbase have gone from fearing the worst (about TAA’s future), to finally seeing the midfield qualities he is able to produce. I suspect that all summer plans have been tinkered and formulated with the former Premier League champion at the forefront of Jürgen Klopp’s mind. I trust the process of the former Borussia Dortmund head coach, despite it taking an age for the Liverpool penny to drop. What I believe could also help our cause, is the added responsibilities and trust he appears to have been given by his England manager. This is something that few would have seen coming, given the lack of trust that had been shown previously.
In the recent group game against Malta, we saw a new number 10 ushered onto the foreign pitch, one which perhaps shocked a good few England fans. The 1966 World Cup winners were able to make it three wins from their three games played, as they strolled to a 0-4 win. This evening (as I write this), the next Euro 2024 qualifier match will see Old Trafford host England v North Macedonia. Though there is sure to be some form of rotation, you get the feeling that Trent’s Saturday night match winning display (and thunderbolt from outside the box), will see him retain his position. That spot in the middle three did not have any absolute requirements to drop back into the defence, therefore allowing us a prolonged glimpse of what could become a permanent shift into central midfield. There has too often been something lacking in our nations side, though that may now have been discovered.
Trent Alexander Arnold starts in midfield as number 10 👀 pic.twitter.com/7ut5VutgqC
— LFC Transfer Room (@LFCTransferRoom) June 16, 2023
With a fast start an absolute must for Liverpool’s 2023/24 campaign, we need our elite level players and leaders to really step up and guide us through the period of change. Alisson Becker is the most dependable keeper I have ever seen, Mohamed Salah can drive the forward line to higher levels, whereas Virgil can once again solidify his place as the world’s best defender. With the new parts (we all hope will be added), the focus of improvement must be that problematic middle ground. The fresh blood will take a moment to gain the trust of our manager and the understanding of our patterns of play. What is vital to that process, is the form and performance levels of Trent Alexander Arnold. As a 24-year-old with 273 senior appearances for his hometown club, he must now take on the responsibility of being the midfield leader for this next generation. I firmly believe that that can be aided by the recent success for his nation, with so much disappointment surrounding most of his five-year international career. The exhausting debate over his overall defensive prowess can now be shelved, as he will almost certainly become a fixture in England’s next starting midfield. Alongside Declan Rice & Jude Bellingham, you can see how that trio could take shape in front of a defensive four that has limited ability to progress. The playmaking ability is something that has been lacking for years, with nearly all our incisive play coming from moments rather than the continual orchestration of situations. You get the sense that a point is there to be proven (to all Three Lions fan), which could propel our Trent into a masterclass of a season.
It is early days, yet I am genuinely excited to see how high this elite level talent can progress. Recognition away from Anfield has always been in short supply, therefore it will be interesting how his new role for both club and country can propel him to the highest of footballing heights.
Wouldn’t that be something to behold.