Trent Alexander-Arnold was excellent in midfield in England’s 7-0 thumping of North Macedonia. His performance did not answer any of the questions that swirl around the 24-year-old, though.
Of course he can dominate the central areas against a team as bad as North Macedonia. Gareth Southgate deploying him as an out-and-out midfielder is hardly the act of an innovator. The England manager is deeply conservative and is unwilling to take the risk of playing TAA at full back. It’s doubtful that Southgate will pick him in Monday’s position against tougher sides in the autumn.
The most important thing for Liverpool next season is to get Alexander-Arnold’s role right. This is for two reasons. The first is obvious. If the team are to have any chance of getting back into the Champions League, he needs to be somewhere near the top of his form. The full backs have been the creative hub during the past five years and, with respect to Andy Robertson, Trent has provided the majority of threat.
Teams left outside the revamped Champions League in 2024-25 will have to watch their rivals in Europe’s most lucrative competition move further ahead financially. The new format adds more to the workload of the players but will add a pile of cash for clubs involved.
This feeds into the second reason. By next summer, Alexander-Arnold will only have one year left on his contract. That spells danger. He’s a local boy but – whatever fans think – he needs to make the best choices for his career. Anfield has to be an attractive proposition going forward.
There was a spell last season when it was clear from his body language that he was unhappy. He was not the only one. No one is thrilled during poor spells and it’s easy to lose faith with the manager when things aren’t going well. Even after victories, the tension was obvious. In the best periods of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure, the final whistle was a signal for a lovefest of hugs. At times in the early part of this year, even successes were marked with passive aggressive shoulder bumps and moody interactions.
That’s not too much of a worry at this stage. Underperformance does that to teams. But campaigns like the one that’s just gone put doubts in the minds of players. Doubt is never good.
Another inconsistent season will put both Alexander-Arnold and Liverpool in a quandary 12 months from now. The club cannot afford to let the Scouser leave for free when his contract is up in 2025. TAA needs to be playing at the highest level and that means the Champions League.
The best option is to agree a contract extension. For the moment, neither club nor player are in any rush to get to the negotiating table. A good start to the season will focus minds.
Even more than the summer transfer business, locking Alexander-Arnold up for the next few years must be top of the agenda for the club. For that, he needs to be happy. The best way to make any player happy is winning.
TAA is the sort of operator who’s less concerned about his position than his impact on the game. He’ll play where the manager needs him. Winning solves a multitude of problems. The club don’t want a will-he-won’t-he saga developing at the back end of the year over committing to an extended contract.
Oh for a summer like 1987! Have any two signings been as transformative for Liverpool as the arrival of John Barnes and Peter Beardsley 36 years ago?
Everton had just won the league. Ian Rush left for Juventus. There was a real feeling that Anfield was at the crossroads. Then, in the course of eight days, Liverpool changed the nature of the team and bought the best two English attackers.
In those days before the transfer windows, the summer wasn’t as frenzied as it is now. You could restock during the season. John Aldridge arrived in the previous January and Ray Houghton was signed in October, by which time the Barnes-Beardsley-Aldridge combination was ripping through top flight defences.
Barnes was probably the second-best player in the world – Diego Maradona was blowing minds and winning titles at Napoli. Only a player like Maradona could be ranked above Barnes, who was sensational.
Beardsley would have been the leading star in all but a handful of teams. It’s no reflection on him to say that Barnes outshone him. Aldridge was the perfect foil for them both.
The two summer signings in 1987 should have defined an era for Liverpool. Sadly, that era was cut short by an even more defining event — Hillsborough.
The joy of watching Barnes and Beardsley in red shirts for the first time was unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine a greater injection of flair. There’s a challenge for you, Jorg Schmadtke!
Beardsley’s first game for Liverpool on British soil was a friendly against Celtic at Parkhead. He was given a rousing reception by the away fans.
“There’s only one Quasimodo,” boomed out from our end. Oh, that famous Scouse humour.
He wasn’t happy. You should have seen his face.
Or maybe not. That’s what started the whole dumbarse idea for the chant.
Anyway, I can’t remember another rendition of it after Beardsley showed his displeasure. Or, if it was ever sung again, it doesn’t ring a bell for me.
Moaners update, July 23: No sign the club will be sold. FSG still in. No more players have arrived. Transfer fume building.
Positivity bulletin, July 23: No sign of becoming a sportswashing vehicle. Good business done early with Alexis Mac Allister. Plenty more transfer action incoming.
Reality check: Still big upgrades needed for next season. If you’re going to be frugal, FSG, you better get things right.
If Alexander-Arnold is ever tempted to leave, there will no doubt be loads calling him a traitor. Ludicrous. Just because you’re a local lad, it doesn’t mean you be tied forever to the club.
Kenny Dalglish showed huge loyalty to Liverpool and the Scot has become one of the greatest Merseysiders in history after coming south in 1977. But he once explained why to me. “It’s simple,” he said. “I was paid well and winning trophies. If that hadn’t have happened I’d have been off like a shot.”
Trent deserves a pay rise and a clutch of medals. Liverpool’s job is to make sure he gets both.