Klopp in 2021: “Why make best right-back in the world a midfielder”

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Trent Alexander-Arnold: From Right-Back to Midfield Maestro

Klopp’s Tactical Evolution: Alexander-Arnold’s New Role

In the ever-evolving world of football tactics, Jurgen Klopp’s recent strategic shift at Liverpool has been nothing short of intriguing. Central to this change has been the transformation of Trent Alexander-Arnold from a world-class right-back to a midfield dynamo. As James Pearce of The Athletic insightfully points out, “It was September 2021, and England manager Gareth Southgate played Liverpool’s dynamic right-back there in a World Cup qualifier against Andorra at Wembley. The experiment was abandoned after 45 minutes. ‘Why make the best right-back in the world a midfielder?’ Klopp asked afterwards. ‘I don’t understand that. As if the right-back position is not as important as the others.'”

Alexander-Arnold’s Impact in Midfield

Liverpool’s resurgence in form can be partly attributed to Alexander-Arnold’s new hybrid role. This tactical nuance allows him to drift into a holding midfield position, enhancing Liverpool’s attacking prowess. Pearce notes the significant change in Liverpool’s play style, with a decrease in open-play crosses from a high of 17.66 per match in their 2019-20 title-winning season to 10.71 in the current one. Alexander-Arnold’s own crossing stats have mirrored this trend, dropping from 6.74 to 2.34 per 90 minutes.

The Search for Liverpool’s New Right-Back

With Alexander-Arnold’s shift to midfield, Liverpool faces a new challenge: finding a successor for the right-back position. While Joe Gomez serves as a solid deputy, his forward contributions are limited compared to Alexander-Arnold. Young talents like Conor Bradley and Calvin Ramsay show promise, but they are yet to prove themselves as reliable first-team options.

Alexander-Arnold’s Future in Midfield

Alexander-Arnold’s transition to midfield isn’t just a temporary experiment. It’s a strategic move that aligns with Liverpool’s evolving style under Klopp. The team is now focusing more on central play rather than relying heavily on full-backs for creativity. Alexander-Arnold’s expected assists per 90 have decreased, indicating his deeper involvement in build-up play rather than being the final pass provider.

Alexander-Arnold’s Adaptation and Growth

Adapting to a midfield role requires a different skill set, especially in defensive aspects. Alexander-Arnold, known for his intelligence and adaptability, is studying midfield legends like Sergio Busquets and Andrea Pirlo to refine his game. His academy days in midfield and his recent national team role further indicate his suitability for this position.

In conclusion, Klopp’s skepticism about Alexander-Arnold’s midfield role in 2021 was understandable, but the player’s development since then has made this transition a natural progression. As Liverpool continues to evolve, so does Alexander-Arnold, proving that his future lies in controlling the game from the heart of midfield.

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