Generational is a word being thrown around more frequently but there’s no player more deserving of it than Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Dani Alves redefined the right-back role in the modern era, paving the way for full-backs to become attacking outlets accompanied by terrorising overlapping runs while still completing their defensive duties.
Jurgen Klopp deployed Andy Robertson and Alexander-Arnold in a similar vein but this season the latter has begun to evolve the role once again thanks to his passing range and creative mind.
Simply put: Alexander-Arnold is the future of the full-back role.
Registering more assists (17) than any other Premier League player in the calendar year, the 21-year-old has become the main playmaker in a Liverpool side that utilises three midfielders and poses one of the most lethal attacking trios in the world.
When we look at the assists in isolation, it’s his crossing ability that stands out above everything else in his arsenal. He’s a natural as you can see in his posture; it emulates the way David Beckham used to bend his crosses, whipping his foot around the side of the ball.
The pace and accuracy to which the ball comes in is a striker’s dream but it’s also about having a keen eye and the patience to wait for the right moment. Both qualities were on display against Leicester where he bagged two assists of varying styles.
The first, a cross from the middle of the park, finds the head of Roberto Firmino. What used to be an unfamiliar sight has become a recognisable trend this season with Alexander-Arnold adopting central positions when teams set up with the intention to limit wide space as Leicester did.
They couldn’t stop him creating from wide for Liverpool’s third however, a precise pass finding it’s way perfectly to Firmino’s feet despite the box being packed with eight Leicester players.
That performance at the King Power Stadium has been his best performance in a red shirt undoubtedly in my opinion.
He’s dragged Liverpool from the depths against Barcelona. He’s been unbreakable against Manchester City in the quarter-finals of 2018’s European journey.
And he’s only 21…
Klopp has made him all the more integral to this Liverpool team by allowing him to free roam from the right. Having played in midfield in the past, it raises the question as to whether he would maybe make the transition back eventually.
Alexander-Arnold has completed the second-most passes in the league for a full-back, only lagging five behind Robertson; thanks in part to being allowed to drift inside and create centrally with his acute vision.
Compared to the Scotsman, it’s the Scouser that has been much more progressive with the ball this season. Averaging three key passes per league game, it dwarfs Robertson’s (1.3) and is second only to Kevin De Bruyne (3.7).
It’s his passing range that allows for this; fans have been treated to some delightful diagonal balls to either Sadio Mane or Robertson, who drift wide and create the space for the ambitious pass.
It’s here where Liverpool are able to catch their opponents napping and create a favourable opportunity in attack — as shown by the second goal in Liverpool’s 3-1 demolition of Manchester City.
While criticisms of Alexander-Arnold’s defensive game have certainly been over the top at times, it’s a valid mark against the youngster. It’s the positional awareness that gets singled out, but you have to remember he remains inexperienced compared to other full-backs and in Klopp’s system he is an attacking player first and foremost — a concept rival fans struggled to comprehend at times.
Averaging 1.5 tackles per game, he just edges out Mane (1.4) so a move centrally would be a true test of his defensive capabilities. He would be a natural box-to-box midfielder you’d feel, with the engine of a full-back and with that ridiculous passing range it’s impossible to avoid the cliched comparisons to Steven Gerrard.
Alexander-Arnold could emulate his childhood hero even closer than the club honours and individual praise should he similarly make the transition from the right side to the central heartbeat.
For now at least, that right flank is where he belongs and an area he is beginning to redefine for a new generation.