How Trent Alexander-Arnold Compares To Premier League Legends
Trent Alexander-Arnold has been instrumental in Liverpool’s rise to the top (© PA Images)
Trent Alexander-Arnold may have helped Liverpool extend their lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over defending champions Manchester City on Sunday, but the England full-back was also involved in one of the game's major taking points.
Moments before the home side opened the scoring through Fabinho's long range strike in the sixth minute, Alexander-Arnold looked to have handled the ball in his own penalty area, but no penalty was awarded after a VAR check was carried out.
The Liverpool youngster has emerged as one of the best young defenders in world football and his creativity makes him a talent in attack too. The 21-year-old right-back has 16 assists in the top flight from his 67 league games, which is already just three shy of Premier League legend Lee Dixon's overall league total of 19 for Arsenal.
Dixon's total came in 305 Premier League fixtures for Arsenal and after his first 67 games in the Premier League, the former England international had five assists. That matches Manchester United's Gary Neville - widely regarded as the best right-back of the Premier League era – who had the exact same numbers as Dixon at the same stage of his career.
|Player||First 67 PL Games||Games Per Assists|
|T. Alexander-Arnold||16 Assists||4.1 (After 67 PL Games)|
|G. Neville||5 Assists||13.4 (After 67 PL Games)|
|L. Dixon||5 Assists||13.4 (After 67 PL Games)|
Alexander-Arnold is on course to become the most creative right-back in the history of the Premier League and is closing in on Neville's total of 35 assists in the Premier League, which came after 400 games.
If Alexander-Arnold was to continue at his current rate of an assist every 4.1 games, he would surpass Neville's total of assists early in the 2021/22 season, if he was to play every game.
Some say full-backs are failed wingers, but Liverpool's young full-back – who began his career as a central midfielder – cannot be labelled as such, given the distribution he provides Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Indeed, there has even been talk of him developing into a more advanced role wide on the right as his deliveries create so many goal-scoring opportunities.
Statistics: Charlie Mullan
If moved to a more advanced position, Alexander-Arnold could potentially finish his career with the most assists in the history of the Premier League, which is a record owned by Ryan Giggs, who has an impressive haul of 162 scoring passes for Manchester United.
If Alexander-Arnold is to set a new record for assists, it would require the Reds star providing on average 10 assists a season for the next 15 campaigns.
Whatever plan Klopp has in mind, the future for Alexander-Arnold is bright and it could help his club land the league title for the first time since 1990, and for the first time in the Premier League era.
Should Trent Play in Midfield?
For former Liverpool defender Phil Babb, it’s a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. He believes that although Alexander-Arnold is good enough to play anywhere on the right, Klopp has no reason to use him further forward anytime soon.
“I think Trent has hinted that maybe he could be more of a winger long-term and he’s definitely got the attributes for it,” he told Gambling.com.
“Yes, you could argue that – if Liverpool ever change formation – they've got a great winger there, but I think his best position could be as a wing-back. He’s certainly got the energy levels to get up and down the flank, and he loves supporting the attack.
“I’m not convinced that being a right-sided midfielder is what Trent is about, but it would certainly be an interesting experiment and perhaps we’ll see that in pre-season next year.
Phil Babb made 170 appearances for Liverpool between 1994 and 2000 (© PA Images)
“For now, Liverpool have an embarrassment of riches on that right side. You’ve got Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming back into form, [Xherdan] Shaqiri when he’s fit and Adam Lallana is still on the books too.
“It’s difficult to see where Trent would fit in that far up the pitch, but he doesn’t have to, he’s doing a fine job at right-back. He’s a super talented kid and he’s just getting better and better.”
Although blown away by Alexander-Arnold's creativity from the back, former centre-half Babb believes the defensive side of his game is the last element that needs improving on.
“He’s had a few critics after getting caught out of position a few times and that’s probably the only chink in his armour,” he added. “But that’s being hypercritical when looking for weaknesses in this Liverpool side.
“The scary thing is, he’s still getting better. Physically, he’s bulked up a bit so he can handle the demands of the Premier League. From my point of view, as a former defender, if he can just work on his positioning off the ball then he’s undoubtedly going to be the best full-back in the world.”
Can He Be Better Than Beckham?
With another international break upon us, some pundits have been comparing Alexander-Arnold’s creativity to that of former Three Lions captain David Beckham, who averaged one assist every 3.3 games over 265 appearances in the Premier League.
Although Babb does not see a future for Alexander-Arnold as a right-sided midfielder, he believes the 21-year-old actually has extra dimensions to his game when comparing him to the predominantly right-footed Beckham.
He added: “Going forward, I think Trent has attempted well over 100 crosses this season – which is more than the entire Norwich squad put together – and that’s not only with his right foot. When you look at Liverpool’s second goal against City on Sunday, he cut in and supplied a fantastic cross-field ball to Robertson with his left.
“Robertson gets the assist for Salah, but that goal doesn’t happen without the versatility of Trent, who completely took the Man City midfield and defence out of the game. His vision and passing range is exceptional.
Statistics: Charlie Mullan
“What springs to mind with him when thinking of his vision and quick-thinking is the cross for Divock Origi against Barcelona [in the Champions League semi-final] last season – how many other players would have spotted that? The football intelligence he has at such a young age, not to mention the technical ability, is breath-taking.
“He’s definitely already one of the best full-backs in world football. He’s got the lot – we’ve seen him hit free-kicks and take great set-pieces too. His first goal for Liverpool was a free-kick in the Champions League and I see him as their main free-kick taker when they get an opportunity to shoot just outside the box.
“But what we’ve seen with Trent is that he’s not just limited to his right foot, we’ve seen him deliver devastating crosses with his left – his delivery is just spot on time and time again.”
Will Trent Be A One-Club Man?
So good has Alexander-Arnold’s form been that he’s earned a glowing review from Brazil’s two-time World Cup winner Cafu, arguably the finest right-back ever to play the game, but the former Roma and AC Milan star also suggested he could soon court the attention of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
For Babb though, Liverpool have no reason to be concerned – they are, after all, the reigning European champions and now odds-on to win the Premier League title. The former Republic of Ireland defender fully expects Alexander-Arnold to play the majority of his career with his hometown team, if not the entirety.
“If he keeps progressing the way he is, some of the Spanish giants are going to come in for him – they’re probably already keeping an eye on him,” said Babb.
“But I expect him to be a Liverpool player for many, many years to come. I don’t think he’ll ever want to play for any other team, he’s a homegrown, local lad and could well be a one-club man, which is all too rare these days.
“I definitely think he’s on course to be one of the Premier League’s best ever right-backs. He’s the best in the league at the moment and he’s got the attributes and the room for improvement to become one of the all-time greats.
“At this moment in time, I can’t see why a move to Spain would interest him.”
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