Trent Alexander-Arnold’s nightmarish, odd duck-ish season (so far)

Trent Liverpool

Before we start, we need to make one thing absolutely clear. Trent is one of the best right-backs in the world, and maybe one of the greatest to grace English Division One football.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is having a weird and (unfortunately) substandard season. But why? What is causing him so much trouble? More importantly, can he turn it around?

What ails thou, Trent?  

Right, with the pleasantries out of the way, let’s look at what is happening to Trent. The Scouser has seen both his defending and attacking numbers spiral down to Rigobert Song levels. The defensive woes have been discussed by everyone and their grandmothers but the drop in attacking stats is the most surprising.

He has made 10 assists or more in three of his last four seasons (12, 13, 7, 12). Last season he had an xA (expected assists per 90) of 0.41. Which isn’t that far ahead of his xA of 0.31 this season. This means that he has been unlucky in the attacking third of the pitch.

Additionally, the players around have been lacking too. Other Liverpool players have sometimes lacked the touch or timing of movement to make use of his deadly passes. Liverpool’s best forward line is Diaz, Jota/Darwin, and Salah up front. These three haven’t started many games together which might explain the drop in attacking numbers.

But what about his defense?

Trent’s Defending vs. the World

(via The Athletic)

Trent is occasionally chastised for his defensive output, but as we can see, his disrupting of opposing moves is also rated at 95, as are his ball recoveries and interceptions. This demonstrates that, in comparison to other right-backs, he has a significant impact on regaining possession. In fact, he has improved in some areas. Namely, his disruption (of opposition attacks) and his defending intensity has improved which is illustrated by the chart below.

(via The Athletic)

However, his defending impact has seen a hit. Alexander-Arnold isn’t the only one to blame though. Liverpool’s turgid pressing and intensity, combined with a lack of cover from midfield has contributed heavily. Jordan Henderson in particular has failed to track runners on a number of occasions. Not only him but defending counterattacks have increasingly fallen to one man-Fabinho.

And Fabinho is not having his best season. Additionally, Klopp’s men have been without Konate for large parts of this season. Konate’s absence has been felt as without the support of Konate’s monstrous pace and defending nous, Liverpool have been hurt in transitions.

It’s not all midfield though

We must address the elephant in the room. Trent has been rinsed too many times by quality wingers in big moments. It needs to be borne in mind that no matter how good a full-back is, they are bound to be beaten by world-class players (think Marco Veratti humiliating Kyle Walker). But Trent Alexander-Arnold has been left catching smoke far too many times this season. He has also failed to catch up to opponents. It seems like he has slowed down somewhat. This could be because he has bulked up but we are not sure.

Coming to his defensive awareness and positioning, it has been gloomy. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been outfoxed by forward passes. Alexander-Arnold’s mobility and awareness have let him down in combating this threat. However, he can work on arching his runs to make up for this deficiency. He must also work on his ability to win (or at least slowdown opponents) in 1v1 duels.

Conclusion

Much of Trent’s woes can be explained by a lack of cover and stability around the Scouser. Liverpool has visibly regressed in pressing and overall intensity. There has been a stark downturn in the quality around him. Suffice it to say, Liverpool’s system has let Trent down. However, if Trent wants to achieve his potential, he must become a more well-rounded player.

Stats via Fbref

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