Opinion: Trent Alexander-Arnold shows promising future with solid display in North-West Derby

Opinion: Trent Alexander-Arnold shows promising future with solid display in North-West Derby

The 18-year-old was risked in one of the biggest games Liverpool will play this season, and passed a tricky test.

OliverEmmerson
Oliver Emmerson

On a day where a Tom Davies 'Ronaldo chop' sent Yaya Toure well and truly back to the Ivory Coast, and Adama Lookman smashed a goal past Claudio Bravo just minutes into his Premier League debut, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Trent Alexander-Arnold's performance at Old Trafford might go under the radar a little.

Thrown into arguably the biggest game of the English footballing calendar by manager Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool youngster stood firm in the face of an intimidating atmosphere against Manchester United, as the Reds picked up a potentially valuable point thanks to a 1-1 draw

A solid display, but it meant more than that

It was certainly a shock to see Alexander-Arnold's name on the team sheet, even after discovering that Nathaniel Clyne had been struggling with a rib injury in days leading up to the game.

Klopp did have other options. Joe Gomez, despite returning from injury just recently, has more Premier League experience than Arnold and can play right-back, whilst James Milner could have swapped flanks as Alberto Moreno came in. 

However, the German went for an 18-year-old from Liverpool who had only played one minute of Premier League football up to that point. Quite the risk, especially alongside the error-prone pair of Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan. A risk though, that paid off. 

It's fair to say that Alexander-Arnold's performance wasn't amazing. A six out of ten. Maybe a seven given the circumstances, but no more. No less though, and that's what mattered.

He started shakily, but many have against Anthony Martial. The Frenchman used his pace and power to get past the frail-looking right-back early on, but that was all. 

Despite the odd mistake after that, Arnold grew into the game further and further, to the point that he was rarely noticed or even mentioned by the watching media. When Martial was replaced in aid of a more direct style of play with 30 minutes to go, most of his work was done, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata getting little joy down United's left in the final half hour. 

It should too be remembered that Alexander-Arnold isn't a typical right-back. He's played often in central midfield for Liverpool's youth teams, normally in a number six role, giving him skills that were clear to see as his best pass of the game was a 45-yard cross-field ball to Philippe Coutinho, offering a counter-attacking opportunity. 

Liverpool walked off disappointed after Zlatan Ibrahimovic bundled in a controversial 83rd minute equaliser, but fully in the knowledge that their right-back had done them proud, in what was a huge baptism of fire.

What does this mean for the future?

Whilst it's likely that Clyne will return for the weekend game against Swansea City, if not the FA Cup replay at Plymouth Argyle, Liverpool certainly have some more scope on their resources in the right-back department after Alexander-Arnold came through a huge test with hovering, if not flying, colours.

Clyne is one of Liverpool's fittest and most injury-free players generally, and was hailed by Arnold himself as "the best right-back in the country" in a recent interview with VAVEL. Given that, you'd suggest that whilst the 18-year-old clearly has a promising future, it's going to be hard to break through into a consistent place at the moment. 

However, being the 2nd choice right-back at Liverpool Football Club at his age is quite an achievement in itself. Alexander-Arnold will get further opportunities, especially after handling himself at Old Trafford, whilst there's always the chance that Clyne could be shifted to left-back - a position he's played before - to allow Klopp to bring one of his many exciting talents through at a faster rate.

For now though, Trent Alexander-Arnold will be left to reflect to what would have undoubtedly been a crazy day in his short career. He'll be hoping for plenty more like it. 

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