In these Covid-19 times the silence at Premier League stadiums reveals a lot. This includes just how unhappy Jurgen Klopp was with Trent Alexander-Arnold in the first half of Liverpool’s goalless home draw to Manchester United, with the German lambasting the England international over his poor positioning.
Seven days later, with Liverpool once again up against Manchester United, Alexander-Arnold appeared to have learned little from Klopp’s bellowing as Marcus Rashford was afforded time and space in abundance down the left wing. He made the Premier League champions pay with a goal and assist in a 3-2 win for the Old Trafford outfit.
These poor performances in back-to-back games against Man Utd were not isolated cases. In fact, they were reflective of Alexander-Arnold’s form over the course of the season as a whole so far. Not so long ago regarded as one of the game’s best full backs, the 22-year-old is struggling to rediscover his groove.
Against United, Trent Alexander-Arnold found himself up against Luke Shaw who, by contrast, is getting better and better. The catalyst for Shaw was the arrival of Alex Telles in the summer window. The competition has been good for the Englishman’s game, pushing him to reach new heights in a United shirt.
Alexander-Arnold could use some competition. While James Milner can play at right back, it is a position where Klopp is lacking in depth. The consequence of this is the element of complacency that has crept into Alexander-Arnold’s game this season. The signing of another natural right back could have a similar effect on the 22-year-old as the signing of Telles did on Shaw.
“The criticism is normal,” Klopp said after last month’s defeat to Southampton, in which Trent Alexander-Arnold was especially poor. “After you play football in public and make people used to the level Trent has shown over the last three or four years, that’s normal.
“There are explanations for this season, if you want – he has had good games as well and helped us in different moments – but the reason is he was out for a while with early Covid and had an injury that didn’t help.”
“He had no pre-season really and after, with the quality he has and the situation we were in, he played pretty early for us but he is now getting there, physically he is fine and he will find his top shape rather soon.”
Liverpool are counting on Trent Alexander-Arnold finding top form soon. He is more than just a full back. He is the Reds’ entire right wing. The 22-year-old is crucial to the way the defending Premier League champions attack, with Klopp placing the creative onus on Andy Robertson on the left and Alexander-Arnold on the eight. That’s where Liverpool make changes and with only one of their two full backs in form they are currently a lopsided team.
Of course, Alexander-Arnold’s form isn’t Klopp’s only problem at this moment in time. Liverpool went four games without scoring a single goal before Sunday’s 3-2 FA Cup defeat. At the back, the Reds are without their first choice centre back pairing of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk while Thiago Alcantara isn’t yet in sync with his new teammates.
Alexander-Arnold’s form, however, is having an effect on a number of different areas of Liverpool’s team. Their attack is blunter for not having the 22-year-old as a supply line. Their defence frequently finds itself under pressure due to Alexander-Arnold’s sloppy positional awareness. And their midfield is narrower without an outlet. Liverpool need Trent Alexander-Arnold back at his best. Some competition might help him get there.