Football Expert & Columnist
Trent Alexander-Arnold played a key role in Liverpool’s opener from a midfield position. Could he play there in future?
Last Updated: 05/07/20 8:26pm
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s future at Liverpool may lie in central midfield, according to Graeme Souness.
The right-back, who has provided 12 assists for the Premier League champions this season, stepped into midfield and picked out Naby Keita in the build-up to Sadio Mane’s opener in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Aston Villa.
It was just the latest example of the 21-year-old’s ball-playing prowess, and while Souness feels Jurgen Klopp may be reluctant to move him away from the right-back spot immediately, the Sky Sports pundit believes Alexander-Arnold could slot into midfield in future.
“I think the boy could play anywhere in midfield,” Souness said on Sky Sports. “He started out as a central midfield player and then saw an opening at right-back.
“You would be reluctant to take him away from where he is because a large part of Liverpool’s attacking play comes from him and [Andrew] Robertson. They have high energy levels, and when they get into the last third, they can deliver.
“Looking at it now, you’ve just won the league, you are the current European and world champions, so if it ain’t broken, why try to fix it?
“But the modern defender today, at the top clubs, has to be able to take the ball and play and deliver in the final third, so why not?”
Heskey: Midfield is Trent’s natural position
Emile Heskey, meanwhile, believes Alexander-Arnold’s experience of playing as a midfielder in Liverpool’s academy has served him well at right-back and means he would have little trouble adapting to midfield at senior level.
“If you were to ask him, he would be more than happy to play in midfield because that is, I would say, his natural position,” the former Liverpool striker said on Sky Sports.
“He gets more space in the wide areas and then you see the passing range that he has. But that passing range has obviously been built up over the years playing in central midfield.
“His decision-making probably comes from having less time when he was in central midfield. He’s had to be aware of what’s going on around him.”
“It’s a different game in there,” added Souness. “You are dodging bullets and elbows are up.
“If he’s full-back, he knows nothing is coming [to his right] when he receives the ball.
“Full-back is a very different position and you get plenty of time there to have your first touch, get it out of your feet and get your head up.
“But he’s as good as anyone when he gets a chance to deliver.”
Alexander-Arnold’s creativity in stats
There is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest Alexander-Arnold has the qualities to thrive in central midfield.
The passage of play leading to Mane’s opening goal at Anfield on Sunday was not the first occasion that he is drifted inside from the right flank and the statistics underline his creativity.
His total of 12 assists this season is second only to Kevin de Bruyne in the Premier League, while he ranks third behind the Belgian and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish for chances created (79).
Alexander-Arnold ranks second for expected assists, which measures the quality of chances created, and he’s in the same place for what Opta define as ‘big’ chances created. No player in the Premier League has made more passes into the opposition box.
The numbers are all the more impressive when you consider his position and underline a level of technique and vision far beyond most central midfielders.
For Klopp, they also provide food for thought on how Alexander-Arnold could be used in the future.