Where to begin! Having achieved so much in the game already, it is crazy to think that Trent Alexander-Arnold is still only 22 years old. He has already established himself as the benchmark right-back in world football and as a Liverpool fan, it feels amazing to have that kind of talent at the club, especially when they are born and bred in Liverpool.
There is no limit on what Alexander-Arnold can achieve in football. I strongly believe that the upcoming season will provide the perfect platform for him to explode into a different stratosphere of footballer.
A quick 2020/21 recap
Let’s quickly look at how Trent fared last season. Fairly or unfairly, Liverpool’s number 66 came under a lot of scrutiny in 2020/21. After the extraordinary levels he hit in the 18/19 and 19/20 season, it felt inevitable that he would have to maintain his incredible statistical output or come under the media’s harsh gaze.
With six goals and 25 assists between 2018-20 in the League, Alexander-Arnold has produced attacking numbers that we have never seen before from a Premier League fullback.
More so, it was his ability to dictate play and attacks for the world’s best team that made him such a superstar talent in the world of football. It seemed the Premier League’s 2019/20 Young Player of the Year was untouchable. But there remained lingering doubts about his defensive ability.
His harshest critics have discounted his attacking prowess for arguments in favour of him being a defender first. Yet, it does not take a clever man to realise the evolution and importance of fullbacks in the modern game.
The 2020/21 season began in a tough way for Trent. A short summer was followed by injury and Covid, which really hampered his pre-season. Whilst the team started 2020/21 well, there seemed to be something off about Trent.
His delivery and influence on matches were not being felt as strongly as they used to be. It seems harsh to put this weight of expectation on the shoulders of a 22-year-old, but such is his talent, the fanbase almost expected him to deliver match-winning performances every game.
The loss of Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip most certainly played their part in nullifying Alexander-Arnold’s game. He was forced to play deeper, knowing that he was needed as defensive cover for Rhys Williams or Nathaniel Phillips.
Yes, there was some high-profile mistakes (Southampton Away, Real Madrid Away and Man City home) however, I strongly believe that the 2020/21 season gave and taught Trent more important lessons than his previous two combined.
What I saw from Alexander-Arnold which impressed me most throughout last season was his development into a leader. From being a cheeky young lad reliant upon Van Dijk’s and Matip’s experience, he quickly had to grow up to lead our inexperienced defence to an invaluable top four finish.
His non-inclusion from the England squad in March would have been enough to throw any young player off form and club focus. Yet, after seeing Trent’s response to that specific disappointment, especially the immediate one, (Arsenal away (8.25 MOTM WhoScored rating) and then in the next league game, with a last-minute wonder strike against Aston Villa).
It became clear to me that Alexander-Arnold possessed a special quality within him that all the great players possess when facing adversity, the ability to perform at your best under intense pressure.
Further dominant displays in the Premier League run-in (particularly Man United away and West Bromwich Albion away) saw Alexander-Arnold delivering match-winning performances akin to those that rightly gave him a place in the 2020 Fifa FIFPro World XI.
A well-deserved recall to the England squad for Euro 2020 set up an exciting summer of football for Alexander-Arnold. But his hopes and hard work were cruelly dashed with injury in England’s warm-up game against Austria. An emotional Alexander-Arnold hobbled off the pitch realising this was to be his last act of the 20/21 season.
The 21/22 Expectation
As I have previously mentioned, last season had taught Liverpool’s number 66 a handful of lessons and experience that will prove to be worth it in the future.
With a full pre-season behind him and a tasty new contract in the bank to kickstart the year, Trent looks set to explode onto a whole new level. To already be one of the Premier League’s leading creators, a fullback amongst world class attacking midfield talents, Alexander-Arnold will no doubt set standards we have never seen before from a right-back.
He is my tip for Liverpool’s Player Of The Year and say it quietly, the PFA Mens Players Player Of The Year. I know we will see a mature Alexander-Arnold, a man who has learnt a wealth of experience and nous in defensive areas from last season.
Combine this with the return of our senior centre-backs, we should expect the England international to return to his natural style of play that influenced our attack so heavily.
Statistically, I expect Trent to return to the top of the assist charts and imagine him to play a large number of games and minutes this season. We could also see him captain the Red’s more now Gini Wijnaldum has departed the club.
This leadership role typifies the meteoric rise Alexander-Arnold has had at the club and I for one cannot wait to see what he produces this season.
As Russell Westbrook famously said, ‘it’s gonna be scary…not for us.’