The Cardiac Kids were at it again. In a rather uncharacteristic turn of events, Liverpool managed to squander two leads and found themselves on the wrong end of the 3-2 scoreline. With only 3 minutes left in their match against Fulham, it felt like the squad had finally found the corner where they’d be made to account for their sloppy play.
Then Wataru Endo happened. And a minute later, the winner from none other than Trent Alexander-Arnold. It was yet one more moment of brilliance (bookending his marvelous free kick that this writer feels was harshly awarded as an OG) in a truly special year as the young Scouser further burnishes his growing legend as one of the best to ever play the game.
The biggest storyline for Trent has been the new role he’s taken up, playing the lower-right corner in a box-midfield, when Liverpool are in possession. Trent seems to have more freedom than his midfield partner in this set up, allowing him to operate freely and use his read of the game to take up attacking places. Often, that’s meant he appears in the box as a late arrival, forcing a numbers mismatch upon opposing defenses.
That’s generally how things played out for Trent’s winner save one thing: with Ibrahim Konate coming on for an injury to Joel Matip and Joe Gomez having already been brought on earlier in the match, Klopp elected to move Trent formally into the midfield for the remainder of the match. So, TAA popping on the edge of the box to collect the failed clearance is what you’d expect for a player in the role and position.
But then it’s Trent and that’s not what you’d expect. And yet he’s managed to fill that role like a glove. Flashing the tactical brilliance and wisdom beyond their years, Trent has hit a new gear that is somehow surprising for someone that’s been around the league as long as they have and also managed to win everything possible.
The new wrinkle now, though, isn’t just about his role but rather what it means for that legend still in the making; it speaks to those early whispers about limitless potential. The kind of potential that you usually only whisper at the beginning of careers, when the talent is obvious but also still so new.
Usually, the years that pass tend to whittle away at that image of one’s potential. Time narrowing the view and cutting off the avenues to get to that vaunted image. The ultimate master sculptor, shaping and, usually, grading down until you finally land at the finished product. Smaller, slightly less grand.
Trent’s play this year has kept Time’s sculpting tools shelved. The sky remains the limit for the rightback that, having already revolutionized the position once, is now, at 25, rewriting your expectations of the position again.