While not quite as problematic as the left-back spot — Liverpool haven't had a reliable first-choice player at the position since John Arne Riise was still competent a decade ago — right full-back has hardly been a carnival of delights in recent years. Certainly, Nathaniel Clyne is — despite his recent lull in form — one of the very best players in the Premier League at the position, but before the former Saint was signed in 2015, consistency had been hard to come by.
Glen Johnson was offensively potent, but had persistent defensive struggles. Álvaro Arbeloa went on to win trophies with Real Madrid, but could never lock down the position in his two and a half years at Anfield. Steve Finnan was a reassuring sight at the back, but rarely produced much going forward. And much as we'd all like it to come about, Jon Flanagan isn’t happening, you guys. Jan Kromkamp? Josemi?! Raheem Sterling!!? Not quite a wasteland, but no oasis either.
This dearth of consistency — as much as the lad's talents — might just be a contributing factor to the hype around Trent Alexander-Arnold. The young defender turned heads with some spectacular performances at the U18 level last year, made an impression on Jürgen Klopp in pre-season, and made his debut for the first-team in October. He registered his first assist a month later, in only his second senior appearance, delivering a sumptuous deep cross for Divock Origi to poke home. Some predictable defensive miscues notwithstanding — as you'd expect from an 18-year old defender — the nuts and bolts of the lifetime Red's game was there for all to see; willingness and ability to get forward, the engine to continue doing so all day, and a nose for the decisive pass.
A thinning match schedule means starting opportunities have been scarce of late, but the long-legged fullback has featured on the bench in each of Liverpool's last five matches, coming on to wrap up the result in injury time against Tottenham and Arsenal. He's also putting in minutes for the U23 side, and according to his manager, has benefited greatly from the senior experience.
"He’s he a very good place in his development, really, really well at the moment and we were really, really pleased with how he did tonight," said U23 coach Mike Garrity after the young Reds beat Chelsea on Monday.
“I would say it’s [first team matches] probably given him a massive lift," continued Garrity. "A big surge of confidence, it’s made him grow up a little bit I would say, mature a little bit as a footballer being around experienced first team players every day which is what he probably needed and he’s took to it like a duck to water.
“He’s developing really, really well and he was terrific tonight.”
With Alexander-Arnold's natural instincts making him a potent offensive weapon, it is only natural that it's the young man's defensive work that needs to improve most. Luckily, he has one of the very best in the business ahead of him in Clyne. The future looks bright for the young full-back, and by extension, for Liverpool.