Trent Alexander Arnold - our sweet golden boy, our Scouse in the house, child prodigy, re-inventor of the right-back role - was drawn into the headlines recently. English national team manager Gareth Southgate, the guy who really likes waistcoats in 2021, skipped Trent in his lineup for the World Cup qualifiers owing to an alleged drop in performance.
The step was met with shock from most parties, including Jurgen Klopp who expressed surprise at the omission of “the stand out right-back in world football”.
“He started the season with COVID and you can imagine it took him a while to get into the season, but from the moment when he was in the season he was one of our most consistent players and a stand-out player,” said Klopp, reminding all of the adversity Trent has overcome recently.
Micah Richards echoed the thought in his comments prior to the Arsenal game, saying, “I believe that he is still one of the best full-backs in Europe. He should be in that England squad.”
And while international football matters to only a small minority, Trent’s performance against Arsenal last night bears testament to his consistency and unquestionable talent. A livewire on the pitch, he played crucial passes with precision, defended well, and produced one of his trademark crosses leading to a Diogo Jota header that became Liverpool’s opening goal. The blockbuster cross has been replayed many times by all, and has attracted praise from pundits and experts.
On BBC Match of the Day, Danny Murphy compared him to David Beckham, saying, “Tremendous mental strength, character from a young man, he could’ve felt sorry for himself. He consistently makes fantastic choices in the final third of the pitch. Every time he gets in there he’s calm and picks the right pass. He’s actually a match winner as a full-back on so many occasions.”
“And as I’ve said before, I’ve only ever seen David Beckham cross the ball like Trent. He deserved great credit because some players would have let it [England rejection] get to them. Brilliant reaction from a super player and if he keeps playing like that Gareth will have no choice but to put him back in”, Murphy added.
“This performance was a precis of everything he does best: an advertisement for his effectiveness at the highest stage that gave Liverpool sight of the plane they consider to be their own, too”, wrote Nick Ames for the Guardian.
Gary Lineker tweeted his support, saying, “The perfect response from @TrentAA to his bizarre omission from the @England squad. He’s been brilliant tonight. Can’t be left at home in the summer. Just cant be.”
Trent’s performances this season have been impacted by many factors - contracting COVID-19, injuries to his key defensive partners Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk, the absence of protective leader Jordan Henderson, poor finishing form from Liverpool’s front three attackers, and an overall drop in confidence and morale for the entire squad. Despite all of this, he has put in shifts that are admirable, and manages to produce moments of magic like last night.
As Melissa Reddy wrote after the game, “On Saturday, Alexander-Arnold made sure he proved a point. In truth, he didn’t really need to.”