Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of a number of Liverpool players who struggled at times in yesterday’s Merseyside Derby draw at Goodison Park. The right-back was not at his best in a match that saw him make way for James Milner at the hour mark.
Although his performance wasn’t quite up to the lofty standards he has created for himself, manager Jürgen Klopp insisted the 23-year-old’s second substitution in as many matches was purely about trying to manage his minutes despite having limited options on the bench.
“We have to manage his game time,” said Klopp in his post-match press conference. “Where can we change at the moment? We have players coming in and coming back.
“Arthur [Melo] is now here and will be very important for us, but he didn’t play football for a long, long time and yesterday he played a rondo with us. We thought until last night he wouldn’t be available, it wasn’t the plan to bring him.
“So who do we have on the bench? Millie [James Milner] can play in midfield and both full-back positions and we just thought like the last game that it made sense to bring the fresh legs there, that’s why we decided like this.”
There has been a noticeable effort to rotate the fullbacks so far in this young season. Kostas Tsimikas has spelled Andy Robertson on several occasions, including getting the starting nod against Everton. Unfortunately, Calvin Ramsay, who was brought in this summer to provide cover at right-back, was injured in the preseason and has yet to make his debut. This has left Klopp with no choice but to play James Milner at right back when trying to manage Trent’s minutes.
“Trent is playing all the time, Robbo is playing all the time,” said Klopp. “There we have alternatives and we have to use them to bring in fresh energy on the pitch. It’s nothing to do with performance, even though I know Trent can play better today definitely, it’s nothing to do with that.”
“We just have to get through this period. Yes, players are coming back but they have to be re-integrated. We can’t just bring them in and play them for 90 minutes, it’s not possible. That’s why we need to have a look back and see where we can do the changes and give the game a new or more dynamic again.”
It’s clear that Klopp, much like the fans who are growing increasingly frustrated with uneven, ugly performances, is just doing his best to try and get through this difficult period while waiting for key players to return from injury. He does not have like-for-like options at every position at the moment, so he is forced to try and find creative, unconventional solutions to throw something different at the opposition and manage the minutes of his players.