Talking Tactics

How Alexander-Arnold can play a central role in Liverpool's title charge

By Adrian Clarke 21 Apr 2024
Trent Alexander-Arnold-TT

Adrian Clarke explains how England star's inverted position provides a different dimension to the Reds' attack

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 34.

Player analysis - Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

The return of Alexander-Arnold has given Liverpool a tremendous lift ahead of Wednesday night’s pivotal Merseyside derby at Everton.

The talented 25-year-old scored on his first Premier League start since mid-February in the 3-1 win at Fulham, serving up a reminder of the quality he brings to Jurgen Klopp’s side.

While Conor Bradley and Joe Gomez have done a fine job deputising for the England international this season, Alexander-Arnold showed why he is Liverpool’s first-choice right-back.

Alexander-Arnold produced one of the best direct free-kicks of the season at Craven Cottage, curling his shot over the wall into the top corner.

Alexander-Arnold's free-kick v Fulham

His right foot had a big say in that key encounter and it will almost certainly come to the fore during Liverpool’s final five matches too.

This sensational first-time cross at Fulham really should have been converted by Luis Diaz, but if he delivers a ball this good against Everton, they may not be let off the hook.

Trent cross v Fulham
Chance creator

Despite starting only 20 of their 33 league matches, and appearing as a substitute three times, Alexander-Arnold is still Liverpool’s second-highest chance creator, with 55 key passes.

Breaking that number down, he leads the way for the most set-piece chances created, with 24, and has 31 from open play.

Only Mohamed Salah, with 58 chances, Luis Diaz (46) and Dominik Szoboszlai (35) have created more outside of dead-ball situations.

When you consider he is a right-back who inverts into central midfield, and that he has featured in only 58.8 per cent of the total minutes on offer this season, it is remarkable to see Alexander-Arnold topping the Reds’ rankings in several other categories too.

Alexander-Arnold creativity stats 23/24
  Total LIV rank
Through-balls 19 1st
Passes into final third 302 1st
Open-play crosses 72 1st

His ability to deliver pinpoint crosses, corners, long passes and telling through-balls still sets him apart from others.

Everton, who will start in a 4-5-1 formation, need their central midfield to be compact and aggressive, especially when Alexander-Arnold comes infield.

Whenever he is in possession, the Toffees must apply pressure to rush his pass, and if they cannot get close enough to do so, the players behind the ball cannot afford a lapse in concentration.

As this shot assist map for 2023/24 proves, Alexander-Arnold is no longer a right-back who provides a number of crosses from advanced areas down the flank.

His threat now comes from further back, or in central positions where he has the vision and technique to clip passes into space for runners.

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Bradley an able deputy

Bradley has made a wonderful impression covering for Alexander-Arnold back this season.

Scoring once and providing three assists, he has excelled on and off the ball, with his pace, drive, and aggression.

There is no discernible difference in the amount of goals Liverpool concede when either of them play, with near identical returns.

They are stylistically different of course, with Bradley staying wide rather than moving into the middle.

Alexander-Arnold heat map 23/24
Alexander-Arnold heat map_v2
Bradley heat map 23/24
Bradley heat map_v2

Attacking right to left in both images

Alexander-Arnold’s presence on the inside frees up Andrew Robertson to fly forward with fewer inhibitions.

When Bradley is on the opposite flank, Robertson has to be a little more circumspect, holding back slightly more often to balance out the youngster’s adventurous style.

Different styles

These are two right-backs with huge differentials in terms of their own individual strengths.

Bradley is extremely combative in tackles and duels, outshining Alexander-Arnold in those departments.

Alexander-Arnold/Bradley compared (per 90)
  Alexander-Arnold Bradley
Passes into final third 15.56 5.59
Succ. long passes 6.18 1.82
Open-play crosses 3.71 2.19
Duels won 3.61 8.14
Tackles won 1.03 2.91

Yet Alexander-Arnold offers a lot more when Liverpool have possession, feeding more passes into the final third, especially over longer distances.

Starting Alexander-Arnold for the second time in four days could be deemed a risk after his injury lay-off, but with every match so important, it will be difficult for Klopp to leave him out.

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