There was a telling moment in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Wednesday night, when Jordan Henderson, in a good position on the right, failed to control an excellent diagonal pass from Virgil Van Dijk. The Dutch centre-half gave Liverpool’s captain a telling look as another chance to penetrate behind their opponent’s lines went begging.
Now this is by no means a cheap shot at Jordan Henderson. Liverpool’s number 14 put in a solid display at right-back on the night, which emphasised his intelligence and discipline on a football pitch.
However as Liverpool struggled to break down a stubborn Leicester City, it became clear that they were sorely missing the dynamism and tenacity of Trent Alexander-Arnold in that position. The young full back offers Liverpool so much down the right flank and Jurgen Klopp will be keen to see his man back in action very soon.
The 20-year-old England international has already forged an integral role for himself in a red shirt. As Liverpool invariably bomb forward at their attacking best, it’s often their full backs who offer vital width and a constant option on the overlap.
Trent Alexander-Arnold came of age during Liverpool’s incredible run to the Champions League final last season. Displaying a confidence beyond his years, he boldly bombed on down the right as his side devastated Porto, Manchester City and Roma.
There was no debate or surprise to see Jurgen Klopp opt for the academy graduate this season. So fast and so high had his star risen, that he became a dead cert in Liverpool’s starting XI despite the presence of Nathaniel Clyne and the option to play Joe Gomez there.
During Liverpool’s trip to Brighton last month, Alexander-Arnold hurt himself in the warm up and was clearly not right during his side’s 0-1 win at the Amex Stadium. With the right back visibly struggling, his team mates tried to get everything down the opposite channel, via Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson.
The result was a lopsided, more predictable display from the Premier League leaders that was a touch easier to nullify for a plucky defensive side.
With Alexander-Arnold missing the following two games for Liverpool with a knee injury, his team just haven’t quite had the same verve and menace. The capacity to overwhelm and stretch a deep sitting back line has been reduced and at home to Palace and Leicester City, The Reds were at times startlingly flat.
Without the pincering movement down both flanks, they are far less effective and much easier to contain. They have other options and quality in abundance, and by no means does this constitute a crisis. However, for Klopp’s system to work to it’s full, he needs Alexander-Arnold’s presence restored
Alexander-Arnold is a precious talent and despite his young age, he is already a key component to Jurgen Klopp’s red machine.
Without him, Liverpool simpy lack that extra gear. An average of just under five crosses per game in the Premier League and 144 accurate long balls, shows he is a player capable of unleashing Liverpool’s counter attack with real venom.
There are other factors in Liverpool’s recent toils at home, but it is no coincidence to see them lagging without their local lad at right-back. On such slim margins and fine details could the league title be decided this season, Liverpool fans will be relieved once their talented full back returns and is helping their team back to their brilliant best form.