The young full back’s absence as of late has seen him be badly missed by Liverpool’s front three, but he made a welcome return to form against Watford on Wednesday evening.
To call Trent Alexander-Arnold a full back is something of a falsehood. Yes, on paper and by trade he is considered a full back, but for Jurgen Klopp and this Liverpool team, he is so much more.
It’s no coincidence that in the last couple of months since Alexander-Arnold sustained his injury, Jurgen Klopp’s usually devastating front three have gone off the boil, with only Sadio Mane showing the brilliant form we are used to watching.
Mo Salah, in particular, had been performing well below par, which prompted Klopp to move him into a more central role and drop Roberto Firmino further back, nearly playing as an attacking midfielder.
While this has worked to a certain degree for Salah and Firmino, they where nowhere near as effective as when they played in their usual positions and the team looked imbalanced. When attacking it was almost like they were relying on Salah to produce a piece of magic out of nowhere, a bit like Chelsea can rely a bit too much on Eden Hazard to do the same.
Trent may be a defender first and foremost, but his most important role in the team is too start attacks and facilitate Salah by constantly raiding down the right wing. When Liverpool have possession deep in their own half it is Alexander-Arnold they look to as their main attacking outlet.
His ability to link up play with the forwards and overload the attack is what gives Salah and Firmino the space they need to do most damage to the opposition, by having an extra man out wide it gives them an advantage on the wing as they double up against a full back or drag a centre half out of position.
We have seen Salah time and time again receive the ball in the box near the by line and have the space to run at centre backs, along with Firmino dragging and pulling defenders out of position.
The signing of Allison and Van Dijk have allowed Liverpool to play out from the back much more often and use it as a way to start attacks from inside their own half. The purpose being that by drawing the opposition team onto you high up the pitch, the ball can then be played out wide to Alexander-Arnold, who’s starting position is usually just over the halfway line or on it. This gives you a numerical advantage over the opposing team and the young England international can now use the extra space to play in the likes of Salah or Firmino.
While these moves may look off the cuff or spontaneous, they are far from it with Klopp drilling them into his Liverpool team time after time on the training pitch. These moves are calculated and planned and Alexander-Arnold is one of the most essential parts in this method of attacking.
After he picked up his injury along with Joe Gomez, a lot of fans were quick to accuse Klopp of making a huge mistake in allowing Nathaniel Clyne to go out on loan to Bournemouth for the rest of the season.
Who was now going to fill the position of right back? Klopp though had seen the bigger picture and knew that it was, in fact, a bigger blow to the attacking side of his team’s game than the actual defending.
After all, if needed Fabinho who had played right back for his old team Monaco or utility man James Milner could fill in and hold the fort at the back. The bigger implication was how Liverpool was going to have to try and attack a different way. This coincided with an uncertainty that seemed to come over Salah as he started to look unsure of himself when he received the ball.
On his return to the starting line up against Watford on Wednesday night, Liverpool’s new favourite local boy done good showed everybody the spark that had been missing from Anfield, as he put in a man of the match performance assisting three goals in the process and keeping a clean sheet. It was also the sharpest Mo Salah had looked in recent months as he had his trusty wingman back, allowing him to play in his favoured position and utilise his dribbling ability to it’s upmost effect.
For Liverpool to see out the season as eventual winners, it will be imperative that Klopp keeps this double act together, as one is required to get the sweetest tune out of the other.