Insight by @_BenMorgan (Twitter)
Yesterday saw the Reds beat Hoffenheim at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. The game finished 2-1, meaning the tie is now in the Liverpool’s hands, with 2 away goals, heading into next week’s 2nd leg clash at Anfield, with the winner progressing into the Group Stages of the Champions League. The headlines, however, were preserved for one player – Trent Alexander-Arnold.
For many years now, we have seen players from the Academy, who were ‘destined’ for the top and were to be the future of the club, come to nothing. The team hasn’t got many Liverpool born boys in it. The fans love having a fellow scouser in the side, with past ones, such as Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher going on to be club greats. But since then we haven’t seen anyone of real such promise break through that academy to first team barrier that seems to be present. There have been signs of players looking to do that. One of such is Trent Alexander-Arnold. For the young scouser, it would have been a dream to get into that shirt of Liverpool, let alone in the champions league. He got that chance yesterday and grabbed it with both hands.
The 18-year-old full back has been touted for many years now as a future first team player. Steven Gerrard, the former Liverpool skipper, also said this about him earlier this week ‘He is going to be a top, top player. He’s letting Klopp know he’s ready for the big time’, and he let the Liverpool Manager know in emphatic style. Throughout the pre-season, people have noted how comfortable the youngster is on the ball, and how he looks very assured in his defensive duties, but on Tuesday night he showed another part of his growing set of skills.
The full back was making his European debut for the club, in a massive game. Many would expect that you would go out and just try not to make any errors and do your job. However, in the 35th minute of the game Liverpool won a free kick, 30 yards out from the Hoffenheim goal. Henderson and Moreno were both stood over the ball, as was Alexander-Arnold. For the 18-year-old to take over set piece responsibilities from two more senior players, including the captain shows the confidence the player has. What followed next showed the ability. He brilliantly zipped an effort around the Hoffenheim wall, and into the bottom corner which left the Hoffenheim keeper Oliver Baumann rooted to the spot, wondering what he had just seen.
What we were seeing was the boy who was touted to be one of the biggest stars of the future, starting to become one. This sent the Reds fans into pandemonium, in the stadium, at home, and on social media.
Again for the young full back, he had another steady night at the back, and provided another attacking outlet down the right-hand side, sending in a total of 5 crosses into the Hoffenheim area, and had a total of 72 touches of the ball. His performance was so impressive he even got the man of the match award ahead of the like of Sadio Mane and Simon Mignolet, who produced a great stop to deny Andrej Kramaric from the stop.
There was a brief lapse in concentration, where the defender let Mark Uth have the space he required to get a goal back for Hoffenheim, but the pitch awareness Alexander-Arnold has will only continue to develop, and such instances like that one in the 87th minute will help this happen.
For the Liverpool manager, yesterday night’s performance was no coincidence. When questioned at his press conference why Trent stepped up and claimed responsibility to take the free kick, the manager replied “It was actually because I told him too he has to do it. I don’t want to take the credit for the free kick because he can shoot free kicks much better than I ever could!” The Liverpool manager also revealed that Alexander-Arnold and another promising prospect have an interesting free kick game developing in training. “There is a big challenge between him and Ben Woodburn. Both are good and both are improving”.
For the full back, another aspect of his game he has been working on throughout preseason is his physicality. The player has been working tirelessly at Melwood, trying to get him in the shape and fitness required to be a Premier League player. He has spent extra sessions in the gym with the training staff, and it seems as if we are starting to see the results of this on the pitch. His performances of late have been so impressive that at this moment in time, it is hard to see if when Nathaniel Clyne recovers from the injury that has been keeping him away from the first team if he can regain his place in Klopp’s starting XI ahead of Alexander-Arnold. That is a just credit to the progression of Alexander-Arnold, it seems that hard works, most definitely pays off.
For now, attention must turn to Saturday’s game, where Liverpool host Crystal Palace in the Premier League, before hosting Hoffenheim, in the return fixture of the Champions League Qualifier. Again this is another platform, another chance for Trent Alexander-Arnold to show his credentials, and prove to his manager, team mates, and Anfield faithful, that he is truly ready for the big time that Steven Gerrard said he was ready for.