We Need to Talk About Trent Alexander-Arnold

When you don’t have any particular link to a specific county, which is the position that I find myself in, there is something really nice about summer tournaments. My only focus is on Liverpool’s players coming back to the club fit and well. It means that I don’t care if I miss any of the matches, but am equally delighted when I turn the television on and see that there’s some top-class football for me to watch. Anyone who has read my stuff before or heard my opinions will know that I’ve got no time for England. The main reason for that is the way that Scousers, or just Liverpool supporters in most cases, are treated by the rest of the Ingurland brigade. A video surfaced the other days of people in a pub out in Germany delighting in a rendition of ‘we hate Scousers’. Yet those same people will react with anger and incredulity should you say something like ‘Scouse not English’. There is also a long history of Liverpool as a city being forgotten or done down by the British establishment, so I’m not entirely sure what there is that we should be feeling proud about.

For me, a lot of my dislike is football based. I remember watching England in a pub in Birmingham in 2004 when I was in drama school. The Three Lions lost to Portugal in the quarter-finals and countless people began screaming abuse at Steven Gerrard, having previously been singing his name. It was my first real experience of the way in which people will blame Liverpool players if the opportunity arises, irrespective of whether or not they were to blame for England’s on-field issues. Then there is the favouritism shown to certain teams by manager after manager. Why on earth has Kobbie Mainoo been taken away to the Euros this summer when Harvey Elliott has not? In 1,940 Premier League minutes, Mainoo got three goals and one assist. Elliott got three goals and six assists in 1,335 minutes. Quite why the Man United man was favoured over Elliott is something I can’t really understand. Ultimately, though, I’m glad he’s not there to be made a scapegoat of and to suffer the needless abuse of the ‘supporters’ who travel Europe to sing songs about World Wars and aeroplanes.

Does Trent Work in the Middle?

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about when it comes to Harvey Elliott, take a look at what is happening to Trent Alexander-Arnold this summer. The Liverpool right-back has been put into the midfield for England in order to allow Kyle Walker to play in the full-back slot, with critics and supporters alike happy to lay the blame of any poor performances from the Three Lions squarely at Trent’s door. Gareth Southgate, meanwhile, has taken him off early in both matches, seemingly to signal that it is down to his performances that England aren’t playing particularly well. The fact that Southgate is tactically inept is happily ignored by most people, who are delighted that there is a young black man that they can blame instead. The question that needs to be asked, though, is whether Trent works as a midfielder. I am on record as not being a particularly big fan of the hybrid role that Jürgen Klopp asked him to play at Liverpool. He is, in my opinion, the best attacking right-back in the world, which he proved when we won the Champions League and Premier League.

Whilst the defensive side of his game isn’t to the same level as the attacking side, few people would talk about it if he had the same press officer as Walker, Reece James or Kieran Trippier. They, along with the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, regularly make mistakes that lead to goals but it rarely gets mentioned by Gary Neville et al. There is something very uncomfortable about Neville’s obsession with Trent, which seems to go beyond simply the fact that that’s the position that the Manchester United man played in and that Trent does it for United’s arch rivals. I fully accept that it can take players years to learn a new position, but I can’t escape the feeling that playing Trent in the middle negates what he’s so good at. As a right-back, he won every trophy that he could win with Liverpool, controlling games in the same sort of way as Kevin De Bruyne does for Manchester City. He doesn’t have anywhere near as much influence when he’s in the middle, so quite why there is such a clamour for him to play there is something I just can’t get my head around.

Should we be Worried About the Contract Situation?

There is a degree of paranoia from some regarding Trent Alexander-Arnold’s contract situation at Liverpool. That isn’t entirely unwarranted. According to Transfermarkt, his current contract runs until the 30th of June 2025. In other words, in six days time he will have entered the final year of his contract and, 365 days later, will be able to sign for another club for free. It means that he is very much in charge of what happens next, with the likes of Michael Edwards never being overly happy when it’s the players that have the power. What it really means, though, is that if Trent wants to stay at Anfield then he will do so, whilst if he wants to leave then he’ll be able to do that too. He is in control of what happens next and quite what he’s thinking is something that only the man himself and those closest to him will know. Has he had a chat with Jude Bellingham this summer and asked him how much he’s enjoying life in Madrid? Is the regular success that the Spanish giants enjoy enough to help him ignore the racist abuse that black players often face in Spain?

The media and opposition supporters were quick to jump all over Trent recently when he declared that winning things meant more for Liverpool than for other teams. He has also said in the past that he wants to be Liverpool captain at some point. That wouldn’t happen if he departed for pastures new, so he will no doubt be weighing up how much that means in comparison to the success that he’d doubtless be able to enjoy if he was playing at the Santiago Bernabéu each week. If he finished his career with, say, two Champions League and three Premier League winners’ medals with Liverpool, would that mean more than five Champions Leagues, one Premier League and six La Liga medals? It isn’t something that is easy for anyone other than Trent to answer, which includes former players. Does Steven Gerrard wish he’d left Liverpool when he was in his prime, or is he happy with his lot? In terms of concern for supporters, I’m not too worried whilst the European Championship is still ongoing, but if there’s no contract announcement in the weeks after it then I might just start to be.

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