Welcome to World Class: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Whether you're playing Football Manager or just supporting your favourite team, you'll have a good idea of what you want from your right-back.
The bread-and-butter of a defender is somebody who can keep clean sheets, but that's not the whole story. In today's game, you need a right-back who can make an impact at both ends of the field at an incredibly high level, and you need somebody with the physical fitness to keep him in the side consistently.
There are only a select few who can meet that criteria, but how many of those are so good that they can be one of their team's most important players en route to winning their first league title in 30 years?
There aren't many players that can match the level of Liverpool hero Trent Alexander-Arnold.
It's crazy to think that we're in just the fourth season of Alexander-Arnold's career as a regular senior. At this point, most players are starting to find their feet and might make a real impact every now and then, but not Alexander-Arnold.
Instead, the 22-year-old is shattering Premier League records, single-handedly dragging his side to Champions League glory and filling up his trophy cabinet with well-deserved silverware.
We're at a point now where Alexander-Arnold's genius has stopped surprising us. He doesn't often leave us asking 'how did he do that?'. Now, we just accept it. He's Alexander-Arnold, that's how he's done it.
We got a glimpse of what makes Alexander-Arnold so special when he scored his first senior goal for the Reds back in August 2017. The young defender fired home a free-kick in a Champions League game against Hoffenheim - something which embodies everything about Alexander-Arnold. He's a dead-ball specialist who is capable of doing whatever he wants with the ball, but he also knows how to bring those skills out on the biggest stages.
It was towards the end of that season that Alexander-Arnold became a regular starter at Anfield. He made the right-back position his own in February 2018, and by May he was starting in the Champions League final. The Englishman has never been one to take the slow route to the top.
The 2017/18 final ended in heartbreak at the hands of Real Madrid, and it almost felt as though Alexander-Arnold took it personally. Here he was, a local kid from Liverpool, representing his favourite team in the Champions League final, and he hadn't got his hands on the trophy. When would he ever get that chance again?
As it turned out, he wouldn't have long to wait.
In the quarter-final of the 2018/19 tournament - almost one year exactly since his first European game as the undisputed starter - Alexander-Arnold raised his game. He bagged assists in both legs against Porto, but nobody could predict what he would do in the semi-final.
After being dropped for the first leg, in which his absence was sorely felt as Liverpool fell 3-0 to Barcelona, Alexander-Arnold erupted. He wasn't going to see this chance pass him by again, and he produced one of the most memorable moments of magic in Champions League history. The legend of CORNER TAKEN QUICKLY ORIGIII will be passed down through generations, and deservedly so.
As manager Jurgen Klopp put it: "Oh my God - genius". There was - and is - no other way to describe it.
You'd think teams would have found out a way to neutralise his crossing at this point. Surely defenders could just drop off and eliminate the space behind them? How about pressing Alexander-Arnold and limiting his time on the ball?
You can't. You can't throw all your eggs in the try-and-stop-him basket because there's a Glaswegian version of him on the other side of the pitch waiting to capitalise on that. Andy Robertson brings the same sort of vision and movement, and the pair have built one of the most mesmeric on-field relationships we have ever seen from full-backs.
Their professional rivalry has sparked the most fascinating assist battle, and it's usually been Alexander-Arnold who comes out on top. Not only does he have a habit of stealing the show, but the right-back often commands the place in the history books.
Searching 'Trent Alexander-Arnold Record' on Google will bring up countless examples of his brilliance, notably:
- Becoming the youngest player in Premier League history to bag a hat-trick of assists in February 2019.
- Breaking the record for most assists by a defender during 2018/19 with 12.
- Becoming the youngest player to start consecutive Champions League finals.
- Breaking that aforementioned assist record by creating 13 goals during 2019/20
The scariest thing is that Alexander-Arnold is still a junior in football terms. Some players have just a handful of appearances to their name when they hit 22, but Alexander-Arnold isn't just 'some player'.
“Trent Alexander-Arnold has a unique personality," Brazil great Cafu told Qatar’s Road to 2022 . “He's not afraid to be aggressive. He pressure, dribbles, plays, scores, he developed this personality really early and that will help him become a standout player in the Premier League.
“I think he needs to keep everything good that he has, like his physical condition and his pass and perfect the cross a bit more. In the future, he'll be one of the best right-backs ever in England and the world."
To be classed as one of the best right-backs of all time is a different kettle of fish, but there's no denying that Alexander-Arnold is on that path. After all, who else can match his success and consistency at such a young age?
When it comes to right-backs, the answer is nobody.