Former Chelsea centre-back Frank Leboeuf has ripped into Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive abilities, calling him “Championship level”.
The 23-year-old has emerged as one of the game’s most creative and attack-minded right-backs since making his Liverpool debut in 2016, but there has been a certain stigma around his defensive capabilities in that time.
Despite making over 230 appearances for Liverpool in a trophy-laden six years, he has only been capped 17 times by England, with Gareth Southgate seemingly unconvinced by his defensive level, and whether his attacking exploits justifiably offset this supposed weakness.
It’s been a bone of contention for some time now, despite the high level of praise he has received. Right-back immortal Cafu stated in 2020 that Alexander-Arnold can one day win the Ballon d’Or, while fellow No.2 Gary Neville even once described him as “Beckham and De Bruyne at right-back”.
However, he has not been impervious to criticism, particularly when it comes to his defensive exploits, and Frank Leboeuf is now the latest pundit and ex-pro to weigh in on the debate, going as far as to describe Alexander-Arnold’s backline capabilities as “Championship level”.
“Look at Trent Alexander-Arnold. I love the guy, his offensive qualities. But defensively, he’s Championship level,” he told Journal du Dimanche.
“Only Klopp’s system works for him. When it doesn’t work as well as it has this season, all you see is his defensive shortcomings. I want to take him with me to work on the basics. I would say to him: ‘Turn your head and look behind you, it will be better already’. It was Roberto Carlos who deformed generations of defenders.”
Alexander-Arnold has not featured in any of England’s last four matches, and given that Southgate’s men have not found the back of the net from open play this entire Nations League, there will be clamour from some fans for Liverpool’s buccaneering full-back to come in and give the side a creative adrenaline shot.
With England already relegated from League A, Southgate could have been tempted to deploy TAA in Monday’s concluding match against Germany. But, he has once again been excluded from the matchday squad, calling into question his place at this year’s World Cup.
Looking at Alexander-Arnold’s defensive statistics from this season against England’s other right-back options (Kieran Trippier, Reece James and Kyle Walker), he doesn’t particularly shine. The Liverpool defender ranks the worst for fouls conceded (0.8), ground duel success rate (50%), blocks (0), clean sheets (0) and clearances (0.8) per 90 minutes.