Football Features

Trent Alexander-Arnold: Liverpool’s ‘De Bruyne-Beckham’ hybrid lives up to tag with creative salvo vs Inter

By Ben Green

Trent Alexander-Arnold: Liverpool’s ‘De Bruyne-Beckham’ hybrid lives up to tag with creative salvo vs Inter

Published: 22:27, 8 March 2022 | Updated: 18:10, 24 November 2022

Trent Alexander-Arnold continued to live up to his moniker as the ‘Kevin De Bruyne of right-backs’ on Tuesday night after producing another creative masterclass as Liverpool edged out Inter in the Champions League last 16.

The Italian champions put up a valiant effort at Anfield as they secured a 1-0 second-leg win thanks to Lautaro Martinez’s delectable strike on the hour mark. Momentum, though, shifted shortly after as Alexis Sanchez was given an early bath by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz — and from there, the Reds held on for a 2-1 aggregate triumph.

It was not vintage Liverpool by any stretch of the imagination as they fired a collector’s item blank, but it was certainly not for the want of trying as Mohamed Salah struck the post twice, Virgil van Dijk wasted a glorious headed opportunity and Alexander-Arnold saw his free-kick whistle past the woodwork.

Inter dug their heels, battled ruthlessly in the middle of the park and defended stoutly, but it was Alexander-Arnold pulling the strings as he produced his trademark defence-splitting passes and expert dead-ball deliveries at free will.

The academy No. 2 racked up a quite ridiculous five created chances. For context, that was the same amount as the entire Inter team combined. He finished the game with an expected assist (xA) rate of 0.86, towering above the next closest footballer (Sadio Mane on 0.12), and was the only player to finish the game with double digits for final-third entries (15). For a right-back, the numbers were truly frightening.

It is no wonder then that Gary Neville, a notable right-back-turned-pundit, previously described Alexander-Arnold as like “David Beckham and Kevin De Bruyne at right-back”. And that sentiment was echoed by Rio Ferdinand just before the game tonight.

“He’s is playing a lot more inside. He’s playing in Kevin De Bruyne territory,” the former Man Utd defender observed in the BT Sport studio when discussing the number of assists he has racked up in the half space, rather than the more traditional wider areas for full-backs.

The above visual demonstrates that most of Alexander-Arnold’s key passes in the Premier League this season have predominantly come in that ‘half space’ area of the pitch between the touchline and the centre of the pitch. Naturally, balls are flying into the box from the flanks — as you would expect of a No. 2 — but there is an inordinate number of central deliveries, adding weight to the argument.

It didn’t quite happen for the buccaneering defender against Inter, though the blame could certainly be levelled as Liverpool’s wastefulness in front of goal, but this was another fine example of TAA’s growth as a trailblazer of the modern right-back; not so much in the Dani Alves/Cafu realm of torching the touchline and getting into the box, but more as a creative inverted full-back.

Offering the ability to bomb down the wing and infiltrate enemy territory, a la Alves, but also tuck in and function almost as a ‘pseudo-De Bruyne’ in that half space is a very unique option for Klopp — and certainly goes a long way to explaining how the England assist machine creates so many chances, as Inter found out tonight.