Six stages of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s career: From local boy to Kop hero

Quick Reads

Such is the ease with which he plays the game, it feels like Trent Alexander-Arnold has been a Liverpool regular for a number of years.

But it’s easy to forget the 20-year-old is still riding the wave of his rapid rise into senior football at Anfield.

We’ve taken a look at the six stages of his impressive ascent so far.

Local boy

Born in West Derby near Melwood, Alexander-Arnold grew up supporting Liverpool and has been a part of the club’s academy since the age of six.

A year later, he attended Anfield for the first time to watch Luis Garcia score a stunning volley as the Reds beat Juventus 2-1 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

“From that moment, I knew I wanted to play for Liverpool for the rest of my life, and I knew I would support them forever,” he told the Champions League’s official website in 2018.

Of course, there is a small matter of a familial link with Manchester United, with Alexander-Arnold’s uncle a long-serving club secretary at Old Trafford and his grandma Sir Alex Ferguson’s “first steady girlfriend”.

According to the New York Times, Ferguson once asked Alexander-Arnold why he never joined United, to which he replied: “My mum doesn’t drive on motorways.”

Early hype

As a teenager, Alexander-Arnold began to make a name for himself in Liverpool’s academy, captaining the club’s Under-16 and Under-18 sides under Pepijn Lijnders.

“Trent had a certain insight and creativity that meant he was able to play unpredictable passes,” Lijnders told the Liverpool Echo in 2017.

“He had pace, but more importantly he was quick in his mind. He knew what was going to happen and had the capacity to improvise, opening up situations for himself or for others.

“A right-sided defender who could create and dominate the complete right channel, but also had the ability to play passes to the front players where everything became interesting. He played the type of passes front players like to receive.

“He had the gift to speed up the tempo of the positional play. In order to utilise those characteristics more often and give him more responsibility in the positional play, I played him in front of a back three.”

A certain Steven Gerrard also singled out a 16-year-old Alexander-Arnold in his autobiography ‘My Story’.

“Trent Arnold has a terrific chance of making it as a top professional,” he wrote. “He’s quite leggy but he’s got a lovely frame and seems to have all the attributes you need.

“He has the right attitude and comes from West Derby, home to Melwood. So Trent is another Scouser and apparently, just as I tried to be John Barnes and Steve McMahon, he grew up pretending to be me while playing in the Merseyside parks.”

Senior breakthrough

After a couple of appearances in pre-season friendlies, Alexander-Arnold made his competitive debut for Liverpool in a League Cup victory at Tottenham in October 2016, immediately making a positive impression by being included in the Football League’s Team of the Round.

Just a few weeks later, the Reds rewarded the right-back with a new long-term deal, and he followed that up with a man of the match performance in his second start for the club, providing an assist in a 2-0 victory over Leeds United.

His biggest challenge of that season came when he was thrown in at the deep end with a shock start at Old Trafford, having been told just four hours beforehand, and shackled Anthony Martial to such an extent the France international was substituted just after the hour mark.

He told Liverpool’s official website afterwards that he phoned his mum to deliver the surprise news of his start: “When I called her and told her she just started crying.

“That’s when I realised, it’s not just me who it’s happening to, it’s everyone around me as well. It was a good feeling to have. She just told me to go on and do the best that I can and don’t worry about what happens – and that’s what I did.

“The day before, we travelled to Manchester and stayed over in the hotel and I think about 12 in the afternoon the manager asked me if I was ready to start.  I said ‘yeah’ and he said, ‘Okay, you’re starting.’

“That’s when I knew and I think it was a good thing knowing so late on because if I knew the day before I wouldn’t have had the best of sleeps.”

He would end his first campaign with 12 appearances to his name in all competitions having been named the club’s Young Player of the Year.

Injury opening

At the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Alexander-Arnold was expected to continue picking up first-team minutes as a squad player under Jurgen Klopp, only to find himself jumping up the pecking order due to injuries to Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez.

That opened up the door for the 20-year-old to make 33 appearances in all competitions, particularly standing out in Liverpool’s thrilling run to the Champions League final, in which he became the youngest Englishman to start a quarter-final and the youngest Reds player to start in a final.

Such performances also saw him nominated for the Golden Boy award, although he ultimately finished as runner-up to Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt.

International recognition

After such a standout season, Alexander-Arnold’s rise was underlined by his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

While Kieran Trippier was established as the side’s first-choice right wing-back, Alexander-Arnold still became just the fourth teenager to start for England at a World Cup when given the nod against Belgium in the group stage.

Following the conclusion of the tournament, he made another notable contribution by becoming the youngest Liverpool player to score for England since Michael Owen when he notched his first international goal against the USA.

Key player

It speaks volumes about Alexander-Arnold’s development that we now take such a young player’s abilities almost for granted.

In February 2019 he became the youngest player in Premier League history to record three assists in a single game – but it didn’t generate anywhere near the sort of headlines you might imagine about a 20-year-old. People simply expect it.

While Liverpool have had to splash the cash on big-money recruits in almost every area of the field, their right-back berth has been reliably filled by a local lad reared through the academy.

And they rewarded his hard-earned status in the first team with a second long-term contract in 18 months.

“I think there are things that have happened that were beyond my wildest dreams,” he told Liverpool’s official website. “Football is a very special game and there are things you want to happen; there have been a lot of ups and few downs, but that’s part and parcel of the game.

“You can’t only have a steady rise and everything going smoothly. The last 18 months especially have been very special. Hopefully the next 18 months and even further on than that will be even more special.”

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