A good litmus test of an individual, alongside their attitude to animals and whether they watched the coronation, is their opinion of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
For many, Alexander-Arnold is a generational talent capable of vision and invention that far exceeds anything seen in English football this century.
But others have a slightly different view of the Liverpool full-back. Focusing joylessly on his flaws, rather than appreciating his strengths, they label him a fraud. A defensive liability. Somebody that’s been over-rated because of the inherent Liverpool bias in the print media.
Of course, Alexander-Arnold has been caught napping at the back like an elderly prison warden after a heavy lunch. That’s why Jurgen Klopp has moved his prime creative outlet into midfield with stunning results.
Since Arsenal visited Anfield on April 9, the 24-year-old has provided the most assists in the Premier League. And created the most chances. And made the most passes in the opposition half, won the most possession and recorded the most touches.
It’s no coincidence that Liverpool are enjoying their best run of form all season as Alexander-Arnold’s influence has grown, as demonstrated by one jaw-dropping pass during Saturday’s victory over Brentford.
Faced with opposition defending deeper than a Sam Allardyce side facing 1970 Brazil, the full-back reached into his pocket and withdrew the Swiss army knife needed to prise Brentford apart.
On this occasion, the corkscrew manifested itself as a gorgeously lofted pass that rendered the Brentford defence irrelevant. Caught ball-watching, staring at the mystery orb as if a UFO had descended on Merseyside, they completely neglected to follow the run of Darwin Nunez.
Okay, Nunez missed the opportunity to extend Liverpool’s lead. But only a footballing philistine will allow that to detract from Alexander-Arnold’s genius.
Trent’s passing scares me… pic.twitter.com/PUDY4JKfmj
— VisualGame (@avisualgame) May 6, 2023
“If Trent plays midfield, he probably saves Liverpool £100m,” Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports viewers.
“His role from midfield in the second half against Arsenal was almost like a Steven Gerrard performance, where he was a bit everywhere and there was a lot of running involved.
“Trent has provided quality from an unconventional full-back position – he plays the role differently. But, for me, watching him in midfield, getting more involved, running the game, I think this is almost perfect for him.
“I don’t really care where Trent is on a team sheet. I want to see him on the ball [in the region highlighted below] because, if he’s on the ball in those areas, whether he’s playing midfield, full-back, wing-back, or on the right of a midfield three, there are very few players in world of football who could match him.
“Klopp and Liverpool have to find a way [to utilise his strengths], as they have done for the last four or five years as a full-back. If that position isn’t working this season, then as a midfield player. Your job as coaching staff is to make sure you get that man on the ball.”
Indeed, Liverpool had done exactly that. “People said his defending is not good,” Klopp said recently. “This year, that discussion took over because we, as a team, were not defending well.
“We had a successful formation for years, we had it in our minds where, if we had to change something, that could be something. He’s still defending in the right-back position and we had a lot of games last season when we played him in an advanced role. Now, it’s a bit more central.
“The real reason for the improvement is the general defending. There are moments where we defend well and Trent can pop up in a different space. But it’s helped Fabinho as well. You can see how he’s flourishing now.
Cody Gakpo is a perfect player for the central space. Everybody buys into it. It’s a like a breath of fresh air.”
So, if you hear anybody that doesn’t rate Alexander-Arnold, you’ll know that giving them the time of day is a futile exercise.
By Michael Lee