By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump
I was spoiled for choice on what to cover in my Throwback Thursday column this week.
Today marks the anniversary of the great John Barnes debut and the birthday of current Red Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, today we jump back to August 15th, 2017, to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s first goal for Liverpool. The strike was too good and his future at the club is too bright for him not to be included.
Alexander-Arnold joined the Liverpool academy at the age of six, and famously lived close to Liverpool’s training ground at Melwood, sometimes snooping on the first-teams training.
I, like many obsessed Liverpool fans, first became aware of Alexander-Arnold a couple of years before he made his first-team debut for Liverpool. Like many before him, he was spoken about as a youth player with the potential to make it big at the club.
He was originally a midfielder, but was moved to right back during his youth days. This move gave Alexander-Arnold an advantage over rival full-backs, as he had the passing range of a deep-lying midfielder, making him the perfect attacking right-back.
Believing the hype when it comes to young players is often a fool’s game, but it was clear early on that Alexander-Arnold was different. His competitive debut was against Tottenham in the EFL club, but it was the match against Leeds United in the same competition where he truly introduced himself getting the first of many assists for Liverpool and being named man of the match.
Although Alexander-Arnold was clearly in contention for the right-back spot at Liverpool, an unfortunate long-term back injury for Nathaniel Clyne gave him the opportunity to become Liverpool’s main right-back. He was chosen ahead of the natural central defender Joe Gomez for the crucial Champions League qualifier against Hoffenheim, and he repaid Jurgen Klopp’s trust.
At just 18 years old, Alexander-Arnold stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for the free-kick 25 yards out. Trent placed the free-kick into the bottom corner, kicking off Liverpool’s Champions League campaign and kick-starting Alexander-Arnold’s senior career.
The Englishman did share the right-back responsibilities with Gomez throughout the season, but it became clear later on that he was the future in that position with the former Charlton Athletic man more suited to a central role.
Alexander-Arnold’s responsibilities increased, and he became the youngest ever player to start a Champions League final for the club. Liverpool lost, but his career reached another milestone when he went with England to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where England reached the semi-finals.
The 2018/19 season started with Alexander-Arnold the first-choice right-back, making up a fearsome four with Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk and Gomez. That defence, along with Joel Matip taking Gomez’s place after an injury, ended the season as the best in the league.
After Liverpool finished the campaign in second, narrowly behind Manchester City, Trent became the youngest person ever to start in two Champions League finals. This time Liverpool won, meaning the boyhood Red became a Champions League winner at the age of 20.
Alexander-Arnold also finished the season with 12 assists, breaking the Premier League record for most assists by a defender in a season. Robertson beat the record initially, but Alexander-Arnold finished the season ahead with two assists on the final day of the season. No doubt that rivalry will restart this term.
Alexander-Arnold hasn’t got many more goals for Liverpool since that free-kick against Hoffenheim, but has used to magic right foot to create goal after goal, becoming one of Liverpool’s most dangerous players. Hopefully his career is entirely with his boyhood club and he can score a few more free-kicks as good as that one against Hoffenheim.