Trent Alexander-Arnold is a star for Liverpool but not yet for England
Trent Alexander-Arnold started in England's 10-0 demolition of San Marino on Monday evening

Trent Alexander-Arnold: Perfect for Liverpool, imperfect for England

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form for England is often compared unfavourably with his efforts for Liverpool.

But in the course of 11 minutes on Monday, he conjured a hat-trick of assists, only one fewer than he has mustered in 784 minutes in the Premier League this season.

The problem? It was against San Marino and he might still be England’s fourth-choice right-back.

And yet there are reasons to call him the world’s best.

Trent Alexander-Arnold v San Marino

Should Alexander-Arnold play in midfield for England?

But, in some elements, he is not really a right-back at all.

It is partly positional, but more a case of creativity. Alexander-Arnold rubs shoulders with playmakers, wingers and No. 10s.

He is the defender who can claim to be the most creative player in the Premier League: his xA (expected assists) per 95 minutes is 0.45, the best in the division.

Go by virtually any marker and Alexander-Arnold figures highly. Had he not missed two games, he may top more charts.

Trent stats

Look at the statistical profile and the temptation would be to conclude that this was a winger, not a full-back.

He has made the joint-most crosses in the division, ranks joint-second for progressive passes, third for shot-creating actions, joint-third for passes into the penalty area, second only to Bruno Fernandes for key passes, second only to Jack Grealish for shot-creating actions per 90 minutes and second to Matt Ritchie for chances made from dead-ball situations.

Indeed, there is only one comparable figure in a similar position: Manchester City’s left-back/playmaker Joao Cancelo.

Cancelo leads the way for progressive passes, passes into the final third and touches in the final third - Alexander-Arnold is fifth but, had he played in those other two games, he might be first.

Why does Alexander-Arnold not get in the England team?

In some respects, he is unique.

While Alexander-Arnold has made the second-most chances, after Fernandes, the next regular right-back in the list is Reece James, down in 47th.

If his quest for his country is to become the player Gareth Southgate wants, for Liverpool, he seems to have become more unique, better at being the attacking force Jurgen Klopp likes.

Trent has doubled down on his Alexander-Arnoldness.

He is more creative than ever before. His xA per 95 this season is more than 50 percent better than his previous best of 0.34 in a Premier League campaign. So, too, his shots on target per 95 minutes (0.57, to a previous best of 0.37).

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Alexander-Arnold is averaging 5.51 shot-creating actions per 95, whereas his highest figure in a completed season was 4.28 in 2019-20.

He holds a Premier League record for a defender of 13 assists in a season; with four in nine games thus far, he is on course to overtake himself. He is on course for career-best numbers in various categories.

The comparisons between Alexander-Arnold and others can fall into three categories: the Liverpool midfielders, the attack-minded England right-back (James) and the defensively-minded one (Kyle Walker), who Southgate selects.

Alexander-Arnold has assumed the midfielders’ creative duties at Anfield. His xA per 95 is much higher than that of the best midfielder in that respect, Naby Keita (0.26), while his 48 shot-creating actions are 21 more than Jordan Henderson and three times as many as any other Liverpool midfielder.

He has 24 completed passes into the penalty area; Liverpool’s midfielders have 41 between them.

The four Liverpool players with most touches in the final third are two forwards, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, and two full-backs, Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.


Why James and Walker are still ahead of Alexander-Arnold

But in James, he has a rival for the England spot as a full-back who is a threat in the final third.

James is Chelsea’s top scorer; with four goals and three assists, he has been directly involved in more Premier League goals than Alexander-Arnold. His expected assists per 95 (0.40) is almost as good, while he averages 4.52 shot-creating actions per 90, a dramatic improvement on his previous best of 2.85.

He has had a higher percentage of his touches (48) in the final third. But there is a defensive difference: 80 percent of James’ tackles are in Chelsea’s defensive third, only 33 percent of Alexander-Arnold’s in Liverpool’s.

Then there is Walker.

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'The anti-Alexander-Arnold'

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the Liverpool man has 36 assists in 112 league games, the City defender just six in 95.

Alexander-Arnold stands second for shot-creating actions per 95 minutes, Walker is 106th. Last season he was 188th.

Walker ranks 113th for touches in the final third; he was 102nd last season. Walker has only 18 percent of his touches in the final third; 35 percent of Alexander-Arnold’s take place there.

They play in the same position, but in different parts of the pitch.

Logically, it suggests Alexander-Arnold has to leapfrog James, a player Southgate promoted above him even when his club numbers – and he never previously had more than two assists in a league season – were not remotely comparable.

Liverpool’s creator-in-chief may be the Premier League’s most productive provider but he has to make Southgate change his mind.

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