One look at the personal accolades of Trent Alexander-Arnold can end any debate on whether the Liverpool fullback is ‘world class’ or not.
At just 21-years-old, the right-back is commanding a level of praise that many footballers can only dream of, and there’s no doubting he is worthy of such plaudits.
As he has done on so many occasions, Alexander-Arnold affirmed himself as one of the most important players in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side on Sunday afternoon, playing a pivotal role in a brilliant comeback victory at Anfield.
Despite falling a goal down inside the opening minute, the Reds were composed and dominant as they defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 thanks to two second half strikes.
It was a hugely important three points which maintained their six point cushion at the top of the Premier League table, ensuring that Liverpool made it 28 points out of a possible 30 from their opening 10 fixtures.
In the post-match rabble of the Sky Sports studio, the comparisons were flying around between the Spurs fullbacks and their opposite numbers, with Roy Keane not holding back with his ‘dumb and dumber claim’.
The most interesting of the comments came from Gary Neville though, with the former Manchester United right-back weighing in on Alexander-Arnold.
While he did admit his admiration for the Liverpool fullback, Neville refused to give the 21-year-old the ‘world class’ tag unless his defensive abilities improved.
“[Andy] Robertson is a better fullback that Trent Alexander-Arnold,” the Sky Sports pundit claimed.
“He’s one of the best fullbacks I’ve ever seen going forward.
“He’s got to become as serious about his defending as he is about his attacking, and then you’ve got a world class fullback there.
“His defensive player could have cost his team. He can become a world class fullback if he gets that defensive side of his game right and that composure.”
To say there is room for Alexander-Arnold to improve, at the age of just 21, is a fair comment to make, especially when he attacking abilities probably outweigh his defensive capabilities.
To claim he is not yet ‘world class’ would be less easy to accept though, given how integral he is to a side that are currently Champions of Europe.
In 65 Premier League appearances, the Liverpool-born fullback has 15 assists to his name, 12 of those coming last season when he broke the record for most assists in a season by a defender in Premier League history.
20 of those outings have ended with a clean sheet, working out at 30.8%, and that has undoubtedly been aided by the rest of his back four and the Reds’ goalkeeper.
Before turning 21, Alexander-Arnold became a European Champion, and without his split-second thinking Liverpool may never have made the final in Madrid.
As well as lifting Old Big Ears, he became the youngest player to play in successive Champions League finals, booked his place in the Champions League squad of the season, was named in the PFA Team of the Year and more recently has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or.
Much has been made of the supposed ‘lack of creativity’ in Jurgen Klopp’s go-to midfield three of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum. However, what they do expertly is allow Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to play to their strengths, which in turn leads to Liverpool creating more opportunities and scoring more goals.
What the midfield trio lacks going forward, the Reds’ fullbacks more than make up for, and there isn’t a more creative player in the squad than Alexander-Arnold.
His passing ability is second-to-none, both in-play and from dead-ball situations, showing characteristics that could see him slot into the centre of midfield and not look out of place.
Henderson, Fabinho and Wijnaldum are all willing to work hard to cover for their more attack-minded counterparts, often looking to shut-down potential counter attacks while the fullbacks are higher up the field.
Opportunities to breach the Liverpool defence are still there, though, as they have kept just two clean sheets compared to the six at this stage last season. While shutting out opponents is beneficial, the Reds have two more points than their first 10 fixtures of the previous campaign.
The most important statistic compared to this stage last season is the two points better off that Klopp’s side are. At this stage last year Liverpool were locked on 26 points with Manchester City, whereas there is a healthy six-point cushion this time around over their title rivals.
Alexander-Arnold is not a bad defender, nor is he the most accomplished defensive fullback around, he is merely playing to his strengths at the benefit of his team.
He has a free role to attack at every opportunity, providing a dangerous threat from out wide with his pinpoint accuracy and devastating pace, terrorising backpedaling opponents. Take that away and ask him to concentrate on his defensive duties, then you’re taking away his best attributes and making life easier for anyone facing Liverpool.
He has consistently proven on the biggest of stages that he is one of the best fullbacks in world football, dealing with some of the most deadly attackers in Europe along the way.
Take Alexander-Arnold out of the Liverpool line-up and the current Premier League leaders will struggle to replace him, and while James Milner did an admirable job away to Genk, the 21-year-old’s importance in this all conquering side would become apparent if he faced a prolonged period on the sidelines.
The modern role of a fullback has changed through time, and Alexander-Arnold is the epitome of that.
His potential at such a young age is nothing short of ridiculous, and Klopp will sleep easy each night knowing a player of his quality is Liverpool through and through.
Whether you feel that he could improve defensively or not, there’s simply no doubting that Alexander-Arnold is already world class.