Trent Alexander-Arnold stunner evidence of striking Gareth Bale similarity

It was a moment which caused every commentator in England to subconsciously utter the phrase, “Who else but Trent Alexander-Arnold?”

The 22-year-old went from zero to hero, hitting a last-minute thunderbolt to hand Liverpool their first win at Anfield in 2021, fire them back into the top four of the Premier League and banish a whole posse of demons.

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The 2-1 victory over Aston Villa was a huge milestone in the Reds’ season, and one which led Jamie Carragher to ask “Are you watching Gary Neville?” in response to the former Manchester United man’s hypothetical decision not to select the full-back in his ideal England XI ahead of Euro 2020.

And while it was a wonderful moment for the player, club and all Liverpool supporters, it didn’t really prove anybody wrong, on this occasion.

In fact, it all but proved Neville’s point.

The pundit’s gripes around Alexander-Arnold is his lack of defensive awareness and killer instinct at the back. Those issues came to the fore in midweek, when the youngster inadvertently assisted Marco Asensio with a headed back-pass, and then fell asleep to allow Vinicius Junior to add a third.

What Neville would agree on, however, is that Alexander-Arnold’s desire to bomb forward and attack is a menacing weapon in the right situation. The defender’s ability in the final third makes him one of the most impressive crossers of the ball in the game, and his quality in possession has led Carragher to draw comparisons with Manchester City magician Kevin De Bruyne.

It was his offensive play which caught the eye against Villa, and ultimately settled the game on Saturday. He was a man possessed down that right-hand side, overlapping beyond Mohamed Salah and whipping in a number of crosses which his teammates couldn’t quite capitalise upon.

His raking ball (which probably should have been intercepted by Matty Cash) found its way to Diogo Jota and ultimately led to the disallowed equaliser – a decision all football fans would probably agree to be quite harsh.

That love for putting defenders under pressure by picking out the difficult cross-field balls or his constant need to be in possession strikes of a man destined to play higher up the pitch in the future.

In fact, his match-winning contribution came from an area he should never have been occupying in his current role.

As Liverpool pushed for the equaliser, Xherdan Shaqiri collected the ball on the right wing, only to find no Alexander-Arnold marauding behind him. He instead blasted a cross into the mixer, which deflected to the edge of the penalty area on the left-hand side.

From there, our protagonist popped up, took the ball in his stride and whipped a delicious curling shot into Emiliano Martinez’s far corner. The question, ‘What is he doing there?!’ sprung to mind, although that wasn’t the only point to ponder.

‘Should he be there more often?’ was equally as intriguing.

We know his strengths, and we are all too aware of his weaknesses. So, would it make sense for him to try and learn another trade on the pitch then, in order to make full use of his attacking qualities?

Juergen Klopp, Trent Alexander-Arnold
A special moment | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

A freer role in a midfield three must have crossed Klopp’s mind at some point, especially if he had more competition in that right-back spot.

That’s not to rule out his skills as a full-back, though. He has guarded that flank in a side which has won the Champions League and the Premier League, collecting a whole stack of individual accolades in the process.

But it was evident when a certain Gareth Bale burst onto the scene at Southampton and Tottenham as a pacy and blistering left-back that his attacking talents were wasted in the penultimate line of defence, and that feeling is beginning to linger with Liverpool’s current right-back.

There are differences between the pair’s skillset, of course, but also an awful lot of similarities – for that reason we shouldn’t be too surprised to see a similar shift in Alexander-Arnold’s position, and Liverpool’s recruitment plans, over the next year or so.

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