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Trent Alexander-Arnold exclusive interview: Why criticism doesn't faze me and why Liverpool will be back

Trent Alexander-Arnold opens up to Sky Sports about a difficult season and the criticism he and Liverpool have faced; follow Brighton vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports' digital platforms on Saturday; kick-off 3pm; free match highlights from 5.30pm

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Trent Alexander-Arnold tells Sky Sports why he is not interested in criticism and why Liverpool's form will turn around with time

"In those split seconds, you evaluate and you weigh up where the defender is, where your team-mate is, the speed at which they are running, how and where the ball needs to go, and whether you're able to do that," Trent Alexander-Arnold tells Sky Sports.

Liverpool's right-back is describing, calmly and in some detail, his thought process in the moments leading up to a pass like the one which set up Darwin Nunez's stunning goal in Saturday's FA Cup tie against Wolves. It might sound like a lot, but not to him.

"I never like to limit myself," he adds. "So, in those situations, I always think I can play any pass that I see, as long as it's on. If there's a defender standing in my way and it's physically not possible to get the ball there, then you can't play it. But I like to think that I can play most passes that I'm able to see, and I was able to see that."

The pass, delivered at full speed, so perfect in its execution that Nunez did not even need to break stride in order to stroke it into the bottom corner, was an Alexander-Arnold classic, and a reminder, if it was needed, of the extraordinary talent he possesses.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has started all but two of Liverpool's Premier League games this season
Image: Alexander-Arnold has started all but two of Liverpool's Premier League games this season

'The feeling of losing eats at you'

The problem, of course, is that it came in the context of another fraught Liverpool performance. Jurgen Klopp's side, already 16 points off the pace in the Premier League, are fortunate to still be in the tie after a 2-2 draw they scarcely deserved.

"It's been a difficult season," says Alexander-Arnold. Particularly so for a player who hates losing as much as this one. In Liverpool's academy, he was known to become so enraged by his mistakes in training that he would hammer the ball away in frustration.

Alexander-Arnold, speaking to Sky Sports in the press conference room adjacent to those academy pitches at Liverpool's Kirkby headquarters, smiles at the mention of that competitive streak.

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"I think it has always been, and always will be, the same, no matter what I do," he says.

"It's not just relevant to football, it's in anything. That feeling of losing, of feeling like you're not good enough, or you've not done enough, or someone's got the better of you, it just eats at you.

"That doesn't ever change."

It is what drives him, but he has had to experience far more of it than he would like in recent months. Liverpool, quadruple contenders until the final weeks of May last season, have already lost nearly twice as many games as in the whole of the last campaign.

That feeling of losing, of feeling like you're not good enough, or you've not done enough, or someone's got the better of you, it just eats at you
Trent Alexander-Arnold

It has been a bruising period for everyone at the club but if there is one positive to be found lately, it is in their right-back's return to form. The last two games have brought two assists. Before that, a player-of-the-match display in the win over Leicester.

The consensus among supporters is that, following a difficult start to the campaign, Alexander-Arnold has been Liverpool's best player since they returned from the World Cup break.

Does he feel that way himself? "Nothing changes for me, if I'm honest," he says with a shrug. "The mentality I have going into every game has always been the same. The expectation I've always had of myself will always be there.

"I can't control whether I have a good or bad game. Every footballer who steps out on the pitch wants to have the best game of their entire career but, unfortunately, that doesn't happen.

"You can only control your mentality, your effort, how much you put into the game, how much you want to win, and the things you sacrifice for the team.

"This season, I've had that same mentality whether I'm playing well, playing badly, having a good game, having a bad game.

"The only thing I can control is what my intentions are on the pitch.

"I would say I'm finding more form, but it's not like I've come back from the World Cup and had a completely different mentality. That mentality has been there from the very start."

'My focus is always on defending'

It is a typically level-headed answer from a player who has become adept at shutting out the noise but even he could not ignore the debate that raged around his involvement in Qatar, where he ended up playing only 33 minutes on England's run to the last eight.

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Alexander-Arnold joined the Friday Night Football team to reflect on his performances after the 2-1 win over Leicester

He has since told Sky Sports pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher he has been working to improve defensively - and that after a game, against Leicester, in which he made more tackles and interceptions than in any other in the last two seasons.

But he is eager to point out those qualities have always been there - even if his critics might disagree. He has, after all, "won quite a few finals", and "important games where you have to defend", to quote his manager earlier this season.

"I wouldn't say there's things I've changed, particularly," he says.

"I've always known I've had that in me. If people don't want to recognise it, or don't want to see that when they watch me play the game, then that's on them.

"I like to try and give opposition as hard a game as possible on and off the ball and I think that's just part of it, if I'm honest. People will highlight it when I do a few good one-on-ones, and people will highlight it when I do a few bad one-on-ones.

"It's something which is very easy to bring up and talk about. I do work on it, but it's not something I've changed or tried to work on especially now. It's something I continue to work on on a daily basis, and have done since I've been in the first team, if not before."

Trent Alexander-Arnold's is second only to Kevin de Bruyne in many creative metrics
Image: Alexander-Arnold is second only to Kevin De Bruyne in many creative metrics

Besides, all the discussion around perceived defensive imperfections feels like missing the point given the sheer extent of Alexander-Arnold's contribution at the other end of the pitch.

Across the last five seasons, only Kevin De Bruyne has created more chances or made more assists in the Premier League. Alexander-Arnold ranks top in terms of expected assists, the underlying data highlighting the quality of the opportunities he creates.

The numbers are astonishing, an illustration of how he has redefined the role of a full-back. Does he feel his critics sometimes overlook the scale of his attacking responsibility in this Liverpool team?

"Yeah, but I enjoy that responsibility of having to do two jobs at once. To be someone who creates chances, gets assists and makes things happen, but also someone who prevents things from happening.

"First and foremost, the job on the pitch, as a defender, is to keep a clean sheet and defend, so that's always what I'm going to be focused on, no matter what.

"The other side of it is that we have a lot of the ball as a team, so when we have it, I try to create chances, try to help the team score goals. I enjoy that responsibility. I don't hide away from that at all."

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“I’ve probably got the same opinion as anyone who has watched him play. He’s someone who is exciting. He’s an incredible talent for such a young age, who helps teams win games and scores and assists goals.

“He’s an all-round midfielder and I think he’s someone who has got a very, very bright future. He’s level-headed on and off the pitch. The professionalism, everything is there. He is an outstanding player.”

'Mane missed but belief in Nunez'

Alexander-Arnold's assists against Brentford and Wolves were, remarkably, by the standards he has set himself, his first of the campaign, a statistical quirk which can perhaps be attributed, at least in part, to the changing make-up of Liverpool's attack.

The 24-year-old's understanding with Sadio Mane was, after all, a major weapon for this Liverpool side, with roughly a quarter of his 46 Premier League assists coming for a player who has undoubtedly been missed since his departure to Bayern Munich.

Nearly a quarter of Trent Alexander-Arnold's 46 Premier League assists have been for Sadio Mane
Image: Eleven of Alexander-Arnold's 46 Premier League assists have been for Sadio Mane

"It's always going to be different, but I think that's just part of football," says Alexander-Arnold. "I don't think you can get used to playing with certain players because the football world chops and changes every single season. You can't just rely on certain players.

"Sadio is a world-class player and has been for many years. He's someone who will help any team he's at and do the things he does to a level that others can't, so of course we are going to miss what he brings to the team.

"But we've got other players with different qualities who bring different things to our game who will help us in what we need to do."

Nunez, their £85m signing from Benfica, is one of them and, despite having only recently combined for their first goal, Alexander-Arnold is adamant they have already built up chemistry in the final third.

Liverpool's Darwin Nunez celebrates after scoring his side's first goal
Image: Alexander-Arnold has backed Darwin Nunez to come good

"I think that chemistry and understanding has probably been there from early doors this season," he says. "It's so easy when you look at it, you think, we've had one goal together all season, maybe just haven't found the same wavelength.

"But if you go back and watch some games, or you watch the chances created, you see that I've been putting balls into him from early on in the season. We just haven't been able to score off them."

Nunez's misses have prompted plenty of criticism but his volleyed finish against Wolves took him to 10 goals for the season in all competitions and Alexander-Arnold insists he and his team-mates have no doubts about what is to come from him.

"He's a player who I think it's easy to just write him off, it's easy to say he's not scoring goals," says Alexander-Arnold. "But he's getting himself into areas and places where he's able to hurt the opposition and that's all you can really ask.

"We have faith that the goals will start coming. No-one here is thinking about that. We are all behind him and we are all supporting him. It's always good to see him on the scoresheet, but as long as the team wins, that's all anyone cares about."

'People expect us to be immaculate'

Liverpool have not been doing enough of that this season, though, and the scrutiny has been intense as a result.

"I think people have…" Alexander-Arnold pauses as he looks for the right words. "There's a level of expectation now," he continues. "It's almost like being a victim of your own success.

"People expect us to be immaculate every season and we're not allowed to have off seasons. There's a level of consistency that's demanded and we demand that from ourselves as well.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 15: Liverpool Manager, Jurgen Klopp throws the ball to Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace at Anfield on August 15, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Image: Alexander-Arnold has become a senior player under Jurgen Klopp

"It's a season that we've not been overly happy with, but there's still a long time left. I don't even think we're halfway through it yet. There's a long way to go, so I wouldn't write us off by any means.

"There will come a time when things click into place and we'll be back to where we were and where we have been. When that happens, then everyone will be happy. It's just a matter of time."

It is perhaps unsurprising that someone who plays without setting himself limits still predicts a positive outcome to the season in spite of everything. Maybe it should be reassuring, too, given Alexander-Arnold's talent for seeing things others cannot.

There will come a time when things click into place and we'll be back to where we have been
Trent Alexander-Arnold

"Whether you have success or don't have success, every season is difficult in different ways," says Alexander-Arnold.

"As a team, we've had seasons where it's all went our way, but we've worked really hard for that, and there's times where we haven't had amazing seasons, but we've still worked hard for our target.

"We're still in a decent position in the league. I think we're still in and around where we need to be as a team. We would like to be higher up the table, pushing for the title, but at the same time we are in a position to go and challenge for Champions League football.

"I think we have to go back to basics, to find where the problems are and try to use them to our advantage in order to get back to what we know as Liverpool, and to playing like a Liverpool team.

"That is what is important for us."

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