Skip to content

Trent Alexander-Arnold will never be a world-class midfielder and should focus on his defending, says Gary Neville

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp opted to use Trent Alexander-Arnold as an auxiliary midfielder when in possession against Arsenal but the full-back struggled defensively despite assisting Roberto Firmino's late equaliser in the 2-2 draw on Super Sunday

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Gary Neville believes Trent Alexander-Arnold shouldn't play out of position and he hopes the penny will drop that he needs to work on the defensive side of his game. Catch the full episode of The Gary Neville Podcast.

Gary Neville believes it is too late for Trent Alexander-Arnold to be coached into a new position at Liverpool after Jurgen Klopp's experiment in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal.

Alexander-Arnold has had his defensive deficiencies exposed at times this season as Liverpool have struggled to emulate their quadruple-chasing quest of the 2021/22 season.

Gareth Southgate overlooked the Liverpool right-back for his most recent England squad, and after struggling to impress in last weekend's 4-1 defeat at Manchester City, Klopp opted to field the 24-year-old in a defensive midfield position at times when in possession during Sunday's entertaining draw with Arsenal.

The tactical switch yielded mixed results, with Alexander-Arnold struggling to get to grips in the first half with Gabriel Martinelli as Mikel Arteta's title-chasing Gunners established a deserved 2-0 lead at Anfield.

Alexander-Arnold played his part in the fightback - almost literally - as the game shifted momentum, coincidentally or otherwise, after a scuffle between Granit Xhaka and the full-back that riled up an already-raucous home crowd.

Mohamed Salah capitalised with a goal just before half-time, and though he later missed a penalty, Liverpool's pressure told when Roberto Firmino headed in an 87th-minute equaliser from Alexander-Arnold's cross.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's heat map vs Arsenal

Speaking on his podcast for Sky Sports, Neville said Klopp should veer away from using Alexander-Arnold in a specialist central position.

Also See:

"He was absolutely sensational going forward," he said. "I don't know what to say about him anymore because his defensive play is that bad. Some of the positions he takes up against Martinelli to defend a straight pass is schoolboy defending.

I hope somehow over the summer the penny drops and he realises that his defensive work is hurting him.
Gary Neville on Trent Alexander-Arnold

"I don't understand it. But some of his attacking play, his deliveries and his courage to get on the ball despite those mistakes has got to be admired. I admire him enormously.

"Alexander-Arnold would drift into midfield in any case given the freedom being at right-back gives him, but if he was actually down to play in midfield away from home in the Premier League and he was getting the ball popped into him, when he's got his back to play, that's a different ball game.

"Some of the best midfielders in the world, the Xavis, Iniestas, they're the ones who can manipulate the ball and Rodri does it very well. Trent wouldn't be able to do that, honestly.

Granit Xhaka and Trent Alexander-Arnold clash in the first half
Image: Granit Xhaka and Alexander-Arnold clash in the first half

"It's something we've said before about Declan Rice, and his ability to receive the ball on the half turn. You've got to be a top player who has played hundreds of games as a kid, looking over your shoulder.

"I've heard it said a number of times about full-backs being able to play in midfield before... 'he can play wide, he can play as a winger' - no they can't. That's why they're full-backs.

"I think he can play wing-back. Jurgen Klopp tried to play him in a different position today, he tried to pull him into midfield - Zinchenko-like, John Stones-like - but he could definitely play wing-back as there is a right-sided centre-back who can shift into the channel to deal with the straight balls.

Oleksandr Zinchenko duels with Alexander-Arnold
Image: Oleksandr Zinchenko duels with Alexander-Arnold

"He doesn't need to become the best defender in the world. He just cannot be a liability. He doesn't have to be a great defender with the way in which he attacks. I don't think anybody is asking for that.

"You're just asking for a little bit of competence and attention to your work. The conversation will continue about him. I hope somehow over the summer the penny drops and he realises that his defensive work is hurting him.

"It's hurting him because he's been left out of the England squad. How can that talent be left out of an England squad?

"When you're playing for a team that is out of form such as Liverpool, those weaknesses get exposed a little bit more."

Roy Keane on Alexander-Arnold

"What surprises me with Trent, as we see him week in, week out - it's as if he's never played the position before. He's an experienced player who has played hundreds of games and has won some big prizes.

"When people move quickly around him, it's as if he's never seen it before. He must see it every day in training and he faces it whenever he plays a top-level match, but he seems surprised every time someone has good movement.

"He's not learnt at all over the last few years in terms of his defensive play. He's not improved at all defensively."

Midfield move doesn't solve Alexander-Arnold dilemma

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal.

Sky Sports' Peter Smith:

Trent Alexander-Arnold's struggles in one-on-one situations defensively are no secret. They were on display on Sunday within two minutes, when Gabriel Martinelli beat him far too easily to set up an Arsenal chance.

But Jurgen Klopp had come up with an idea - perhaps inspired by the visitors' use of Oleksandr Zinchenko - and Alexander-Arnold spent much of this game stepping in-field to form part of Liverpool's midfield.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Jamie Carragher and Micah Richards discuss Arsenal and Man City's title chances as the race for the title heats up.

Playing as part of the defensive pairing in the box midfield with Fabinho, the plan was to take Alexander-Arnold away from the head-on collisions with Martinelli, even out the numerical balance in the centre of the pitch but still have him in positions to deliver his dangerous crosses from the right channel.

That renowned attacking prowess was evident on the cross for Roberto Firmino's equaliser. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville had described him as a "sensation" going forwards earlier in the game and no player on the pitch created more chances. But his new position also left Liverpool looking out of sorts at the back. In the opening half hour, Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk looked badly exposed.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Jurgen Klopp had mixed feelings after Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal. Klopp was disappointed with how Liverpool started the match but praised their performance to get back in the game and ultimately did not know how they did win.

Interestingly, the two Arsenal goals came when Alexander-Arnold dropped back into a right-back position: He was unable to catch Martinelli for the first and had his body shape criticised by pundits for the ball over the top for the second.

Alexander-Arnold in midfield has been a long-mooted suggestion. If it's something Klopp will persevere with, it is going to take some work on the training ground to build up the understanding for Alexander-Arnold and the defenders behind him. But the counter-suggestion from Jamie Carragher is if Liverpool are performing better as a team, Alexander-Arnold is less vulnerable.

After seeing him in midfield against Arsenal, the jury is still very much out on whether it is a long-term solution.

Win £250,000 with Super 6!
Win £250,000 with Super 6!

Another Saturday, another chance to win £250,000 with Super 6. Play for free, entries by 3pm.

Around Sky