Trent Alexander-Arnold quietly did something incredible for Liverpool at Man City


Trent Alexander-Arnold played a part in every move leading to a Liverpool shot in the 2-2 draw at Manchester City.

With seven league games left to play, Liverpool are having one of their best ever campaigns from a defensive standpoint. Only once in the Premier League era have they had more clean sheets after 31 matches (in 2005/06) and they’ve only had a better goals-conceded-per-game average in six of their 106 completed top flight seasons.

Yet despite these impressive numbers, it feels like there has to be a lengthy media inquest every time an opposing side scores a goal against the Reds. If it’s not a tiresome debate about the possible issues with their high defensive line – which leads Europe’s big five leagues for opponents caught offside – then it’s often a hatchet job on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defending.

Jurgen Klopp, the man whose opinion is most relevant on this matter, has already dismissed any criticisms of his first choice right-back’s defensive capabilities. “I’ve said it already before but if there are one or two things [claiming] Trent cannot defend, then I am sorry, you have no idea about football,” were his comments following his team’s recent 2-0 victory at Arsenal.

Nonetheless, there were plenty of people pointing an accusatory finger at Alexander-Arnold following Manchester City’s second goal in the 2-2 draw on Sunday. Gabriel Jesus was able to get behind the number 66 as a cross came in from Joao Cancelo, and he fired the league leaders in front for the second time in the match.

People will hold their own view on the level of Alexander-Arnold’s culpability for the goal but he demonstrated the positive side of his game to a standard never seen before. This was most obviously apparent when he assisted Diogo Jota for Liverpool’s first goal, though an interesting statistic illustrates that the 23-year-old was involved in everything the Reds did well going forward.

Understat carry a metric called xGChain, which is a measure of the expected goals generated by every possession chain in which a player is involved. Whether they start the move or take the shot at the end of it, they are given equal credit for playing a part.

Against City, Alexander-Arnold’s xGChain figure was 1.28, which is his 13th highest from his 156 Premier League appearances. It was his fifth best tally for an away game and only twice has he topped it against another member of the Premier League’s big six clubs.

That all sounds impressive enough but what makes it even more remarkable is that (according to Understat’s model), Liverpool generated 1.30 expected goals at the Etihad Stadium. In other words, Trent played a direct part in 98.5 percent of the attacking output his team generated.

Jota’s goal was the Reds’ first shot, then Alexander-Arnold took their only other first half effort from inside his own half. After the interval, the Reds’ right-back played a pair of passes to Mohamed Salah which each enabled the Egyptian to create a clear-cut chance for both of his colleagues in the front three. While Jota’s effort was saved, Sadio Mane tucked his opportunity away to score what proved to be the final goal of the game.

Alexander-Arnold wasn’t involved at the business end of the move leading to Salah’s 71st minute shot which was deflected wide, but did feature along the way, and at that point the Reds had amassed 1.28 expected goals, with Trent picking up xGChain credit for all of it.

There was still one shot left to come. After John Stones had cleared a delivery from a 77th minute corner, Jordan Henderson struck an effort from outside the box which was blocked (and heading off target in any case). As the corner came from the right, you can guess who took it.

Alexander-Arnold’s set piece cross didn’t directly reach a teammate so it didn’t show up in the xGChain data, yet the captain’s subsequent shot couldn’t have happened without it. To all intents and purposes, everything Liverpool created in their hardest league match of the season carried the thumb print of their right-back.

Even those misguided people who consider Alexander-Arnold a liability at the back must concede that this is impressive. For whatever defensive deficiencies he may have, Trent’s production at the other end of the pitch in one of the toughest tests in world football shows why he must always play in the way in which he does.