© Greg Coleman/Red Bull Content Pool
Level Up: the stratospheric rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold is a unique footballer who has taken the game to new levels with his talent and innovative approach.
He’s not only one of the world’s best defenders, but he’s also one of the most clinical attackers – and is single-handedly redefining what it means to be a modern-day fullback.
At just 23 years old, the Liverpool and England defender has already achieved more than most, and he just keeps on pushing. On Saturday, November 20, he provided his 50th and 51st assists for Liverpool in a man-of-the-match performance during their 4-0 victory over Arsenal under the Anfield lights. This is career mode, accelerated. Here, Trent walks us through the various stages of his journey to date – and the even higher levels he is aiming to reach in the future.
LEVEL 1 – Academy life
The journey began for Alexander-Arnold in 2004, aged just six, when his already fierce competitiveness and talent caught the eye of local Liverpool scout Ian Barrigan. After being accepted into the Academy at his boyhood club, his rapid rise to a pro footballer was well underway.
“That was when I was really young, it’s when it all started and where it all began. Playing as a kid are the best memories for me, scoring goals and making memories that still live with me now.”
LEVEL 2 – Dream debut
Despite impressing in every age group at the LFC academy for 12 years, the hardest transition was still to come. How do you step up from star of the youth team to first-team player? One October day in 2016, Alexander-Arnold’s life changed when he lined up against Tottenham in the EFL Cup.
“The five years have flown by! That’s still the best and proudest memory for me by far. There is nothing I will be able to do that can overtake that. I was training for a few months with the first team, looking up to the likes of Jordan Henderson and Coutinho at the time, before I actually played. It was a big game, and I wasn’t expecting to play. Winning made it even more special.”
LEVEL 3 – Sink or swim
That Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had the confidence to hand Alexander-Arnold his full Premier League debut against their fiercest rivals Manchester United in January 2017 tells you everything you need to know. Trent’s road to stardom and transformation of his position had begun.
“I wasn’t meant to play, I only got told about two hours before the game. I have a good memory of the game, I was playing up against Anthony Martial who was really being hyped at the time and being dubbed the next Thierry Henry. The game went well.”
LEVEL 4 – “Corner taken quickly – Origi!”
It’s one of the most famous goals in Liverpool history. Alexander-Arnold showed unbelievable presence of mind and new levels of invention to set up Divock Origi from a corner and seal the unbelievable 4-0 comeback victory over Barcelona in the 2018 Champions League semi-final at Anfield. How did it come about?
“It was just instinct. I saw him [Origi], and everything fell into place. There were so many different aspects to it. The ball boy put the ball down quickly, so I just hit it. The weird thing was that I didn’t scream that it was coming, as if I did, I thought it would give it away.
“I thought if he doesn’t turn around and no one gets it, then it isn’t really my fault no one was looking. I tried something, and for some reason, he has turned. It wasn’t an easy ball for him to hit, by the way. It wasn’t like I put it on a plate for him, but what an unbelievable finish. What a magical night.”
I had dreamed of playing for England and getting a call up for the World Cup
LEVEL 5 – Three Lions
The accolades kept coming, and his performances caught the attention of England manager Gareth Southgate ahead of the upcoming World Cup in Russia. Still only 19, it was soon to be Trent Alexander-Arnold, England international.
“This was another really proud moment for my family and me, I was 19 at the time, so it was a big achievement. I had dreamed of playing for England and getting a call up for the World Cup, and playing against Costa Rica was a dream come true.
“Gareth told Jürgen Klopp, he wanted to give him the honour to tell me. So Jurgen told me the week before the Champions League final and asked what plans I had for the summer. I responded, saying I had nothing booked, and Jurgen said that England needed me for the World Cup!”
LEVEL 6 – The first trophy
After the disappointment of the previous season’s final against Real Madrid, Liverpool returned to the biggest club stage in 2019 to beat Tottenham and secure their first major trophy under Klopp – and a first for Alexander-Arnold. It would not be the last.
“We felt different going into this one, much more confident. We were a better team in a better place. Individually I enjoy the pressure of these situations. It’s when you find the real you. You find answers to questions you’ve been asking yourself for a while. Are you good enough? Can you do it? Will you do it? Are you made for this or not? Some people fold in those situations, and some people thrive. I believe I thrive in those moments.”
LEVEL 7 – The one he always wanted
The following year Liverpool ran away with the Premier League, winning the title for the first time in 30 years. It became apparent that Alexander-Arnold wasn’t just dominating at right-back. He was transforming the position. Throughout the season, he provided 13 assists for goals, a new record for a defender.
“Winning the league was a special season, and we broke a lot of records along the way. It was the title I always wanted the most growing up. It is the pinnacle of club football for me. I’ve always found the Premier League much more difficult to win than the Champions League. There is more competition, and the hardest thing in football is consistency. To need 90 plus points to win the league is ridiculous. Draws are losses these days unless it’s three points it isn’t good enough, and when you have three or four teams who are winning every week, it is much harder.”
LEVEL 8 – Freedom and flexibility
The current season has seen Alexander-Arnold take his game to yet new levels. His coaches have given the number 66 licence to adopt a more central position on the pitch and get involved in more aspects of the attacking play. The result has been dazzling.
“I would say I’ve been given a lot more freedom this season. In football, you can never be predictable. If you are unpredictable, you have an advantage going into games. I have tried to be unpredictable this season and catch the opposition by surprise and do things that are not really orthodox, and playing the game the way I feel it should be played.
“I also carried the anger from the injury and missing the summer into this season. Not that I have anything to prove, but I have aims and goals for myself, and if I don’t achieve them, I am disappointed. Last season I didn’t achieve a single one of them, so I have to make up for two seasons this year.”
LEVEL 9 – No limits
In his own words, there is no ceiling to the career of Trent Alexander-Arnold. World Cup? Club captain? Multiple domestic and European champions? Yep, he wants them all.
“Winning the World Cup is obviously a big aim. For me, that is the level I should be aiming for. The sky’s the limit, really, and there is no point putting a ceiling on yourself. Why not try to win everything over and over again every year? You don’t get many opportunities to win a World Cup or trophies, so it is important to make the most of every chance you get.
“Becoming club captain is also most definitely a goal and is on the track I have paved for myself and the way I envision my career going. I believe it is achievable and is something I want to do.”