Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold is actively embracing his ‘hybrid’ role by studying video clips of some of the world’s top midfielders.
Towards the end of the previous season, the 25-year-old right-back was tasked with diversifying his role by moving into central areas to contribute more to ball control and provide a different attacking dimension.
This approach, initially introduced with John Stones by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, has led Alexander-Arnold to study not only ‘hybrid’ players but also the performances of some of the best midfielders globally.
“I enjoy learning about the game, watching things, watching players, different systems, different teams, how different players play it and there are some players who play it really well,” he said after the 3-0 victory over Brentford.
“I think as someone who plays the inverted, hybrid role – I don’t know what people call it these days – then it is obviously John Stones.
“He is someone who, for a long time, I have admired his game; he is exceptional, so I watch him a lot. Clips or even when I am just watching City’s games, I will sit and focus on him.
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“I have always admired him, I do admire the way Rodri plays.
“He is pivotal in that team and someone who is massively underrated but like we have seen recently, when you take him out of the team, they are not the same. That just shows how important he is.
“I would say it is those kinds of players I watch, but there are a lot. I will watch players from the past as well – (Sergio) Busquets, (Xabi) Alonso, (Andrea) Pirlo, Stevie G (Gerrard): those players I have always enjoyed watching.”
It is logical for Alexander-Arnold to familiarize himself with the playing styles of midfield maestros, considering the possibility of his transformation into a genuine midfield option. His experimentation in the central role by Gareth Southgate over two years ago has gained momentum, evident in his listing as a midfielder in the current England squad.
Although Jurgen Klopp initially questioned the idea of deploying the world’s best right-back in midfield, he has since softened his stance, demonstrated by Alexander-Arnold’s role as the defensive midfielder in Liverpool’s Carabao Cup win against Bournemouth last month.
“The conversations I have had with the (England) manager and the staff there, I go there as a midfielder, I train there and that is where I try and play on the pitch barring the Australia game last time,” he added.
“It really does help me in that sense. I am not playing midfield week in, week out here but I am getting on the ball in central areas and knowing how to receive and conduct yourself and play a game in midfield is a lot different to at the side of the pitch.
Arnold details his plans to study other midfielders
“And I think the way I see it and the way I am told and explained to play it (at Liverpool), it is almost when we have the ball I am midfielder and when we don’t have the ball I am a right-back.
“I think when the ball advances up the pitch it becomes more about protection and stopping counter attacks. It is more disciplined.
“When I come in as a right-back there is still (Wataru) Endo or Macca (Alexis Mac Allister) there, Fabinho last season, and their job is to stay as the number six.
“My job is the one who comes in and still has the freedom to underlap Mo (Salah) or overlap him, get into the box, shoot or cross whereas as a number six it is more rigid, your role along with the two centre-backs to ensure that when the ball pops out of the box it doesn’t go into the striker’s feet and they can build from there.”