Jürgen Klopp says Trent Alexander-Arnold has emerged as ‘a real leader’ as his switch to central midfield inspired a late Liverpool victory.
Alexander-Arnold struck the 88th-minute winner against Fulham in what proved a Steven Gerrard-esque moment, both in its potential importance and the euphoric explosion of delirium that it triggered.. Klopp had switched his vice-captain to an orthodox central midfielder role from the 64th minute, underlining how the 25-year-old is heading into a new phase of his career for club and country.
“Nobody is in doubt about how highly I think about Trent,” said Klopp. “He has played since I’ve been here and the development is crazy. His shooting skills we knew before.
“Today he was a real leader on the pitch. That’s probably the biggest improvement if you want. It was super intense, but he got another push when we put him a bit more inside in that moment. He is very often in half-spaces in the centre. It was just really good and he was a real leader on the pitch, that was most important.”
Alexander-Arnold has been playing in a hybrid full-back and midfield role for his club since the end of last season, but is now seen as an out-and-out midfielder for England.
Klopp said there was a specific purpose for the tactical switch on Sunday, Alexander-Arnold playing the ‘No 6’ position.
“There was a reason for that, Trent in the middle,” he said. “We saw this game is for the six when the eights are not that compact. I didn’t like how we defended with the front line. Coming back, and our defensive press was not outstanding in the first half. That makes it really intense for midfielders, but especially for the six.
“It’s tricky for the opponent as well. They get used to different things. I think Fulham pretty much played man-marking against Trent in moments when he was just in the middle.
“That’s why it was really helpful that we brought in Joe [Gomez] to the wing. I’m not sure how many crosses Joey fired in in the end but there were a few really good balls. All of a sudden they had to adapt again and that didn’t work out for them and that’s why we could win the game. In these moments, it becomes a bit of chess. You just try to change something to improve yourself and to make it a bit more tricky for the opponent as well. That’s how it went today, it worked out.”