Best Premier League performances: No. 24, Trent Alexander-Arnold for Liverpool against Leicester

To celebrate 30 years of the Premier League, Athleticism pays tribute to the 50 greatest individual performances in its history, as voted on by our writers. You can read Oliver Kay’s introduction to our Golden Games series (and selection rules) here – as good as the full list of all items as they unfold.

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It’s a reflection of modern football that a full-back’s performance is talked about from a purely attacking perspective – but Trent Alexander-Arnold gave a masterclass on the role on Boxing Day 2019 against Leicester City.

December was the busiest month of Liverpool’s winning season. They have played nine games in four competitions. Despite the schedule, Alexander-Arnold showed no signs of fatigue at the King Power Stadium.

Two assists for Roberto Firmino and a stunning goal capped Liverpool’s 4-0 rout of a Leicester side who, at kick-off, were second in the Premier League table.

The win came fresh from their Club World Cup triumph over Brazilian champions Flamengo in Qatar five days earlier, and was one of Liverpool’s most comprehensive performances of the season – their expected 2.5 goals ( xG) were the highest tally away from home this season.

Alexander-Arnold set the tone from the start – it was his golden game.

Three goals (two assists and one goal) was Alexander-Arnold’s highest tally in a single game of the 2019-20 season, and only the second time he has done so. He had three assists in a 5-0 home game against Watford in 2018-19.

No player on the pitch had more touches in the game against Leicester than his 106, but there are some interesting wrinkles in the team’s performance, where Liverpool – and more specifically Alexander-Arnold – exhibited the local team.

A greater 40 per cent of Liverpool’s attacking touches came in their left third of the field, where they often built combinations between Andrew Robertson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, before frequently passing the ball to Alexander-Arnold in the ‘space.

For example, as Henderson receives the ball and looks up to assess his options, Mohamed Salah crosses Ben Chilwell to keep him pinned along his back four, making room for Alexander-Arnold.

As Henderson plays the ball across, Alexander-Arnold receives it high as Chilwell is forced to close it, leaving room for midfield runners such as Naby Keita to expose.

It was a theme throughout, where Alexander-Arnold largely kept his width near the touchline – as seen below – to stretch Leicester’s back line and remove their third midfielder from their position.

Alexander-Arnold’s decision-making has always been driven by the desire to be at the forefront. With Henderson playing him a simple ball with his back to goal and under pressure from James Maddison, the obvious choice would be to switch back to Joe Gomez or Alisson in goal – an option which has been encouraged by Virgil van Dijk, who points to his goalkeeper beginning.

However, a quick touch from his feet gives him a yard of space to kick the ball back to Henderson around the corner and run to the back of Maddison to receive it in space.

A quick one-two is immediately followed by a first touch to Keita…

…who bounces a wall pass to Alexander-Arnold, knocking Maddison, Chilwell and Youri Tielemans out of the game.

It’s a subtle move, but within five seconds the pace of the game was picked up by Alexander-Arnold – much in the same way his childhood idol Steven Gerrard did to push the team forward.

The finest weapon in Alexander-Arnold’s arsenal is his infallible crossing, and he activated the style at King Power Stadium.

His first assist came after Liverpool’s corner, where they collected the second ball cleared by Leicester. As Alexander-Arnold receives the ball from Robertson, he is already scanning to see who he might find – spotting an overload at the far post as Firmino and Salah are huddled together in space.

As he immediately pulls it off his feet, the pair rush towards the back post. The ball is perfectly whipped…

…leaving Firmino with the task of steering him past Kasper Schmeichel from six yards out.

He was an archetypal whipped Alexander-Arnold cross – albeit on the opposite side of the pitch to par – but his ability to vary his crossing style is what makes him such a threat.

Of course, he could whip the ball from deep (as seen by the dotted line), but he also has the awareness to lift his head and play a flat, drilled pass for his teammates to run past the retreating Leicester defense – as he has done below.

This style of crossing was how Liverpool’s third goal came after great work from Firmino, who played the ball between the lines to James Milner. With Alexander-Arnold in space, you can see him claiming the ball in front of him.

As the Leicester defense retreats into the six-yard box, Alexander-Arnold sends the ball to Firmino who rushes rather than a typical whipping cross from the ground (dotted line).

The pass is perfectly controlled by Firmino, who guides the ball into the skylight.

If anyone needs other notable examples of this Alexander-Arnold crossing technique, see also Wijnaldum’s first goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19. These actions are no accident.

A memorable performance for Alexander-Arnold was capped off with a goal.

With Leicester unable to cope with Liverpool’s attack for the entire game, Alexander-Arnold looked for another opportunity to expose the lack of structure in the final 15 minutes as the ball went loose in midfield.

Even before Sadio Mane had control of the ball, Alexander-Arnold reached top speed to run into the vast space available.

As Mane advances, Alexander-Arnold’s aim is to get ahead of his teammate to provide a passing option, as he continues to sprint without looking at the ball.

The pass Mane makes is perfectly weighted past Alexander-Arnold to run over, as he adjusts his feet…

…to hit the ball the first time into the bottom corner.

He was a young man playing at the top of his game – and he knew it. Kylian Mbappe’s iconic celebration says it all.

Statistically, Alexander-Arnold’s output in the 2019-20 season was the best of his career – 13 assists, four goals and one appearance in all 38 games of their title-winning campaign.

It was at the King Power Stadium that he showed just how good a right-back can be.

(Photos: Getty Images/Design: Sam Richardson)

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