Jurgen Klopp believes Trent Alexander-Arnold has been unfairly criticized for defending poorly as a team this season and said he would ditch the right-back if he couldn’t defend.
The Liverpool manager described Alexander-Arnold as a world-class talent and a player with skills he’d never seen before in a right-back.
But he has objected to judgments of the 23-year-old’s defensive work ignoring the elements he has done well, saying if the Merseysider seems out of position at times it is because he is actually following directions, to be ahead of the curve in Liverpool’s high-pressing game.
“We didn’t defend well as a team in the first half of the season, we know that,” said Klopp. “That’s the truth. The analysis was easy. It was like, ‘Oh my god, what is that?’ Trent is a part of that as a defender, but also with all the other three, or in our case, all the other six [including the midfield] also. We as a unit didn’t defend well. That’s why you sometimes look at situations in which we are there [making tackles] too late.
“That’s why defending is an art, if you will, because everything has to fit together. Offensively, one skill or type makes the difference: Goal. Defensively, it is not possible for a player to defend the entire field. You need everyone involved and we weren’t good at that.
“That is the truth and my responsibility. Trent wasn’t doing well in those moments either. At other moments he defends exceptionally well, but for him – in his situation – nobody mentions it. It’s like having a list of bad and good defenses. Where it’s bad, it’s massively defendable. Where it defends itself well, it’s like you don’t see it.
“I’m not stupid. I would talk to him about it all day and work all day to be the best, but now you get to a point where a player at 23 has to improve in all areas, including offensively. But when you judge a player, you think about their overall package. The ability he has to be influential in possession is insane. For a right back. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a right-back like that – pass here, pass there, change ends, free kicks, corner kicks, smart decisions, quick decisions.
“He’s an outstanding footballer in a situation where three other right-backs in this country are doing really well. We shouldn’t forget that. Gareth Southgate cannot field all four. One or the other will be disappointed. This is the situation. So how influential can Trent be? That’s number one. What is he good at? That’s how you judge a player.
“Then we have the way we play. For example, if you are not a football specialist, the situation is that we press high and Trent is often the highest of them all at the back. In a high press situation, he’s the one going to the right. That’s how we play football. Now you can say ‘you should defend better’ but you can’t have it all because if you want to play high pressing you need players in certain positions. When the next ball goes long on it [right] Page then Joel [Matip]Ibou [Konate] or Joey [Gomez] have to cover for him and that’s fine.
“It’s the risk we’re taking. It’s not a crazy risk and we win the ball nine times out of ten, but the one moment we don’t win it people are like, “Where’s Trent?” That’s a question I don’t understand from people who watch football that much. People say that’s his main job, but I told him he had to be there [higher up the pitch].
“We press extremely boldly when we’re good and defend badly when we’re not pressing boldly because we’re waiting. If we’re brave in these situations, we win balls with it. If we don’t win the ball, that’s the nature of the pressing.
“You bring in more players than you need to press to increase the chances of you winning the ball and that gives him a chance you are slightly exposed. It’s football. The playing field is too big to always be everywhere with five players. So when the ball goes in the back, Trent’s like, ‘What’s up?’ Yes, there are other situations where he wasn’t aware of it [enough] or there was a challenge he should have won. TRUE.
“But every player in the league has these challenges. But with him? Every time it is picked up and analyzed, all experts say that this is a weakness. To be honest, I just don’t get it. I just don’t understand that part. A world-class talent is judged on what he’s not as world-class at as the other things. If he wasn’t a good defender, he wouldn’t play.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/liverpool-trent-alexander-arnold-jurgen-klopp-b2184356.html Trent Alexander-Arnold: Jurgen Klopp defends ‘outstanding’ Liverpool star over fending off criticism