Trent Alexander-Arnold remains “one of the best full-backs in world football”, says Dominic Matteo, but the out-of-sorts Liverpool star has been told that he needs to learn how to defend.
A 22-year-old Anfield academy graduate is seeing his value questioned for the first time in his senior career.
The England international has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence since bursting onto the scene as a talented teenager, with Champions League and Premier League crowns captured.
Alexander-Arnold is considered to embody what a modern day right-back is all about, with his stock rising on the back of a steady stream of assists from the flanks.
End product has started to dry up in 2020-21, though, with Jurgen Klopp seeing standards on Merseyside dip across the field.
Alexander-Arnold has become wasteful in possession, while often being caught out of position, and Matteo believes he needs to go back to basics and improve in the areas that matter most.
The former Liverpool defender told Stadium Astro after witnessing a 1-0 defeat to Burnley: “When you have got players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, it’s very difficult to leave those two out.
“These are two of the fittest players in the league. If you put their stats up against anyone, they are so fit. The one thing I genuinely believe is that both of them need to do better – more so Trent.
“It’s not having a dig at Trent all the time here, but just on his defensive duties – Jamie Carragher has pulled it up a few times – it’s that sometimes he is getting forward a little bit too soon. Sometimes you need to take a few steps back and be in a better defensive position.
“A few times when Burnley got in it was because Trent was out of position. If you are out of position, even against the Burnleys, they will punish you.
“That’s one thing we need to get better at, defensively when Trent is in those areas. He doesn’t get a lot of support when he’s forward-thinking.
“You don’t have to bomb on every single game, but that seems to be the way football is being played at the minute. Just slow things down and you will find you have more time on the ball.”
Pressed further on whether Klopp needs to be considering changes to his favoured starting XI, Matteo added: “I don’t think Trent has been poor enough to be left out.
“Neco Williams is a good young player and he’s had some opportunities. He will get more opportunities, but Trent is a good player. It’s just a conversation about his positional play.
“I think Trent is probably one of the best full-backs in world football – the awards he has won and everything he has achieved. But, I still think there is a place for him to improve on his defending.
“If that is where you are going to play, as a right-back, then you have to be able to defend as well.
“It’s a specialist position now because they are so forward-thinking. The other side of it is that you have to be able to defend.
“Can he defend brilliantly? At the moment he’s not doing that great. I’m sure the improvement will come, it’s just about making the right decisions in certain games.”
Alexander-Arnold has taken in 21 appearances for Liverpool across all competitions this season, with two assists contributed in the Premier League and another couple in the Champions League – with the last of those coming on December 19 in a 7-0 win over Crystal Palace.