Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold is embracing his ‘hybrid’ role by watching video clips of some of the world’s greatest midfielders in order to gain greater understanding.
Towards the end of last season the 25-year-old was asked to vary his right-back role by stepping into central areas to be able to dictate on the ball more and offer a different attacking dimension.
It is something which was first pioneered with John Stones by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and, while Alexander-Arnold has studied how his England team-mate has performed, he has not limited his learning to ‘hybrid’ players.
“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 which set up a top versus second clash against Manchester City when the Premier League resumes after the international break.
“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.
“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 makes sense for Alexander-Arnold to educate himself on the ways of such midfield maestros as there has been more than a hint he could be transformed into a genuine option.
He was first tried centrally by Gareth Southgate in a game against Andorra just over two years ago and when the England squad is now published, Alexander-Arnold is listed as a midfielder.
At the time Jurgen Klopp questioned why he would play the world’s best right-back in midfield but he has mellowed his stance since then and even brought Alexander-Arnold on as the defensive midfielder in the Carabao Cup win at 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.
“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.”