There was a time when full-back was the least desired role in any football team.
While the role of a striker or No.10 has always been regarded as glamorous, the role of a full-back was traditionally filled by players with the first-touch of a trampoline and a uniquely trundling running style.
Those days are long gone. The last decade has seen the full-back position transformed into a fulcrum of creativity, with the ability to unleash devilish crosses as prized as defensive aptitude.
Perhaps the clearest indication of this trend is the success of Trent Alexander-Arnold for Liverpool. In previous eras, he would have utilised as a flying winger attacking the opposition defence with the wild abandon of an escaped Tasmanian devil.
Alternatively, Alexander-Arnold would have been the team’s creative heartbeat in midfield – exceptional at club level and inevitably misused by England – a position he was often deployed in for Liverpool’s youth teams, and has occasionally been suggested could replicate under Jurgen Klopp.
In reality, the young Englishman has been operating as Liverpool’s prime playmaker from right-back for the last few seasons. This is a task Alexander-Arnold has taken to like a duck to water.
Just look at this piece of improvisation against Sheffield United. Standing over a free-kick, Alexander-Arnold spotted the Blades keeper Aaron Ramsdale off his line and decided to go for goal. From his own half.
The ball floated towards goal with all the menace of an annoyed wasp. On this occasion, Ramsdale belatedly read the danger and scrambled the ball over the bar. But the fact that Alexander-Arnold even contemplated the action demonstrated the creativity he is blessed with.
Xabi Alonso, eat yer heart out.
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