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Trent Alexander-Arnold is enduring a tough time at Liverpool, admits Steve Nicol, with the 22-year-old told he “has to improve a tonne” defensively in order to fulfil his true potential.
Despite his tender years, Alexander-Arnold has already taken in over 150 appearances for Liverpool and earned 12 senior international caps with England.
There has never been any doubting his attacking instincts, with an impressive haul of 39 assists contributed to the collective cause, but questions have been asked of Alexander-Arnold going the other way.
It has been suggested that he will step up into a midfield role at some stage in the future, but for now he forms part of a back four and has to make keeping opponents out a top priority.
He has been struggling to produce his best of late, and was replaced in a 1-0 defeat at Southampton on Monday. Former Reds defender Nicol says there are obvious areas for the youngster to work on.
Nicol told ESPN FC: “I think he definitely has to improve defensively, no question.
“I think going forward, recent games, it's been difficult for him. He normally has space to put the ball in but because of the way the opposition has played he's put the ball into a box that's full of, what, two teams basically, you're talking 14 players.
“That makes it tough for him going forward. No question defensively, he has to improve a tonne.”
Nicol is not the first former Liverpool star to thrust Alexander-Arnold under the microscope, with ex-Reds goalkeeper David James claiming that Klopp may have to drop an established part of his plans from a settled starting XI.
The man calling the shots at Anfield has, however, hit back at the doubters and made it clear that he retains full faith in a player who has had little rest in a meteoric rise to prominence.
Klopp has said of the questions being asked of his right-back: “That’s normal if you play football in public and have people used to the level Trent showed over the last three or four years, since he started playing with us pretty much, then that’s normal.
“There are explanations for this season if you want. But he had good games as well absolutely and helped us a lot at different moments.
“The reason is, he was out for a while with early Covid and had an injury that didn’t help.
“He had no pre-season really. After with the quality he has and the situation we were in he played pretty early.