“THERE’S only two things for a full back; you’re either a failed winger or a failed centre back.
“No one wants to be a full back as a kid, no one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville.”
It’s hard to argue with the latter part of that statement made by Jamie Carragher, and it transpires that — while Nathaniel “Clynee” is being made to look a tit on American telly — Liverpool’s two available options at right back didn’t actually start their careers as full backs.
Joe Gomez is of course a centre back by trade, and the hope is that he will find himself back there before long. Trent Alexander-Arnold started out as a central midfielder, but moved to full back as he advanced through the ranks at Liverpool. It may just be that he will also return to his original position eventually.
The absence of Clyne has seen both players rise to the fore this season, and both have taken their opportunities with both hands, making a case against Carragher’s statement that landing a full-back spot relies on failing in other positions.
However, it’s not all been plain sailing for either Gomez or Trent this season.
Trent’s free-kick goal against Hoffenheim in the Champions League qualifying stage had supporters excited about what this season could bring for the youngster from West Derby, but came crashing back down to earth when he was run ragged by Benjamin Mendy in the 5-0 loss to Manchester City, though that was a day to forget across the board.
Since then Trent has had moments of both brilliance — his goal at home to Swansea a particular highlight — and realisation that, at 19 years of age, he’s still got lots of developing to do. The problem lies where helping youngsters realise their potential through giving them regular game time — allowing them to learn on the job — can potentially clash with the desire for the club to achieve immediate success and results. Supporters only have so much patience.
As the more naturally attacking option, Trent has had a tendency to get caught out and can be rash in the tackle at times, but that’s to be expected and will serve as part of the learning experience — the sooner he experiences those types of situations the better.
Gomez is obviously the more natural defensive option of the two, though he has shown his capability going forward in games this season — the 4-0 win at home to Arsenal stands out as one of his better games.
However, there have been times where his lapses in concentration have cost Liverpool — away at West Ham where he allowed Manuel Lanzini to capitalise, at Arsenal in the 3-3 draw and against Man City at home.
Whether those errors were as a result of being unfamiliar with the full-back role, a result of his age — he’s still just 20 years old — or a mixture of the two, a few mistakes shouldn’t blur the progress he’s made this season.
The same goes for Trent, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the manager: “He improved a lot especially in training the last few months.
“He trained a little bit like a kid, ups and downs. Meanwhile it’s consistency, consistent high level, good attitude.
“Now Joey’s out and it’s really good we have Trent. He developed a lot, like Joe did. Different player obviously but both can play the position and that helps us a lot.”
As Jürgen Klopp says, these are both still young lads so there are bound to be ups and downs. Repeated mistakes will be highlighted as that’s part of the nature of being a football supporter but a crucial part of making a mistake is bouncing back — and neither Trent nor Gomez have ever shied away from the challenge.
In Trent, it shouldn’t go under the radar how lucky Liverpool are to have a local lad who has rarely looked out of his depth — a player to be genuinely excited about in the future. Born a stone’s throw away from Melwood, he is realising his dream in pulling on the red shirt. Not since Steven Gerrard left for the MLS have The Reds had a scouser who can consistently rise to the task of playing for Liverpool.
In Gomez, Liverpool have a player with a bright future who has recovered from two major injury setbacks to become a regular fixture in Klopp’s plans. His progress on the international stage will have also done his confidence no harm; being appointed captain of the Under-21 side and putting in a man of the match display as part of a back three on his senior England debut against Neymar and Brazil.
We’ve heard so much about Klopp’s ability to develop players from his time at Borussia Dortmund, and we’ve seen what he has done for certain players during his time as Liverpool manager.
In Trent and Gomez, Klopp has all the tools to craft two diamonds. We don’t know how lucky we are.
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“It could not have gone any better…” 💥
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 14 February 2018