The surprise player just as key as Trent in Liverpool's revival

Sam McGuire
Sam McGuire
  • 27 Apr 2023 15:00 BST
  • 5 min read
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool, 2022/23
© ProShots

Liverpool are making a late push for a top four place. The Reds have taken 10 points from their last four matches and now find themselves in sixth position, just six points off third placed Newcastle United.

This upturn in form coincides with a tactical tweak. Jurgen Klopp has taken a leaf out of the Pep Guardiola playbook and is now using Trent Alexander-Arnold as an inverted full-back.

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When the Merseysiders have possession, the No. 66 tucks inside to form a double pivot alongside Fabinho, giving the Reds a solid base ahead of a new-look back three, with Andrew Robertson sitting in next to the two centre-backs.

READ MORE: Liverpool signing suffering from Gerrard problem, says club legend

Since the tactical tweak, Liverpool have an Expected Goals average of 2.91 and are averaging over five big chances per game.

The new shape has freed up Alexander-Arnold to impact things in the final third with much greater regularity. He has five assists in his last four matches for the Reds. Prior to this run, the right-back had two assists across 27 Premier League appearances.

Diogo Jota has also benefited from the change to the shape. He has four goals in his last three appearances for Klopp's side, as well as an assist. Cody Gakpo has two goals and an assist in his last four outings while Mohamed Salah has added four goals to his season tally. Andrew Robertson has also assisted in consecutive matches.

Curtis Jones is another player to benefit from the new system. His case is a little different though. The 22-year-old has been just as important to this shape as Alexander-Arnold.

Previously, the left-sided midfielder in the three was the controller. Thiago would form a double pivot with Fabinho and set the tempo. He was the metronome for the Reds and the playmaker in the middle third.

This new shape has seen Alexander-Arnold installed as the playmaker when tucking inside from the right. He's seeing much more of the ball and he's varied his passing range.

With the 24-year-old doing that, the role of the left-sided midfielder has changed dramatically.

Jones has almost been the counterweight to his Scouse compatriot. The No.17 also has a dual role, but instead of inverting, he's shuffling into wide areas to facilitate the likes of Robertson and Jota in their new roles.

With Robertson part of the back three in the build-up, Jones will sometimes hold the width on the left and allow Jota to drift inside to get closer to Gakpo. Given he came through the ranks as a wide forward, he's more than adept at filling in out wide. He's a natural there and it was evident in the goal Liverpool scored against Arsenal. With Jota taking up a position centrally, Jones overlapped to exploit the space on the left and had a significant part on the Salah goal.

He's impacting the game both offensively and defensively. For example, he grabbed an assist in the 6-1 win over Leeds and created three chances in the 2-1 victory over West Ham United.

Jones is also instrumental in Liverpool retaining and regaining possession.

His passing accuracy over the last four matches has been at around 92%. He's heavily involved too, averaging just shy of 50 passes per 90. In these games, Klopp's men have averaged 71% of the ball. On three occasions during this period of matches, the Reds have averaged over 73% possession.

You can only maintain this level of dominance when you aren't wasteful in possession. Jones might not be flashy but he's ensuring he keeps the ball moving.

Against West Ham, no player who played over 45 minutes could better his 94% pass success rate. Against Leeds, he completed the most dribbles (4). Jones not only retains possession, he progresses play too.

Defensively, he puts in a shift. In the last four matches he's averaged 11 ground duels per 90. Earlier in the campaign, Klopp bemoaned the fact his midfielders weren't in positions to compete for that ball and how much it was hurting his team in transition. Jones might not win every duel, but he's at least in a position to put pressure on opponents which helps Liverpool defensively.

The England under-21 international might not be catching the eye with goals and assists but his involvement over recent weeks has been key to the Reds climbing up the table. He's a facilitator for others and to be a success you need players who make the system tick. Alexander-Arnold has deservedly been praised for his performances, but Jones has been just as important to this new-look system.

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