Jamie Carragher believes the added pressure on Liverpool’s defence this season has exposed Trent Alexander-Arnold’s flaws, and that he needs true competition at Anfield.
Liverpool have now conceded more goals in all competitions in 2022/23 than they did in the whole of last season, despite reaching the finals of the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League and playing 23 more games.
They exited the latter with another defeat on Wednesday night, losing 1-0 at Real Madrid to slip to a 6-2 aggregate win for the reigning European champions. It was a night where Alexander-Arnold was run ragged by Vinicius Junior, who would go on to play a major part in Karim Benzema’s winning goal.
Former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher told CBS that Liverpool’s drop-off in their pressing game – a factor which has been much-maligned in their poor season to date – had left the likes of Alexander-Arnold exposed, and laid bare the shortfalls in his defensive game.
He said: “Where he is at the moment, and I’ve always defended him, in that he’s played for one of the best teams in the world, and when you do that you do a lot more attacking than defending.
“We all know his defending isn’t good enough. I don’t think it will ever be good enough. We’re talking about a player who’s played 260 games. It’s not going to massively improve now.
“When Liverpool drop off and aren’t one of the best teams in Europe, like they have been for the last four years, now they’re one of the pack going for the Champions League. Then you’re doing more defending, and less attacking. You’re seeing the worst traits of Trent, and not his strengths going forward.
“I thought this problem would rear its head when Klopp left, and maybe Liverpool dropped back to when I was a player, where most seasons we’d be trying to qualify for the top four.
“If Liverpool are trying to qualify for the Champions League on a yearly basis, I’m not sure Trent’s your man. If Liverpool get back to being one of the best teams in Europe, he is your man. But, right now, the lad needs help.
“I do question or think about what are the messages he’s getting on a daily basis, about his defending? Do they want more from him? The lack of intensity when he goes to press and close down is not there. It’s a million miles away, and it’s been shown up this season.
“I think it’ll continue to be shown up until he’s given help maybe off the pitch by the staff working on his defending a lot more, or they bring a right-back in.”
Carragher believes that help should come in the form of defensive reinforcements. Alexander-Arnold has played in 250 of Liverpool’s 322 competitive matches since the start of 2017/18, his first full season in the first-team squad, with midfielder James Milner his only regular makeshift back-up at right-back.
That has, Carragher said, left Liverpool without a Plan B in the midst of a tough season for the Reds, whose only focus now turns to qualifying for next season’s Champions League with two months of the campaign left to go.
“The problem they’ve got is that they’ve never had real competition in that position for Trent,” he said. “One of the reasons why is because he’s been so good. Then you think, who do you buy? How much do you spend? For someone who’s not going to play every week.
“The point Liverpool are at now, they’ve got to go and buy a right-back. That’s Jurgen Klopp’s call in terms of how good that right-back is, how much he costs. That lad needs serious competition. He’s been playing now for five years at the top level, week-in, week-out, with no rest.
“That’s going through every Liverpool supporters’ mind, and Klopp’s as well. Who do you buy in the summer? It was always felt it was midfield players, but it’s defenders as well. Is this an off-season, or a decline from individual players who may need replacing.”