The Premier League is regarded as the best league in the world by many in the footballing world, and there are many reasons for that. However, one area that the league needs to improve is the development of young players. The amount of money that is on offer to clubs in the English top flight means that there are fewer chances given to those that come through academies, as teams often opt to buy the finished article. For those at the top of the division, the academy graduates are rarely good enough to break into the first-team. Meanwhile, it is regarded as too much of a risk for teams at the bottom to use younger players.
That makes it all the more remarkable when a young player does break into the first-team of a Premier League club. In recent years, Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford are all good examples. This season, Trent Alexander-Arnold has been the standout young player as the teenager has broken into the Liverpool first-team and become one of the first names on the team-sheet under Jurgen Klopp. An injury to Nathaniel Clyne created the opportunity, but it has been the tenacity and skill of the player that has seen his career progress at a rapid rate.
Alexander-Arnold has played in 22 matches in the Premier League and Champions League, with 20 of those coming as part of the starting eleven. Jurgen Klopp has been careful to manage expectations with the teenager and has protected him at times. His recent performances indicate that he is developing quickly at Anfield and some pundits touted him for an England World Cup final after the recent victory against Manchester City.
It was the Champions League quarter-final tie against Manchester City that saw Alexander-Arnold stand out as one of the best young players in Europe, as he thrived in both matches and played his part in a famous European win for the Reds. Across the two matches, he was excellent in defence and managed to keep Leroy Sane relatively quiet. During the tie, he completed a staggering seven tackles and made 13 interceptions to keep the Premier League leaders to only one goal. This was also helped by 12 clearances during the two matches.
There were countless examples of Alexander-Arnold nicking the ball off Sane in dangerous positions and his composure during the tie was impressive. It would have been easy for a teenager to get caught up in the occasion and make sloppy errors, but the 19-year-old was razor sharp in his decision-making and delivered performances that were mature beyond his age. This was best shown in the second leg after his booking. The right-back made sure he was careful to avoid another yellow card, and it would have been easy to lose focus, but the academy graduate kept his cool.
Throughout this season, Alexander-Arnold has impressed as an attacking force and regularly offers good support on the right-hand side of the pitch, but there have been doubts about him as a defender. These have been cast aside, and the 19-year-old will now be seen as a complete talent. It is encouraging to see that he is capable of raising his game in the big matches and his performances against Manchester City should see him emerge as the first-choice right-back in the squad.
In addition to consolidating his position in the Liverpool squad, Alexander-Arnold has put himself in the England reckoning. Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker are the outstanding candidates to go to Russia in the summer, but the young Liverpool full-back has given Gareth Southgate something to think about. In the long-term, he could make the position his own for both club and country.