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red mist Trent Alexander-Arnold has lost his way but he will silence those questioning his qualities

Liverpool’s young defender is coming in for a lot of unfair criticism

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Real Madrid's Jose Vinicius Junior (right) is fouled by Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold

Real Madrid's Jose Vinicius Junior (right) is fouled by Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold

Real Madrid's Jose Vinicius Junior (right) is fouled by Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold

The debate over Trent Alexander-Arnold has been raging for most of this season and now it is reaching boiling point.

To start with, we need to remember this kid is only 22, who had embarked on a football journey that flawless and up to this season.

As I know only too well from personal experience, Liverpool fans love a local lad to come into the team and thrive and Trent’s emergence as a first-team star in the making back in 2018 was a prelude for what was to follow.

He played in the Champions League final at the end of his first season in Jurgen Klopp’s side, won that competition a year later and was then a key player in the team that brought the Premier League title to Anfield last year.

During that period, he was being hailed as one of the best right-backs in world football and couldn’t put a foot wrong.

But only a chosen few will cruise through a football career without a few dips along the way.

Right now, Alexander-Arnold is in the midst of a big dip and a combination of factors have contributed to his struggles over the last few months.

You look across the Liverpool team that lost 3-1 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid on Tuesday night and there were a lot of things going wrong.

We can put it down to a slump in confidence, sliding self-belief, jaded players who have been part of so many games in the last three seasons. Amid it all, we are getting poor performances on a regular basis.

The first half against Real Madrid was as bad as it gets and when you consider it was a Champions League quarter-final, that must be a source of huge disappointment for Klopp.

We cannot get away from the reality that the football we are watching right now is very different from what was the norm before stadiums closed to fans, with Real Madrid v Liverpool in front of a packed crowd at the Bernabeu an entirely different experience to what we witnessed on Tuesday.

This game felt like a low-key contest at an empty training ground and the Liverpool players performed as if they were taking part in that kind of low-key event.

To their credit, Real Madrid handled the strange atmosphere better and took advantage of a lacklustre Liverpool team, with Klopp’s new defensive line coming up short as they were given a first major test.

The central defensive pairing of Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak were shaky as they tried to fend off Real Madrid’s attacking talent, with Andy Robertson also looking a shadow of his former self in the left-back slot.

Then we come to Alexander-Arnold and a performance that will have worried Klopp.

Going forward, there is no better full-back in the game and the cross Trent put in for Diogo Jota’s goal at Arsenal last Saturday highlighted the quality he can bring to the team when he gets forward.

The issue for a player of his age has always been gaining experience in defensive positions and learning from mistakes, which is something he needs to do quickly.

What we don’t know is how the young man is dealing with everything flying in his direction right now.

Gareth Southgate’s decision to drop him from his England squad last week only added to the negativity surrounding him.

I thought Southgate’s treatment of Trent was very harsh, as this is a player who could be the best full-back on the planet for the next ten years and he was being tossed to one side the moment he hits some bad form.

If Southgate had spoken to Trent and they had decided he could do with a rest for the international break, then it would have been a different story.

Instead, the England manager came out and said he had been dropped and it gave the media a chance to pile in on Alexander-Arnold.

I’m convinced this lad will get back to his best. Like so many players in Klopp’s team, he has fallen off a cliff in terms of confidence and form over the last year.

We might need to wait until the first month of next season to get a full assessment of the damage that has been done to this Liverpool team and I remain hopeful that the presence of captain Jordan Henderson and a fit-again Virgil van Dijk will make a massive difference.

Yet for now, it is a case of Liverpool trying to scramble a top-four finish in the Premier League and hoping against hope that they can find a way to grind to a 2-0 win that will be enough to turn around the quarter-final against Real Madrid.

When you look at the performance against Real Madrid on Tuesday night, both of those ambitions look pretty forlorn right now.

But Liverpool have to believe that what appears to be impossible can still happen.

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