Trent Alexander-Arnold would surely have been surprised to find himself sat on the Anfield substitute’s bench for the biggest game of the season against Manchester City on Sunday.
The youngster, on a reported £50,000-per-week [Source: Spotrac], found himself dropped for the goalless draw by Jurgen Klopp, with Joe Gomez moved out to right back in his place.
It was a shock decision from the German considering Alexander-Arnold’s fine form this campaign, as well as the brilliance of the centre back partnership between Gomez and Van Dijk that was broken up by the former’s move to right back.
Alexander-Arnold will surely have been worried by his demotion for such a big game, especially considering the terrific performance of Gomez in his stead. The fact that a nominal centre back was preferred in his position for a clash against the champions will have been tough to take.
Perhaps Klopp merely wanted to get fit-again Dejan Lovren back into the starting line up. But if so, why didn’t Gomez drop out with Alexander-Arnold starting in his natural position?
The answer is possibly that the Reds boss felt Gomez’s superior defensive solidity was necessary against Pep Guardiola’s side. But with Lovren superbly resuming his partnership with Van Dijk in the middle of the defence and Gomez shining on the right side of the back four, Alexander-Arnold could find himself out of the team moving forward.
That has to be concerning for the 20-year-old, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past year. A spell out of the team could result in the first bit of adversity the young man has faced in his professional career.
Gomez, it’s true, has been better than Alexander-Arnold this season. The right back is a wonderful player, but Gomez has been simply sensational whenever he’s played this campaign.
That, ultimately, will have been the decider for Klopp on Sunday. He wanted to get Lovren in the team and that meant one of Gomez and Alexander-Arnold had to miss out. So he asked himself who had been playing better. The answer, clearly, was Gomez.
This is by no means a crisis for Alexander-Arnold, but the England international will be feeling a little hot under the collar by recent events at Anfield.