Trent Alexander-Arnold loses the ball quite a bit


Trent Alexander Arnold received the ball in his usual right-back position.

He looked up and smashed the ball straight out of play. In St. Mary’s the clock was nine seconds.

Much has been written about TAA’s performance against Southampton on Monday. He has only 61% passport completion on 72 passports. He “lost” the ball 15 times, most of any game he played this season (in this case he lost the ball due to a direct pass attempt to a teammate who failed to achieve his goal , and not a more general long ball or cross).

And it has raised the problem of loss of property and its importance. Losing one’s possession is not a bad thing. Some of the most creative players in the game lose the ball badly because they try to create opportunities and try things that other teammates don’t.

The graph above shows lost balls compared to expected templates for the 2019/20 season. You can see Kevin De Bruyne riding at the very top here, getting a huge expected assists score but regularly giving the ball away. De Bruyne whips the ball from difficult positions and regularly tries to thread the needle with his passes.

And you can see Trent here losing the ball as badly as De Bruyne but still recording a very healthy 0.44xA P90.

If we look at 20/21, there are a few more interesting names on the list:

Jack Grealish, James Rodriguez and Bruno Fernandes. Players we love to watch and who get to do what they do to make things happen. And despite the strain of Trent’s performance this season, he’s still positioned above average in the Premier League. Not as good as last season, but not bad either.

But there is no doubt that Trent’s performances this season have declined compared to his own high standards and it seemed like the game in Southampton was the crystallization of that. Everything he did was wrong, and of the 15 balls he lost, five were in his own half, giving the opponent a high turnover.

Jürgen Klopp was clearly losing patience with him at the moment and took him off after 77 minutes. He wasn’t happy, and neither was Klopp. And the way those numbers have come down is not a good read. Supports P90 from 0.43 to 0.13 and creating opportunities that are falling off a cliff compared to last year.

Those who have watched Liverpool can relate not only to the injuries that have disrupted pretty much all of their playing patterns, but also to the fact that the standard of hitting TAA for a cross does not happen to the same extent. In fact, his 10.7 flanks P90 from last season is now 7.3, quite a drop. They change things a little bit more and so Trent’s direct contributions should be less.

But the Southampton game will undoubtedly be a problem. His confused expression and Klopp’s resigned face show that there is still some work to be done to get the defender – undoubtedly one of the best attacking full-backs in the world – back to where he needs to be.

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