Eight seconds. That’s all the time Trent Alexander-Arnold needed on the night of 7th May 2019 to help complete the comebacks of all comebacks in the semi-final of this season’s UEFA Champions League. That’s it. Eight seconds from the ball being out of play, the corner to be awarded, the ball to be retrieved and for the Liverpool right-back to find Divock Origi alone in the heart of the Barcelona penalty area with enough time to sweep home Liverpool’s fourth and the final goal of the two-legged tie.
To condense an entire season, one that has seen the 20-year-old right-back named in the PFA Team of the Year, into eight seconds would be to overlook a whole host of other highlights. But, what that moment does illustrate, is the margin between success and failure, between creating memories and leaving a legacy; the difference between passion and preparation; winning and losing.
It’s the intuition, the intensity, the pressing, the silk, the steel, the stamina and the sustained stretching of opponents that is helping the 20-year-old to redefine what it takes to be a full-back in the modern game. In terms of testing the physical limits, and a mind’s concentration level, there are few more testing roles than a full-back. It’s also the one position that is constantly evolving, the one position that changes more than most. But, for now, the mould of the modern full-back is firmly set on Trent. He’s the example that the whole world is looking to right now. Although, he wouldn’t admit to that himself.
The Liverpool full-back continues to thrive on the challenge. It’s the total determination that underpins his rise, and his unquenchable desire to learn, improve and achieve more that sets him apart. It’s what transfers those 8 seconds into a life-long memory. Ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final this Saturday between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, we caught up with Trent to talk about desire, power and preparation; the keys to his performance, that corner routine and what he’ll be listening to just moments before he walks out in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid, this weekend.
Many believe that you are spearheading a new generation of dynamic modern full-backs that first of all defend staunchly, have the engine to overlap consistently throughout the game but also the poise and craft to deliver a consistent final ball. How do you train to keep all aspects of your game at their optimum?
I think that is all down to the amount of times we train and how intense it is, I mean we train basically every day and at the highest intensity. No hold up. As a team and individually we have programs that we all follow to work on our weaknesses and enhance our strengths even more each and every day.
How do you bring out your power on the pitch?
I try to bring my power out on the pitch by being aggressive and front footed, I’ve always thought my best games are when my mindset is like this, so I try to be as powerful as possible on the pitch by keeping that intensity.
Beyond your power, you’re also known for your incredible precision – especially in terms of your crossing which has helped you notch 12 assists, the most a defender has ever recorded in a single premier league. Has that always been a natural part of your game? If not, how have you come to improve on it?
I think somewhat of a natural talent has always been there, but I’ve always believed that natural talent will only ever get you so far and to become a world class player then hard work must be put in. So, I have tried to improve my deliveries into the box more this season than before.
You’ve also generated a reputation for switching the play – particularly 50-yard cross field balls to Andy Robertson – is that something that the team works to now or is it just a telepathic play from the pair of you?
I’d say it’s more down to the relationship me and Robbo have on and off the pitch, I think he has a great understanding of the game and understands that when his side of the pitch is really tight then my side must be free, and vice versa.
What would you say are the biggest strengths in your game?
I’d say my biggest strengths in my game are my passing and reading the game, I’ve always tried to be one step ahead of my opponent because I feel as though the best players always are.
Do you have any matchday superstitions that aid your performance or help you prepare mentally or physically for a game?
I like to listen to the same song just as I go out to warm up. I also put my right sock and right boot on first without fail.
What is your current go-to track of getting you in the zone when travelling to the stadium?
Meek Mill – Dreams and Nightmares.
How do you stay focussed on the pitch and cut-out distractions, especially when playing in front of such a vivacious crowd such as Anfield? What impact does the sound and atmosphere have on your performance?
I like to hear the crowd singing and cheering, I think it builds momentum for me personally at Anfield, a big part of our team is the atmosphere that we play for the fans to bring them joy.
The concentration and cutting out of the noise around you in a game has got to be tough, especially in the big games and none get bigger than the Barcelona Champions League semi-final this year. What were you thinking when you saw Divock Origi free in the box? Can you remember the moment looking back now or is it all just a blur?
I just saw an opportunity and took it. The Barcelona players had switched off and Divock was wide open, everything kind of stopped and paused for a moment and it was the option of either taking the risk and playing the ball in, or play it safe and let someone else take the corner.
Was that all just a completely natural, can you ever prepare your focus for that kind of moment?
I think you can try as hard as you can to prepare for that moment but on a big stage like that, there’s nothing that comes close to it.
It’s the night of the champions league final, what do you do to prepare for the game? On a matchday as big as that, do you do anything different?
I think the best thing is to try and prepare as though it’s just a normal game. Nerves are a huge thing on the biggest stage and can cost mistakes, so my mindset is that it is a normal game.
How does listening to Beats Powerbeats Pro aid your performance and preparation?
They allow me to zone out from the world and focus on me and my performance.
What does the new Beats Powerbeats Pro offer you that has been previously missing in your preparation and your game?
I think the ability to block out all background noise and the sound to not be too overwhelming… it’s a perfect balance.
Beats is helping to sew the dynamic between sport and music even closer, as are we at GAFFER. But, do you think football influences music or do you think music influences football more?
I think music influences football a lot. It is everything, everywhere. Before, during and after the game, there’s music on or music in your head, it allows you to focus and escape the surrounding pressures.
The new Beats Powerbeats Pro’s benefit from a ‘fast fuel’ facility that can allow up to an hour and a half charge to be accumulated in the earbuds after just five minutes of charging… but what’s your secret to maintaining performance? Do you have any quick tips yourself for keeping yourself on top of your game?
I believe nutrition and recovery is massive for me personally, it gives me the energy to perform but also the right things to allow me to recover and go again at the highest level.
If selected in the Champions League final, you will become the first ever player aged under 21 to start consecutive finals in Europe’s premier club competition… so, you’re set to be in the history books forever. Is the idea of leaving a legacy both on and off the pitch something that you’re conscious of?
Yes definitely. 100%. I want to be remembered as a good player but an even better person, this is why giving back to the local and wider communities is important to me personally.
You have the Nations League to compete in with England after the Champions League final, then you can go on holiday for a bit. How will you spend it?
I’ll spend my holidays relaxing with friends and family, they are the people that support me most when times are tough so it will hopefully be quite fitting to relax and look back on a really good season with them.
How do you prepare and ensure you keep your performance all year round, specifically in summer too?
It’s important to have rest time to allow your body to recover from a long season, but after a week or two then it’s important to start building up strength and stamina again to be able to do it again the following season.
Photography: HAMISH STEPHENSON
Styling: NAYAAB TANIA
Set Design: LYNDON OGBOURNE
Words & Interview: TOM EVEREST
Grooming: SIMMI VIRDEE
Special pricing on early delivery.