Under Jurgen  Klopp, Trent Alexander-Arnold helped usher in a new era of success for Liverpool. Outside of the trophies they brought back to Anfield, they made one more unique contribution to the sport.
Together, they reinvented the fullback position.

Growing up, players who weren’t fast enough to be wingers but not big enough to be center-backs played the fullback position. It is fascinating to see how essentially wingers now play the position.

Consider the difference between the players like Alexander-Arnold and Marcelo. They’re not playing in two totally different eras of the sport. Those two players faced off in the Champions League finals in what now seems like a passing of the torch.

Photo: Getty Images

A modern fullback combines the responsibilities of a midfielder with the skills of a winger. To compare it to baseball, they have to be the ultimate utility player. Unlike other positions, it’s difficult to list the best fullbacks because this position has become so hard to define.

Gone are the days when fullbacks existed to launch balls into the box. Klopp and Alexander-Arnold ushered in the new exciting era of the fullback.


While Klopp’s Liverpool deserves the credit for popularizing this version of the fullback, the movement has been slowly growing. All positions in this sport are fluid, but none have experienced transformation like fullbacks.

In previous eras, really before the late 2000s, the position had its legend but rarely excited. Yes, the likes of Cafú and Roberto Carlos lit up pitches, but they were outliers. Most were profiled as defensive players who could chip in a cross.

Two other Brazilians came to define the position as both Barcelona and Real Madrid jostled for control of Europe across the 2010s. Dani Alves and Marcelo played the position with the flair to delight fans while contributing to top teams. However, this wasn’t a total deviation from the position, rather it was just a spin on it.

Photo: Getty Images

Conte’s reintroduction of the 3-5-2/ 3-4-3 did change the role a bit. These formations set the foundation for the transformation to come.

Essentially Conte allowed his wingbacks to almost play as secondary wingers. The true wingers pushed up further, allowing fullbacks to operate more in the midfield. This is where the position really changed.

When Klopp took the job, Liverpool as a whole transformed. On the pitch, the play forced opponents into mistakes as attackers tore apart sides. Off the pitch, Klopp changed the culture, with Alexander-Arnold being one of the best examples.

Similar to a dormant volcano, the fullback position sat waiting for something. In what feels like an instant, the top flew off, and the position changed.


Perhaps the best way to understand the shift is how Alexander-Arnold came to prominence. This passing of the torch would influence football for years to come.

Nathaniel Clyne’s injury issues paved the way for Alexander-Arnold and the revolution. In almost every sense, Clyne represented the older school of fullback. After the rise of the youngster, Clyne found himself almost out of the Prem.

Dating back to his days at Dortmund, Klopp found new ways to redefine the sport. While the gegenpress isn’t solely his invention, it showed his willingness to implement fresh ideas.

The fullback position and Alexander-Arnold would be his next project. Using the youngster’s good passing ability and Salah’s game-changing presence, the transformation happened. With the right side vacated and a midfielder moving wide, Alexander-Arnold slotted into the middle.

This move turned the role into a midfielder in the attack who still had to play wide and a pure defender when the ball was lost. Essentially becoming a jack of all trades on their selected side of the pitch. Klopp, and other managers, opted for this move to allow players to overload a certain flank without leaving the middle totally unprotected.

Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool’s success is based, partly, on this move and credit should go to the player for flourishing in this role. To be the first player to play that role requires a lot of willingness to evolve and outgrow initial responsibilities. If he is to leave Anfield, he will have forever left an impact on the sport.

The partnership between Alexander-Arnold and Klopp was one of the dynamics that revived Liverpool. It’s also key to understanding how the fullback position changed.


One of the beautiful things about football is how it’s always evolving. Be it positions or tactics, nothing ever truly remains stagnant.
Even if the evolution of the fullback isn’t the most groundbreaking of developments, it’s a good reminder of the sport’s nature.

Photo: Liverpool

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