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Should FPL managers budget for Trent Alexander-Arnold?

Managers will be trying to accommodate Trent Alexander-Arnold in his new inverted full-back role.

An established part of FPL royalty, the always popular Liverpool ‘defender’ has finally risen to an £8.0m starting price.

With last season ending in good form, such a rise hasn’t deterred 28.0% from drafting him into squads. The question is whether they should do it.

The new Trent Alexander-Arnold role

Entering Gameweek 30 down in seventh place, Jurgen Klopp decided to try something new. Instead of having Alexander-Arnold provide his usual high supply of superb crosses from out wide, he asked his right-back to invert into central midfield.

It worked brilliantly, with the Reds unbeaten for their subsequent 10 outings thanks to having more control in games.

Above: Alexander-Arnold’s touch heatmap until Gameweek 29 (left) and from Gameweek 30 (right)

He ranked second amongst defenders for shots (40) and chances created (71) over the whole season but, from Gameweek 30, was best for big chances created (9) and expected goal involvement (xGI, 3.93).

In fact, 15 of his 40 attempts occurred in this latter period, although all but one were from distance.

Can Liverpool’s defence deliver?

Manchester United were the only team to keep more clean sheets than Liverpool’s 14. Yet it hides some concerning statistics.

They conceded the third-most big chances (101) – even more than relegated Southampton. And their run of five consecutive clean sheets during February and March was a huge overachievement considering their 4.84 expected goals conceded (xGC).

No matter how attacking an FPL defender is, there needs to be some defensive reliability. The Liverpool backline feels a bit dodgy and conceding six pre-season goals to a pair of lower German opponents doesn’t help with this.

Their starting fixtures look generally tough, with even Bournemouth being hard to predict under new attack-minded coach Andoni Iraola.

Team structure

Nevertheless, whether to own Trent or not is a question of team structure. Managers that initially included him in first drafts have tried removing the defender to see what that extra £2.0m-3.0m can do. It doesn’t necessarily get used.

Therefore it could be worth starting with Alexander-Arnold, knowing that it’s easier to downgrade from him than hysterically use two transfers to upgrade someone else into him.

Conclusion

Although attacking returns aren’t in doubt, the combination of expensive price and an unreliable defence stops Trent Alexander-Arnold from being deemed essential.

Both he and his team improved in the final stretch of last season, suggesting the Reds could return to a title-challenging status. But the £2.5m saved from switching him to a defender like Ben Chilwell, John Stones or Luke Shaw could prove to be very useful in both midfield and attack.

Then again, last year’s equivalent meeting with Gameweek 2 opponents Bournemouth ended with a 17-point haul for the England international.

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