Trent Alexander-Arnold and Four Other Liverpool Players Who Switched Positions Successfully

- - Players

Football Tactics on Green BoardIs it an inverted full back, a mezzala or a carrilero?

However you describe Trent Alexander-Arnold’s positional shift at Liverpool towards the end of the 2022/23 season, it’s clear that Jurgen Klopp’s masterstroke came up trumps.

In the Reds’ last eight games of that campaign, TAA played further forward and more central – a sort of inside right, who ensured he funnelled back to defend in wide areas when Liverpool lost possession.

Has it worked? Well, they won six of those games, drew the other two and Alexander-Arnold contributed a goal and four assists.

So impressive was the 24-year-old that he has earned an England recall – as a midfielder. Despite Klopp querying why you’d want to turn the ‘best right back in the world’ into a midfielder, it seems that Gareth Southgate wants to maximise TAA’s attacking output while limiting the fear of him being isolated one-on-one with an opposition winger in defensive situations.

It will be interesting to see if Klopp retains Alexander-Arnold as a full back or allows him to blossom in midfield at the start of next season, but if he needs any inspiration he need to look no further than the four other players that he has molded into stars in a new position….

Sadio Mane (Winger to Striker)

Liverpool Debut Games Goals
August 2016 196 90

At his best, Sadio Mane was a flying inside forward who was a nightmare for the opposition to mark.

Starting from positions out on the left-hand side, Mane’s pace. Movement and eye for a chance often meant he was Liverpool’s chief goal threat – as a return of 97 goals in 221 appearances attests.

But it was felt that Mane had lost some of his spark ahead of the 2021/22 campaign, and so Klopp looked to reinvent the Senegalese ace as a central striker instead.

With Luis Diaz then established as his favoured left winger and Salah on the right, it was put up or shut up for Mane – he chose the former, blasting 23 goals in 51 games in his new role.

That was form that would guide Liverpool to the Champions League final and to wins in the FA Cup and League Cup – a fitting send-off for a modern day Anfield hero who would join Bayern Munich the following season.

Bobby Firmino (Midfielder to Striker)

Liverpool Debut Games Goals
August 2015 256 82

It’s amazing to think that, way back in 2015, Bobby Firmino joined Liverpool as a ‘number ten’ style attacking midfielder.

That was a role that generally gets short shrift in Klopp’s favoured 4-3-3 formation, and after a failed attempt to pair Firmino with Christian Benteke in a dual attack, the head coach took the step of trying out the Brazilian as a ‘false nine’ – ostensibly the central striker, but dropping deeper to help link the play with the midfield.

Did it work? Nearly 100 goals, a Premier League title, Champions League win, FA Cup and Club World Cup triumphs later, the answer would surely be a resounding yes!

But Klopp hasn’t taken all the credit for the tactical tweak – instead believing that Firmino himself was the architect of his own niche on the pitch.

“I won’t say he invented it [the false nine position], but the way he plays, from time to time it looks that way, some of the defensive things he did on the pitch are absolutely insane.”

Diogo Jota (Winger to Striker)

Liverpool Debut Games Goals
September 2020 76 31

Given the success Klopp had in transforming Mane from a wide man into a central striker, it’s perhaps no surprise he’s trying a similar tactic with another protégé.

Diogo Jota was a rank-and-file left winger when he was signed from Wolves, but the emergence of Diaz and Darwin Nunez at Anfield have left the Portuguese ace outnumbered in the battle for a starting place.

And so Klopp has switched him to a more central role – to some tune. Jota bagged 21 goals in the 2021/22 season and popped up with some crucial strikes during the following campaign, which was riddled with injuries.

If he can stay fit, Jota could become a pivotal figure for Liverpool this term in that central role.

James Milner (Midfielder to Everywhere)

Liverpool Debut Games Goals
August 2015 230 19

Although he had been used as a winger in his younger days, as James Milner matured as a player he became known as a central midfielder with the likes of Manchester City, Newcastle United and Aston Villa.

But talk about versatility. Milner has also been deployed as a striker in the past, while Klopp has tended to favour him in either the right or left-sided full back positions as a valuable understudy to those ahead of him in the pecking order.

Having played the entirety of the 2016/17 season at left back – a campaign in which the Reds achieved their objective of a top-four finish, Milner commented in typically stoic fashion:

“It’s about whatever’s best for the team and ultimately I just want to be out there playing games, contributing and helping this football club.”

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