Oleksandr Zinchenko tells Liverpool how Jürgen Klopp man can further unlock Mohamed Salah

Chatting with pundit Rio Ferdinand, Arsenal star Oleksandr Zinchenko explained the two situations that Trent Alexander-Arnold must create for Liverpool, with Mohamed Salah set to benefit.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been adapting to a new role over the past four months. Since April, he’s been deployed as an inverted full-back by Jürgen Klopp in his attempts to deliver more consistent performances and results on Merseyside, and he’s mostly shined.

The Scouse defender has appeared reborn within the confines of Liverpool’s new-look 3-2-5 shape with possession, with 4-3-3 still used whenever the Reds have to retreat into a block in order to defend. Alexander-Arnold has been the architect of the tactical switch, as his movements impact everybody else in the team.

Once Klopp’s number 66 has drifted into the middle of the park, Andy Robertson can tuck inside to become a wide center-back next to Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté, with Liverpool’s number eights also free to drift higher up towards the final third. Liverpool went unbeaten in competitive matches with 3-2-5 employed, with Manchester City and Arsenal also adopting the shape last campaign.

For Pep Guardiola, John Stones has been tasked with doing the inverting like Alexander-Arnold at Anfield, and for Mikel Arteta, Oleksandr Zinchenko has been that player. The latter has a wealth of experience in the role having performed in a similar manner for Manchester City before moving to the Emirates Stadium last summer.

The inverted full-back concept is a relatively new trend in football, with few players on the continent possessing as much experience in the role as Zinchenko. The Ukrainian international spoke to Rio Ferdinand this week, with the Manchester United legend asking him about the dynamics of being an inverted full-back.

“If I go in the middle for the build-up in the middle part of the pitch, if you are the manager of the other team, what would you do in terms of pressing and what are you going to say to your winger? If the right winger is going to follow me, my job is done,” he said on Ferdinand’s YouTube show, Five.

“Why? Because I will leave my winger — Martinelli, Sterling, Sané, Bukayo — one-on-one, and if I give him 50 balls per game and create the space for him, my job is done. If he doesn’t pass beyond his full-back or create an assist, this is not my problem, I did my job by attracting my opponent and creating space for him. If the winger doesn’t want to follow me [into the middle], then I’m free on the ball.”

Zinchenko effectively captured exactly why Manchester City and Arsenal have succeeded over the past 12 months, with Guardiola and Arteta establishing a tricky tactical dynamic for opponents to manage. It is perhaps no surprise that Klopp sought inspiration from the pair in April, adopting similar ideas at Liverpool.

Alexander-Arnold is still learning about his new role, and he is making it his own in the process. In comparison to Zinchenko and Stones, the Reds vice-captain seems a lot more inclined to influence proceedings as a quarterback of sorts, often playing Hollywood passes from the center circle.

The England man is naturally inclined to offer a degree of stardust when he’s on the ball, although based on the two tips offered by Zinchenko, he perhaps doesn’t have to do quite as much. Alexander-Arnold would be justified if he performed in a more simple manner, attracting opponents away from the flanks and consequently opening up space for Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian attacker is rapid, direct, and skillful, and whenever he’s presented with the one-on-one opportunities referenced by Zinchenko, he tends to win them. In fact, later in his conversation with Ferdinand, the Arsenal defender named Salah as his toughest opponent, stating: “He is absolutely explosive and unstoppable.”

If Alexander-Arnold heeds the words uttered by Zinchenko in his YouTube appearance, he will likely improve his showings as Liverpool’s inverted full-back. The Reds academy graduate loves to leave his mark on games using his elaborate passing range but sometimes, less is more.

If his subtle movements into the middle do indeed open up space for Salah out wide, all Alexander-Arnold needs to do is find him.



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