Liverpool returned to European competition this week, but did so in the Europa League, ending a seven-year relationship with the Champions League, where three finals were reached and one was won under Jurgen Klopp’s tutelage.
It’s a ramification of Liverpool’s woeful 2022/23 season, where the prestigious Premier League outfit fell by the wayside and finished fifth, courtesy of the “absolutely shocking” midfield’s inability to perform, as was said by Reds writer Matt Ladson.
This year, the Anfield skies paint a brighter hue, with the grey, woolly clouds that lurked ominously above now wiped away by a reformed, restored centre, patched up and then some on the transfer market.
The Europa League does present several things for Klopp and co to get excited about, however, with it remaining the lone major trophy to have evaded the German’s clutches since his appointment in 2015; moreover, the competition presents an opportunity for the likes of Ben Doak, Stefan Bajcetic, Jarell Quansah and co to play with regularity, nurturing their precocious abilities to the fore.
Another talented starlet who could be pushing for a senior debut is full-back Calum Scanlon, who has been riding the crest of a wave at youth level for Barry Lewtas’ development squad and could be the club’s next version of vice-captain, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
When did Trent Alexander-Arnold make his debut for Liverpool?
A first-rate player with the potential to cement a legacy behind only someone of Steven Gerrard’s ilk, Alexander-Arnold has been a staple of the success under Klopp’s stewardship and is one of Europe’s foremost full-backs, if you can even restrict him to such a singular evaluation.
On October 25, 2016, the young Scouser made his senior debut for his boyhood club, starting against Tottenham Hotspur in a 2-1 victory at Anfield, just 18 days into his 18th year.
A few months later, the teenager would come off the bench against Middlesbrough in the Premier League, and so begins a journey bespeckled in gold dust, a career at the centre of Liverpool’s emergence as a major player on the major scene.
With observers gushing unreserved praise for his performances at the very first stage of his senior career, Liverpool’s ex-Academy director Karl Robinson remarked at his talents, saying, “He was brilliant. He was bubbly, fearless, the best player at that age.”
Making 12 appearances that season, earning an assist (the first of many), Alexander-Arnold would announce himself resoundingly the following term, netting an impressive free-kick in Champions League qualifying against Hoffenheim – which James Pearce claimed was ‘reminiscent‘ of Gerrard – with the 2017/18 campaign resulting in a Champions League final defeat against Real Madrid, but then that was just the start.
How good is Trent Alexander-Arnold?
A superlative star with his technical ability and an ingenious creator from, often, the right flank, Alexander-Arnold has produced 277 displays for the Anfield side, scoring 16 goals and providing 73 assists.
Heralded for his “sensational” ball-striking ability by commentator Martin Tyler, the 20-cap international has been instrumental in the triumph of Klopp’s reign, winning every slice of silverware at Liverpool since his debut and playing a starring role while doing so.
Who could forget the 4-0 drubbing of Barcelona en route to European glory, with the 24-year-old’s razor-sharp wit bypassing a hapless La Blaugrana defence to allow Divock Origi to hammer home. ‘Corner taken quickly‘ has become a praise perpetually embedded in Liverpool folklore.
As per FBref, the £180k-per-week phenom ranks among the top 5% of full-backs across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for assists, the top 6% for shot-creating actions, the top 2% for passes attempted and the top 7% for progressive passes per 90.
Indeed, a “genius” – as claimed by journalist Neil Jones – the homegrown talent epitomises everything it means to play for Liverpool, and with years ahead of him, his best days ostensibly lie ahead.
The academy crop will no doubt idolise Gerrard, but this first-class phenom is the current evidence that they can succeed at Anfield, and Scanlon will be hoping to emulate his senior peer.
Who is Calum Scanlon?
Liverpool completed the signing of 15-year-old Scanlon from Birmingham City for a reported fee of £500k, with the highly-rated youngster considered one of the most exciting prospects of his age bracket.
In March 2022, the full-back earned his maiden professional contract with the Reds, with the club’s announcement stating that he ‘often catching the eye as he runs at defenders out wide and delivers searching crosses into the box, while proving a strong and capable defender.’
Klopp has shown time and time again that he is happy to provide youngsters with chances to impress, and Scanlon could now be in line to make his senior debut this season, aged 18, and replicate the breakthrough of Alexander-Arnold.
This season, Scanlon has started all four fixtures in the Premier League 2 and scored against League Two team Morecambe in the EFL Trophy several days ago, with reporter Neil Jones remarking that he looked “so good” on the evening.
Having already cemented a spot in the Premier League 2 this term after playing just once in the competition during the 2022/23 campaign, the Birmingham-born prospect is making remarkable progress and may soon ascend to the next, high-profile level.
Scanlon’s marauding style and suitability in playing further up the left channel could make him a custom-made fit for Klopp’s blossoming Liverpool side, with Jones also praising the “very talented” defender.
Just like Alexander-Arnold before, he could prove to be a starring member of the squad in the future…