Jurgen Klopp has already found perfect Trent Alexander-Arnold successor at Liverpool
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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may have already found a successor to Trent Alexander-Arnold after Conor Bradley made an impressive first start for Northern Ireland. Alexander-Arnold is expected to return for Saturday’s Premier League visit to Watford, but 18-year-old Bradley staked his claim for more first-team action with a performance which saw him compared to “a young Dani Alves”.
Northern Ireland’s hopes of World Cup qualification were ended by a 2-1 defeat to Bulgaria on Tuesday night, but Bradley shone for Ian Barraclough’s side.
Playing high up the pitch at right wing-back, the teenager turned in a confident display full of attacking intent and defensive diligence which bodes well for his prospects at Liverpool.
One fan on Twitter said he was “like a young Dani Alves”, while others said he was “shaping up to be a magnificent player” and was “fast making himself undroppable”.
Bradley made his Liverpool debut in last month’s Carabao Cup win at Norwich, playing the full 90 minutes and looking composed despite conceding a first-half penalty which was saved by Caoimhin Kelleher.
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And after confidently overcoming that setback, Bradley’s emergence looks set to give Klopp more options at right-back going forward after the recent injury-enforced absence of Alexander-Arnold.
James Milner stood in for Alexander-Arnold during the 5-1 win over Porto and the 2-2 draw against Manchester City before the international break.
Milner was solid against Porto and set up Sadio Mane to double the lead, but the 35-year-old was targeted by City and was ruthlessly exposed by an electric performance from Phil Foden.
Reds legend John Aldridge has highlighted the right-back issue, telling Sunday World: “The opposition has been targeting the right side of Liverpool’s defence and they have been getting too much joy from that tactic.
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“AC Milan scored a couple of goals attacking that side of the Liverpool back four and the same happened with Brentford and then Manchester City last weekend.
“This is not a criticism of Trent as he is a fantastic footballer, but maybe Klopp needs to look at the balance in his team to get the defensive side a little more stable.”
Having only played one senior game for Liverpool, it is likely to some time before Klopp throws his young prospect into a Premier League game.
After Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off against Watford, the Reds have two big away games against Atletico Madrid and Manchester United for which Klopp will need his strongest line-ups.
But the Carabao Cup clash away to Preston on October 27 could offer Bradley another chance to show he can be a first-team option for Klopp in the future.
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There have been calls for Alexander-Arnold to move into a midfielder playmaker role, such is the potency of his sublime passing range.
Klopp cast doubt on the possibility after England boss Gareth Southgate played the 23-year-old in his engine room in last month’s win over Andorra, with the Livepool manager asking: “Why would you make the best right-back in the world a midfielder?”
But if Bradley can establish himself as a serious alternative at right-back, it could allow the Liverpool boss more flexibility.
Klopp can of course also call on Neco Williams, who has so far been on the bench twice this season.
Williams delivered an assist in Wales’ 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic last week, but remained on the bench as Robert Page’s men beat Estonia on Monday night.
But Bradley is fast showing he can be another option for Klopp the next time he has to cope without Alexander-Arnold.
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