Lijnders: Trent and Ben represent the best ideals of our development approach
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn are emblems of Liverpool’s approach to developing young players, according to Pepijn Lijnders.
The Dutchman should know, too.
Lijnders started life with the Reds as coach of the U16s at the Academy and handed the talented young pair two of the key roles in his bold, brave, attacking side – at the base and front of the team’s midfield respectively.
And since taking up a new role at Melwood as first-team development coach, his enthusiasm and dedication to the next generation has made him the bridge between youth and senior football at the club.
Jürgen Klopp’s first full season has been littered with debuts, including Alexander-Arnold and Woodburn – who became Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer in November – plus Ovie Ejaria and Harry Wilson.
In the case of Alexander-Arnold and Woodburn, now fully established participants in training at Melwood, Lijnders believes their attitude is the defining factor of their progress.
“I use Ben and Trent as an example often because they really are one,” he told Goal.com.
“They help prove a lot of modern misconceptions in football wrong: that you have to be a certain age, a certain size. That you first have to go on loan and so on before you can get into the first team.
“If you see them after each session and how long they stay on the pitch – not just shooting on goal, crossing and heading and doing the nice things – they always challenge each other to become technically and tactically better.
“They are completely different players and personalities, but they define exactly our approach.
“Anfield is screaming out for young unpredictable players, who can open up games and speed up the tempo of the positional play. That’s a wonderful characteristic they both have in common.”
Alexander-Arnold’s dynamism from right-back has particularly caught the eye this season.
After earning a first-team debut last October, the 18-year-old has made eight more appearances, including a start in the Premier League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
“He has something extra, a certain insight and creativity that makes him able to play unpredictable passes,” said Lijnders.
“He is quick in mind, knows what’s going to happen and has the capacity to improvise – this opens up situations for himself or for others.
“Our playing idea is to create chance after chance, from each position taking this initiative. A right defender who can create and can dominate the complete right channel. In my opinion, he is one of the most all-round talents in Europe with a ‘team first’ attitude.
“When he was my captain at U16 level, he was able to control rhythm and make the team play like no-one else. Some people are born to become a football player; he is definitely one of them.”
And of Woodburn, who was last week called up to the senior Wales squad, Lijnders added: “Ben gives defenders no time to breathe, and plays with intelligence, constantly using the space the opposition leaves, arriving in the interesting spaces.
“He decides what opposition can and can’t do and is able to create dangerous situations from wherever on the pitch.”