Virgil van Dijk says he has no doubts about Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quality and has suggested player welfare is being forgotten about amid recent criticism.
The Liverpool full-back came under heavy criticism for his defensive performance in the 3-3 draw with Brighton on Saturday and his place in the England squad for next month’s World Cup in Qatar has been called into question.
Van Dijk claims his team-mate is a victim of a culture in the UK that builds players up before bringing them down.
Speaking after Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday night – in which Alexander-Arnold scored a stunning free-kick to open the scoring – the Dutchman said: “We know the quality he has and he showed it again today.
“But I’ve been in the UK now for eight, nine years and everyone here is very good to praise a player very high up to the sky and let them fall as hard as they can.
“That’s what we, as players, have to deal with. Everyone is talking about how we should accept it.
“For him to just carry on working – not only him but other players as well – deal with it and show reaction today is what we need, all of us. To do that, I think it’s important that we back him and the manager and the club and the fans.
“No matter what the outside world will say about him, we always back each other and we know that we are fighting our way back to the consistency we have always been showing over the last couple of years. We’ll get there. I’m confident we’ll all get there.”
The win over Rangers continued Liverpool’s revival in Europe after losing their opening group game to Napoli 4-1, but they have not won a Premier League game since beating Newcastle 2-1 at Anfield on August 31.
While there is no doubt in Van Dijk’s mind about the level Alexander-Arnold, 23, is at, he knows the decision as to his international chances lies solely at Gareth Southgate’s door.
“We are all struggling,” he added. “Hopefully we get to the point where we are finding our level again. That’s what we all want, that’s what we all work for.
“We all come into training, get stronger, get faster, get better, but it’s not a quick fix – it doesn’t work like that. If it worked like that, it would be a lot easier.
“He [Alexander-Arnold] has been showing it over the last couple of years; he has developed as one of the best right-backs in the country.
“In the end, if he doesn’t make the squad, that’s on Southgate. He makes the decisions and everyone has to respect his decisions. The only thing he can do is perform.”
Klopp: Trent has no defensive problem, the team had a defensive problem
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp also lept to Alexander-Arnold’s defence, suggesting there has been defensive issues with the team on the whole at times this season.
In his post-match press conference at Anfield, he said: “He had a good game, defensively especially, and scored a wonderful goal. I was happy he set it up differently.
“We cannot talk about that every week, but Trent has no defensive problem, we have a defensive problem – hopefully ‘had’ – because our timing was not right and we take risk in defending, everybody knows that.
“If the timing is not right, you open gaps, and these gaps are very often behind Trent; not because of him, because of other situations and then he has to track back.
“We were not in the perfect moment and that’s why we adjusted it slightly.”