Paul Pogba comment proves Trent Alexander-Arnold point in Liverpool position debate

Trent Alexander-Arnold has mastered the assist since progressing through the ranks at Liverpool.

The Scouse full-back delivered his 35th in the Premier League against Leeds United, meaning he’s delivered the same number of assists as Gary Neville despite playing 267 fewer matches.

Alexander-Arnold has two assists to his name so far this season, but that places him far behind Paul Pogba, who places top at the moment with an impressive total of seven.

The Reds defender will do well to catch the Frenchman this season considering the gap that has already emerged, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has inadvertently offered an insight into why that could happen.

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Speaking about assists, the Manchester United boss stated: “What does an assist consist of? A square pass and Bruno [Fernandes] hits the top corner, or when Paul plays a great pass through and Mason [Greenwood] runs past?

“Paul has always been a top passer, one of the best in European football, he’s probably got assists from not his best passes this season. I don’t count assists, it’s all this social media.”

Solskjaer has a point when it comes to some assists being more generous than others; a major problem with assists is how they are determined by the player who is responsible for finishing.

Some passes can be perfect, but if the striker who is yards from goal doesn’t score, an assist isn’t awarded.

There are several metrics which provide a clearer picture when it comes to creativity and passing, such as key passes.

A key pass is simply defined as a pass that directly leads to a shot, and the difference between Alexander-Arnold and Pogba becomes more evident.

The former is top of the Premier League at the moment having generated 19 shots for his Liverpool teammates over the first four matches, compared to Pogba who placed 15th in the table with nine key passes.

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It is quite incredible that seven of Pogba’s nine key passes have resulted in goals, which highlights how much the French midfielder has benefited from the expert finishing of his teammates at Old Trafford.

Expected Goals Assisted (xA) is another metric which can help, as it allows for a greater appreciation of those key passes, regardless of whether the resulting shot found the net or not. It simply involves calculating the xG of a shot which follows a key pass.

For example, a shot from 30 yards out is likely to have an xG of around 0.01 because those efforts are scored roughly 1% of the time. The player who registered a key pass by teeing up that shot would consequently be awarded just 0.01 xA.

Based on Alexander-Arnold’s key passes so far this season, he’s generated 2.4 xA which unsurprisingly places him top of the division.

Pogba – by contrast – places 13th with an xA of exactly 1.0, which captures how much his teammates’ finishing has helped him.

Alexander-Arnold has posted assists in line with his xA with two compared to 2,4 xA, whereas Pogba has notably overperformed expectation which suggests that his rate of delivering assists is unlikely to continue.

It remains to be seen who will end the campaign as the leading assister in England’s top-flight but based on the underlying numbers, Alexander-Arnold could catch the Red Devils midfielder before too long.

About the author: Mark Witcher

Typical thinker. Devoted web specialist. Friendly troublemaker. Zombie maven. Music junkie. Twitter guru.

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