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Opinion

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dan Burn comparisons that people don’t want to hear

2 weeks ago
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Dan Burn and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Fair to say that these are two players who are rarely compared.

Make that, never compared.

Superficially, you could say, why should they ever be compared? As after all, they usually play on the opposite sides of the pitch. Both playing the vast majority of games at full-back but Trent Alexander-Arnold a right-back and Dan Burn a left-back.

No doubt some would also say if asked to compare the pair, why should you do so, as one is a brilliant superstar player and the other… isn’t.

That isn’t me saying it by the way, just quoting what no doubt pretty much all the media would say, as well as certain others.

Now unless you have been hiding in a cave this past week, you will have seen a deluge of debate surrounding Dan Burn and Eddie Howe.

Basically the same thing repeated over and over again, the message being how can Eddie Howe possibly select Dan Burn for this Forest match, after what happened in the Luton game?

It is fair enough discussing any player, at any team, however, this past week with Howe and Burn has gone beyond anything that could be remotely thought of as fair and reasonable. It all feels a bit like what happens fairly regularly these days with social media, where an individual or an organisation (not just football, anything) is targeted and then it just takes on a life of its own, so many piling in and adding nothing constructive to the debate. Just repeating the same things again and again and again BUT to get attention, trying to get ever more extreme to get noticed.

Fair to say I think that if you hadn’t seen anything / little of the Newcastle v Luton match (which is the overwhelming majority of those in the media piling on Howe and Burn, as it wasn’t a live TV game in UK), by the coverage this week, you would probably think Dan Burn had been responsible for all four Luton goals and most likely scored at least two or three of them himself.

Reality was a ‘little’ different, Burn had a tough game up against a quick winger, who went past him a few times and one of those times the big lad from Blyth gave away a penalty that made the score 3-2 to Luton.

The other element of course to this story was that Tino Livramento was on the bench. The story after the game then becoming if only Tino had started instead of Burn, then Newcastle would have won for sure. If only life / football was so easy and straightforward, we would all be Premier League managers.

Eddie Howe explained after the match that he made that Burn selection decision for many reasons, as he does with other positions in the team, when he has alternatives available…

It is / was patently obvious, that one of the big reasons for Dan Burn getting selected, is his height, especially defending and attacking set-pieces. This especially so against Luton, they are a big danger at set-pieces and the pre-Christmas defeat at Luton was due to a set-piece where a Luton player easily got his head to a cross and another player (Townsend) then headed the winner into the net.

Last Saturday, Newcastle had no centre-forward available and only Sean Longstaff of the six midfielders and attackers in any way some kind of asset when defending and attacking set-pieces (Lewis Miley is 6ft 2 BUT a 17 year old 6ft 2, he will be much stronger / effective once his body catches up to his height but for now, competing physically not his greatest asset). Kieran Trippier is decent but only 5ft 10, so if 5ft 9 Tino Livramento had been instead of Burn, so much reliance on Schar and Botman.

Anyway, as well as that, the simple fact is that Dan Burn has NOT been a terrible defender for Newcastle United overall (part of the best Premier League defence last season) nor in general recently. Burn was great against the likes of Sunderland, Fulham and Villa in the most recent matches, only struggling late on when Bailey came off the bench and Villa went for it, Bailey their most skilful player. Eddie Howe went five at the back, with Burn one of three, Tino as a wing-back to counteract that threat.

Back to Trent Alexander-Arnold though…

If you think Dan Burn is a terrible defender, then clearly you have never seen Trent Alexander-Arnold play.

He is honestly woeful. A very skilful player BUT a terrible defender.

The day after our Luton match, the Arsenal v Liverpool match was live on TV.

Honestly, Martinelli danced past Trent Alexander-Arnold time after time, it was embarrassing.

Yet nothing / little is ever made of it. The media treat him very very differently, compared to say… Dan Burn, Eddie Howe and Newcastle United this past week.

Liverpool were trounced 3-1 and only by pure chance / luck and how good the other Liverpool defenders generally are, was the inability of Trent Alexander-Arnold to defend, not directly leading to a fair few goals.

This isn’t a one-off though, pretty much every time I ever see Trent Alexander-Arnold up against a decent winger (Anthony Gordon has him every time) who gets the chance to run at him, the outcome is invariably the same. The Liverpool defender struggles big time, yet the media all but ignore it.

The thing is, Trent Alexander-Arnold gets his place in the Liverpool side for pretty much every reason other than his defending.

As I say, great teammates to cover him at the back, Liverpool usually attacking and having most possession, so due to that, he gets in the team.

Even Gareth Southgate isn’t daft enough to select Trent Alexander-Arnold as a defender. The Qatar World Cup he only got a few minutes as a sub in the Wales group game once England went 2-0 up.

Dan Burn is selected for all kinds of reasons by Eddie Howe and if left totally isolated at times one on one against a quick tricky winger, then not ideal, BUT he contributes in loads of other areas. Plus, the reasons why Newcastle have conceded a lot more goals recently is mainly due to not having the best balance in midfield to protect the defence (plus the injuries overall, especially Nick Pope), it is NOT due to Dan Burn’s selection.

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