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After Friday’s frustrations at the Emirates, Liverpool gave fans plenty of Christmas cheer on Boxing Day. Five goals and a clean sheet were timely festive gifts, as Swansea City were brushed aside to keep the Reds fourth with one match to go in 2017.
Although what Jamie Carragher described as ‘complacency’ crept in at times, Jurgen Klopp’s men were good value over the course of 90 minutes.
Several individual performers impressed at Anfield – adding to a professional collective display. There was the magician in Philippe Coutinho, supported by the unselfish provider in Mohamed Salah. Roberto Firmino was the main threat in the second half, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also added his name to the scoresheet.
A bigger surprise in front of goal, however, was Trent Alexander-Arnold. The right-back – just 19 – capped another superb display with a wonderful half-volleyed finish.
And, as eye-catching as his strike itself was, the manner in which Alexander-Arnold forced his way onto the ball in the first place made all the difference. That was a theme throughout, with the young defender simply bullying the Swans off the ball time and again.
During the first 45 minutes, the full-back produced another moment of note: a sublime long ball which Carragher labelled ‘a Steven Gerrard pass.’ Yes, Liverpool’s Boxing Day opponents are the bottom side in the Premier League – but nothing must be taken away from Alexander-Arnold’s performance on that basis; especially given his age and burgeoning consistency.
Indirectly, meanwhile, the 19-year-old may even help his manager at centre-back with such strong displays. Indeed, Alexander-Arnold’s form down the right could encourage Klopp to switch Joe Gomez to the middle once Nathaniel Clyne returns from injury.
This move may be a long way down the line, of course, with both very much needed out wide during a busy winter schedule while Clyne is out. Yet Alexander-Arnold’s energy going forward may be enough to convince Klopp the right-back position is covered. Ultimately, there is greater need for Gomez’s defensive strength at centre-back – far more of a problem area.
Gomez, too, is still young – only 20, having spent significant time out injured. He has shown plenty of potential in defensive areas where the Reds have recently been lacking: composure, strength and organisation.
During the Merseyside derby, for instance, Gomez was Liverpool’s standout defender; his excellent tackling ability has been as noticeable as Alexander-Arnold’s ventures forward this term. Klopp has Joel Matip at his disposal but, beyond that, the performances of Dejan Lovren will have left him scratching his head this season.
Many quarters have also criticised Ragnar Klavan, meaning Liverpool could do with Gomez’s talents at centre-back even if the club sign the marquee defender fans have been clamouring for.
Klopp’s long-term intentions may have already been to switch Gomez over to the middle. Alexander-Arnold’s encouraging growth, though, has given the German a nod in the right direction.
Written by Timothy Poole
Follow Timothy on Twitter @TimPooleSport
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