Liverpool's flying full-backs leave Arsenal gasping for air

Andrew Robertson Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool 2020-21
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Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were the stars of the show as the Reds put in a performance worthy of their champion status

That’s why they’re champions.

While their rivals falter, Liverpool just keep striding on.

After Manchester City’s slip and Chelsea’s stumble, while Manchester United battle with themselves and Tottenham plough on in their loveless marriage, Jurgen Klopp’s men are very much back into the swing of things. 

Unstoppable? They look it, even three games into the season.

Arsenal were the latest to feel the Reds’ heat. The Gunners may be an altogether more organised, pragmatic outfit under Mikel Arteta, but they had no answer to Liverpool’s relentless intensity.

No supporters, but Anfield remains a fortress; the most difficult place to play in the world. 

If last week’s win at Stamford Bridge was a message to the rest of the division, this was even more emphatic a statement. This was a great team flexing its muscles, going through its full repertoire at a time when the world is searching – or perhaps hoping – for signs of weakness. "We don't make statements," Klopp insisted afterwards, "we just try to win football matches."

They did not even need their shiny new superstar for this one. Thiago Alcantara was not involved, and could be absent until after the international break according to Klopp with what the club describe as “a minor injury”. Without the Spain international, Liverpool were as cohesive and as driven as ever. 

And in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, they had the game’s key figures.

The Reds’ full-backs combined for what turned out to be the decisive goal. Pep Lijnders, Liverpool’s assistant manager, would have been purring as Alexander-Arnold’s cross from the right found Robertson, ghosting in at the back post to take a touch and prod past Bernd Leno.

Full-back to full-back, Lijnders says, is “the dream goal” for this team. "I loved it," said Klopp.

In truth, it is hard to keep calling these two full-backs. They are so much more than that to Liverpool. Creative hubs, providers of endless width and precision, bundles of boundless energy, from first whistle to last. They press and they run and they cross and they supply, week in and week out. 

Robertson has either scored or assisted in seven of his last eight Premier League appearances, scoring twice and providing five assists. Since his Liverpool debut in August 27, he has been involved in more goals than any other defender with 33. Second on the list, of course, is Alexander-Arnold.

They are some duo, the Englishman and the Scotsman. You can try, but you will not keep both of them quiet. And when both of them shine, Liverpool sparkle. 

Robertson had gifted Arsenal the lead in the first half, his miskick allowing Alexandre Lacazette to bounce one past Alisson Becker against the run of play. A rare aberration; he was otherwise as solid as a rock, whether against Willian and Hector Bellerin, or later Nicolas Pepe, whose impact off the bench was minimal.

Arteta’s side had beaten Liverpool in each of their last two meetings, but their advantage here lasted only three minutes, with Sadio Mane on hand to tap home after great work from the lively Mohamed Salah down the right. 

Sadio Mane scores for Liverpool vs Arsenal, Premier League 2020-21

Alexander-Arnold had already served notice of his threat, creating an opening for Virgil van Dijk early on, when he was given time to lift his head and deliver once more. Robertson, on the blind side of the Arsenal defence, did the rest with admirable composure for 2-1. Liverpool were behind on 25 minutes, ahead on 34, their response a testament to their powers of recovery, concentration and fitness.

They could and should have extended that advantage, dominating pretty much the entire game, but were indebted to Alisson for a big save from Lacazette in the second half, when for once Arsenal were able to play through the press.

On came substitute Diogo Jota to wrap up the points, the £45 million man firing home clinically on his home debut after Arsenal failed to clear a cross from guess who, Alexander-Arnold, from the right. Jota, lively, classy and clearly a workaholic, looks the ideal fit for Klopp's side.

Nine points from nine, then, for Liverpool. Did you think they would lose their hunger, the desire, after climbing the mountain last year? 

No chance. Not this team, not with this manager. They're scared of nobody - not even Roy Keane. 

The fire burns as brightly at Anfield as it ever did, and with Robertson and Alexander-Arnold in this kind of form, it will be hard to put out.