If we are not mistaken, the Sunday clash against Aston Villa was the first time our team was led out into the Anfield pitch by a Scouser captain since the memorable Steven Gerrard era.
Trent Alexander-Arnold wholly embraced the occasion to put on a “Total Football” performance.
Launching attacks, assisting goal scorers, going for the goal himself, defending, the complete package was right here for all to see. In fact, much time would be saved if instead, we dwelt on what he didn’t do during this straightforward win over the well-regarded Midlanders.
Fittingly Trent’s stellar display of Total Football came during the week that the club completed its squad with its own kind of Dutch Total Football: Virgil van Dijk in defence, Ryan Gravenberch in midfield, and Cody Gakpo in attack.
(Might as well call back Sander Westerveld to make the Dutch contingent even more total).
Although playing in a different position, it was long given that TAA is the rightful heir to Stevie G in terms of injecting the famed Scouse heartbeat in the Liverpool team.
A performance like his against Villa would automatically see him being awarded the Man of the Match in any other team.
But then this is Liverpool… and there was more. The mind is still divided between Trent and Dominik Szoboszlai for MOTM.
The Hungarian picked up where he left off. He was everywhere, covering every blade of grass on the Anfield pitch.
Four games into the new season, Szoboszlai is already the big revelation of 2023-24. James Milner’s hallowed reputation as the fittest Liverpool player in recent memory is now under threat.
After his totally committed performance since the start of the season, our new Number 8 became the player Kopites were most willing to see scoring. He duly opened his Liverpool account with a neatly struck left-footer at the edge of the box following a Trent corner.
Normally a keeper has time to react to such a long-range shot. Emiliano Martinez did not, thereby showing the quality of this strike which is probably a strong contender for Goal of the Month.
We haven’t even played 4 minutes when Liverpool opened the score.
Waves of attack
That was only the beginning as Captain Trent pulled the strings from deep inside Liverpool’s half.
He launched a long diagonal ball to Luis Diaz down the left on the 16th minute. The Colombian cut inside but his shot was blocked for a corner.
Not deterred, six minutes later Trent pinged another stunning long pass down the right this time to Mo Salah. The Egyptian King’s cross was met by Darwin Nunez who unfortunately hit the upright. As everyone gasped, the ball rebounded against a backtracking Matty Cash and into the net.
Two-nil up after 22 minutes. It was there for Liverpool to impose their will on Villa.
Showcasing his versatility, Trent switched to winger mode in the 34th minute, cutting back to Nunez who hit it the first time asking. Unfortunately, his on-target shot was blocked.
Not to be outdone, Szobo added his two cents to launching Liverpool’s waves of attack with an over-the-top ball on the 39th that eventually ended with Salah who then laid the ball to Nunez. The Uruguayan’s attempt to chip the keeper unfortunately hit the crossbar.
On the 42nd, Trent went for goal himself with a 25-yard shot which flew wide after being fed by Szoboszlai.
Our captain tried a repeat of the defining long-range pass down the right in the first half stoppage time but Salah’s shot was blocked by Villa’s keeper.
Liverpool were clearly in control of the initial period and we had to wait until the 33rd to see Villa’s first attempt of the game, a John McGinn ferocious strike that rifled over the crossbar at the Kop end.
Five minutes later, Leon Bailey scoffed his shot wide from a cross on their left, seemingly impeded by teammate Ollie Watkins.
At the break, such was the confidence in the home camp that it was more a question of when Liverpool would score another one to wrap this up.
Villa had a good chance of coming back on the 48th with a thumping Matty Cash header but once more Alisson Becker was up to the challenge with a great save.
However, this was more of an interlude to Liverpool’s waves of attack. A mere one minute later, Trent launched another one on the right for Salah to run down the wing. The Egyptian King’s cross with the outside of his left boot was met by a totally unmarked Nunez whose header was agonizingly just wide.
Quite a shame as Trent’s pass and Salah’s cross were indeed of peerless quality. A goal from such a swift counter-attack would have rivaled Szobozlai’s for Goal of the Month.
Our Number 9 deserved the most to be on the score sheet. Although he unluckily did not, his contribution was again immense.
Wrapping it up
Liverpool finally put the game to bed on the 55th. A corner finely delivered by Andy Robertson was flicked over by Nunez’s header and Salah simply had to poke from close range.
Who had created the corner? No prize if you guessed TAA who could not be stopped with a forceful run down the right wing.
Trent had a last attempt in the game on the 69th as he shot just over from outside the box after a marauding run from midfield which strangely, barely any Villa player took the initiative to stop. Were they already fed up?
Sadly, our captain had to leave the field one minute later as a precaution, presumably because of the delayed effect of an earlier tackle. After such a display, you cannot help worrying whether he will be fit for the next match. Thankfully, the news after the final whistle was not pessimistic.
Perhaps the Aston Villa players themselves were relieved that Liverpool did not aggressively press for more after that. The Reds slowed things down significantly for the last 10 minutes of normal time. Question of control.
In this Sunday clash, the Birmingham team came up short of their recently growing reputation. Or was it more that the incredible Newcastle match of last weekend had injected a good dose of belief in Liverpool?
No Red player wanted to be left out of the action, incessantly running into Villa who were rather lucky to escape with only 3 goals conceded.
In defense, special mention to Joe Gomez. He dispelled any doubt that lingered beforehand as to whether he was up to the standard of replacing the suspended Virgil van Dijk.
We tend to forget he was the partner of choice for VVD during the Premier League conquering season. Hopefully, he is on his way back to such a vaunted level.
As usual, those annoying international breaks are coming at the wrong moment just as Liverpool has found the right gears for good momentum; winning 3 times in very different manners. Of the three, Sunday was ironically the first Liverpool win this season with 11 men. A total performance to the image of the team captain.
The Reds are now in 3rd place with 10 points after 4 games. Among the top 5, which team do you think leaders Man City will now be the most wary of?
In one afternoon, the 2022-23 vintage of sputtering midfield and uncharacteristic lack of incisiveness were quickly relegated to a distant memory. Instead, there are now glowing talks of how Jurgen Klopp and his backroom team have radically transformed the midfield in a single transfer window.
That good feeling is abruptly back in the space of merely one week, lifting the spirits of everyone connected to LFC: players, staff, and supporters.
May it long continue. Walk on.