Alexander-Arnold revels once again in right-back-plus role in raucously entertaining Liverpool win

Dave Tickner
Trent Alexander-Arnold scores Liverpool's winner against Fulham
Trent Alexander-Arnold scores Liverpool's winner against Fulham

There can’t be many teams with a frontline as good as Liverpool’s where it’s nevertheless not particularly surprising to see them score four without a single forward getting on the scoresheet.

And a huge part of that is Trent Alexander-Arnold. England may remain incapable of finding a role for him, but there is no such problem at Liverpool.

There is a growing school of thought that he could or should be moved into midfield permanently, given how much of his time he spends there. We don’t see it that way at all, not least because we’ve watched him play there in a more official capacity for England. It doesn’t work. There’s a difference between playing midfield and popping up in midfield, and Alexander-Arnold is absolutely brilliant at the popping up part.

It also very much looks like a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Alexander-Arnold is the perfect right-back for a Jurgen Klopp team purely because he is so much more than a right-back. There seems little reason to change that.

It was fitting indeed that he should provide the dramatic conclusion to this dramatically entertaining game because he was at the heart of everything Liverpool did. It’s no longer anything new, but it still remains a dazzling thing to watch a right-back dictate terms and control a game from such a theoretically unpromising starting position.

He may not have been credited with the game’s first goal, but it was a stunning free-kick that cannoned off the bar and the unfortunate Bernd Leno to open the scoring – which feels like it happened about 400 years ago such was the drama between that moment and the winner moments after Wataru Endo had made it 3-3.

What doubt there was about the winner was a very modern concern that VAR might ruin it. Watching Alexander-Arnold drill the ball home live was met with only some of the excitement the moment should have generated, because the inevitable first thought was that there might have been a foul by Konstantinos Tsimikas.

All was well. It wasn’t a foul, but was exactly the sort of not-quite-a-foul you worry VAR is going to get interested in. Among the many irritations with VAR, this one is still right at the top of the list: even when it doesn’t actually do anything, the mere constant threat of it lurking in the background is enough to make great moments ever so slightly less great than they might be.

Liverpool will not, on this occasion, be too perturbed. The winner was deserved based on the 90 minutes of entertainment but still horribly cruel on a Fulham side who played such a full part in that entertainment on a Sunday absolutely full of such fun across the board.

The third goal that for a while threatened to deliver all three points for Fulham was a reminder that full-backs do still have defensive responsibilities. Tsimikas has filled in admirably for Andy Robertson in recent weeks but was at fault here in making Bobby De Cordova-Reid’s task far too simple by failing even to really compete for the ball.

But he was in fact just setting us all up for the spectacular denouement, where he certainly did compete for the ball – legally, thankfully – to tee up Liverpool’s best player on the day to keep them firmly on the tail of leaders Arsenal.