Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp continues to be bemused at critics who claim Trent Alexander-Arnold cannot defend.
The England right-back was a decisive force in the 1-0 win over West Ham which kept up the pressure in the title race, providing the cross for Sadio Mane’s winner and then effecting a brilliant goal-line clearance at the other end.
“Absolutely, I don’t understand that, that’s true, but I don’t think I will change that with whatever I will say,” said Klopp when asked if he knew why the 23-year-old’s defensive game continued to attract scrutiny.
“But if he couldn’t defend, he would not play here – at least not that in that position.
“He improved in all departments and defending of course as well, but he is that young that he can improve and has to improve, but yes, his defending is not a problem we have.”
There are no such questions about his ability at the other end of the pitch and he proved it again with a 16th assist of the season.
That equalled club great Steven Gerrard’s record for a single season and beat Alexander-Arnold’s own previous best from 2018-19 and 2019-20.
“When you see him playing I think we help him a little bit with positioning and stuff like this,” added Klopp.
“We try to bring him into positions, formation-wise, where he can be that influential but of course it’s all about him and his skill-set and his quality and his right foot and his overview.
“That’s it, that he is really in the situation and focused to set up goals in these moments, that he knows where are the dangerous situations and positions in the opposition box or around that and really tries to bring the ball there.
“It’s very helpful if you work together for a longer time because the strikers obviously expect that as well.
“It was a brilliant run from Sadio for the goal – and I don’t think it was a shot, by the way, I really think he wanted to bring the ball in the box and then you need somebody who picks it up.
“That was Sadio in this moment, a really good goal.”
Despite a run of just two wins in seven Premier League matches which has stalled their charge for the top four Hammers boss David Moyes, who left Anfield for the 18th successive time without victory, is seeing improvements.
And to that end he intends to keep faith with the same clutch of players and will keep rotation down to a minimum.
“We nearly put out the same team again (as Wednesday’s FA Cup defeat to Southampton) and I’m going to keep doing it,” he said.
“If it runs aground it runs aground. What I will say is the players have done a brilliant job.”