Liverpool go head-to-head with Manchester City in the Premier once again next Sunday.
Billed as being the latest high-quality instalment of matches between the sides, Liverpool’s Premier League meeting with Manchester City on this day four years ago failed to live up to expectations.
A total of 12 goals were scored in the two league meetings between the teams during the 2017/18 campaign, ensuring end-to-end action was expected to be on the agenda as the they prepared to lock horns at the start of the 2018/19 season.
Both clubs had remained undefeated in their opening seven top-flight fixtures and it was already clear to see a title battle was already beginning to unfold, making this a match neither manager could stand the thought of losing.
Indeed, that sentiment was reflected on the pitch as a cagey, goalless draw was played out at Anfield. Riyad Mahrez spurned the chance to snatch all three points for the visitors by sending his penalty kick high and wide, though a share of the spoils was undoubtedly the fair outcome.
A cautious approach was taken by both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, highlighted by a combined number of shots on target of only four and the squad selection of the Liverpool boss regarding one particular position.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, who had featured in every league fixture up until this point, was dropped to the bench as Joe Gomez slotted in at right-back. Alexander-Arnold had experienced the almighty task of directly defending against Leroy Sane the previous season and many viewed this as a tactical change to suppress the attacking talent of the German.
Sharing a tweet ahead of kick-off, former Liverpool midfielder Don Hutchison said: “Pep has won the team sheet battle. Klopp thought Pep would play Sane, so Klopp playing Gomez at right-back as he is quicker than Trent. #tactics.”
In the end, it turned out Sane failed to make the starting XI but made his presence felt during the 12 minutes he spent on the pitch as a substitute after winning a penalty following a Virgil van Dijk challenge.
Clearing up his team selection in the days following the game in respect of right-back, Klopp told reporters of Alexander-Arnold: “He is a fantastic boy and a fantastic player. Thank God we have a few options to change the line-up.
I don’t think it’s a challenge but if a player struggles with something like that [being dropped] he will struggle over his career. It was his birthday the City game so I thought the night before a lot of people might have contacted him so I didn’t want to disturb all these message exchanges. Joe can play there and with respect deserved to play. I think about the players I line-up first, not what it would mean for Trent. It was nothing. He came back in a good shape and a good mood.”
There have not been many occasions since this day whereby Liverpool’s No.66 has needed to be taken out of the firing line, though the Liverpool boss may well have been tempted in recent weeks. It is no secret the defender, who turns 24 today, has endured a challenging start to the season alongside many of his other team-mates.
Alexander-Arnold responded to his critics in style on Tuesday evening with a reminder of just what he offers to this Liverpool team, not that his manager required reminding of his talents. Despite certain individuals clamouring for the full-back to lose his starting spot, Klopp has allowed the West Derby-born star to let his feet do the talking.
Tough examinations await Alexander-Arnold in the next two league games as he prepares to go head-to-head with Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli, followed by forming part of a backline tasked with shutting out the prolific Erling Haaland.
Only Klopp can decide whether or not he believes the Reds’ Academy graduate is capable of holding his own under such circumstances as Liverpool prepare for what could be a turning point in their season, taking on first and second in successive weeks.