Jurgen Klopp saw his Liverpool side fall to another chastening defeat against Arsenal on Sunday, and Trent Alexander-Arnold has once again come in for some heavy criticism.
Jurgen Klopp saw Liverpool’s title hopes effectively go up in smoke at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
The Reds headed into the crunch clash against Arsenal knowing that they simply could not afford to lose against the Premier League’s early pace-setters. But after a frenetic 3-2 defeat, Liverpool are now 14 points off their rivals at the summit of the league – a total that makes another tilt at the title extremely unlikely.
Liverpool struggled at times to contain Arsenal, who well and truly underlined their own title credentials by exposing the same frailties that have plagued the Reds all season.
Liverpool’s defence has been their Achilles heel this term, and once again, the Reds were breached far too easily – this time inside 60 seconds. And it was Gabriel Martinelli, a player known very well by Klopp, who put Liverpool to the sword.
The Reds chief has previously waxed lyrical about the “outstanding” Brazilian winger and has even described the youngster as a “talent of the century”.
But despite Klopp’s obvious admiration for Martinelli, he was instead left raving about the man who stifled the Arsenal forward following an imperious display by Trent Alexander-Arnold back in March – and he was clearly confident that the England man could repeat that feat against the Gunners’ dangerman in Sunday’s seismic showdown.
Trent defended incredibly,” Klopp insisted earlier this year in the wake of criticism aimed at Alexander-Arnold. “Martinelli is such a talented boy. It’s really tricky. If anyone says Trent can’t defend, they should come to me and I’ll knock them down. I cannot hear that anymore, I don’t know what the boy has to do.”
Unfortunately, that claim came back to haunt Klopp on Sunday as Martinelli ran riot at the Emirates against the Reds full-back. Alexander-Arnold was completely oblivious to the winger’s whereabouts and caught cold when Martin Odegaard slipped the ball beyond him at the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal’s opening goal.
Martinelli’s composed first-minute finish laid down a marker for the rest of the afternoon – he continued to torment Alexander-Arnold on that flank and was by far Arsenal’s most influential attacking player. With that in mind, perhaps it was inevitable that Liverpool’s under-fire right-back would come unstuck again right on the stroke of half-time.
The Reds – who had restored parity through Darwin Nunez – were left with a mountain to climb after Alexander-Arnold was lured out wide to engage with Martinelli, despite the fact that Jordan Henderson had already moved over to try and snuff out the danger. The full-back’s decision left the rest of Liverpool’s defence exposed and Bukayo Saka was gifted with a simple tap-in at the far post.
That moment capped another torrid afternoon for Alexander-Arnold, who was withdrawn at the break after taking a heavy blow to the foot. But his reputation took another battering at the hands of Martinelli before his half-time reprieve.
Alexander-Arnold’s defensive shortcomings have been highlighted time and time again already this season; just last week the 24-year-old was exposed by Brighton star Leandro Trossard, who netted a stunning hat-trick against the Reds.
But still, Klopp’s faith in Alexander-Arnold did not waiver. He was banking on the defender to repay that faith by bouncing back and stifling Martinelli once again to keep Liverpool’s title hopes alive. However, only one player managed to vindicate Klopp’s glowing pre-match verdict – and unfortunately for Liverpool, it certainly wasn’t their man.