Champions League final hopefuls Liverpool were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to relegation-threatened Stoke on Saturday.
Mohamed Salah was guilty of profligacy with a rare first-half opportunity missed while teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold was also denied from close range.
Every week we pick one player under the age of 23 from one of Europe’s top-5 leagues and analyse their performance and it was the turn of Reds teenager Alexander-Arnold.
Goals – 0
Assists – 0
Shots – 1
Shots on target – 1
Touches – 50
Passes – 34
Pass Accuracy – 70.6%
Key passes – 0
Crosses – 4
Interesting team. 3/5 at the back or Alexander-Arnold in midfield? Either way it's strong and has to be fancied to get the job done. #LFC— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) April 28, 2018
The 19-year-old was the subject of hot debate pre-match as to exactly where he would be deployed.
Jurgen Klopp was tight lipped to TV cameras as to Liverpool’s set-up in the wake of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s unfortunate knee injury against Roma.
But Alexander-Arnold did indeed make a first senior appearance as a centre-midfielder in a three alongside Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum having played through the middle during his development in Liverpool’s youth systems.
He largely alternated between spaces at right-wing-back and centre-mid but time and time again he was let down by infuriatingly wayward deliveries into the channel from Joe Gomez.
The talented teenager was impressive on the ball, though, particularly in the first 45 minutes when he carried the hosts’ attack.
Second-half he swapped to RWB as the Reds bolted into a 3-4-3 shape with Gomez coming inside before being brought off past the hour.
First touch – It wasn’t just that his feel for the ball was excellent, it was his clever body position to manipulate space before receiving the ball which was impressive.
Precision passing – Although his accuracy was down at 70 per cent, his passes were enterprising and the weight of distribution short or long was well weighted.
Eager delivery – One of his finest assets is his expert delivery but the teenager can be a little too eager to unholster that weapon with team-mates caught a little by surprise.
Finishing – He twice burst into the box to pick up a good late position but on both occasions his finishing was awkward and lacked the type of composure we’re accustomed to.
4th minute CHANCE: Roberto Firmino has time to bring the ball under control via his chest on the edge of the Stoke box before slipping a pass along the inside-right channel for Alexander-Arnold. Under pressure from Eric Pieters, he scuffs his initial touch and clatters into Jack Butland as the ball skitters out of harms way.
20th minute SHOT: Firmino sweeps tackle-come pass from left to right and Salah cushions the ball down, cuts back for the onrushing Alexander-Arnold but the ball bounces up off an awkward first touch and, off-balance, his shot is easily stopped from close range.
31st minute CHANCE: Ball breaks in midfield, Alexander-Arnold drives from deep and threads a nicely weighted pass into the space for Salah to attack, Jack Butland is rapid off his line to claim but the ball slips from his grasp and the Egyptian picks up the loose possession before being fouled on the edge of the box.
64th minute SUBSTITUTION: Alexander-Arnold’s senior debut as a centre-midfielder is brought to a close. Did appear to be struggling with a hip complaint going into the break so a sensible decision with him no doubt required for Wednesday’s semi-final second leg in Rome.
On a dire day for the Reds, Alexander-Arnold was a bright spot. Klopp will be fuming with his side’s overall deficiencies but will be quietly happy he has another trusted lieutenant to operate in midfield.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Two Italians have been charged following an assault on 53-year-old Sean Cox, who is in a critical condition, ahead of the first leg at Anfield this week and a delegation from the club met officials from UEFA, police and the Serie A club in the Italian capital on Friday to discuss their issues.
Klopp admits he is still shocked by what happened on Tuesday but hopes there will be no repeat next week.
“As you can imagine all our thoughts and prayers at this moment are with Sean and his family,” said the Reds boss, who at his pre-match press conference wore a Liverbird badge in the colours of the Irish tricolour in support of Cox and his family.
“I think the game on Tuesday showed the beauty of the game during the game and showed it’s most ugly face of parts of the game before the game.
“When I first heard of it I cannot describe my emotions in English. It should never have happened, it should never have happened before and it should not happen in the future and we all have to do everything to make sure things like that will not happen any more.
“I obviously don’t have the solution for it, probably no-one has that, but it is unbelievable that something like this can happen.”
On fan behaviour and the suggestion there could be more trouble involving Liverpool supporters, Klopp said: “Since I’ve been here I’ve never heard anything about that. I can’t remember anything like that.
“Of course it is difficult to police but the police, as I understand, will do the job.
“It is common sense. What can I say which they don’t already know and if I say it would that change it?
“It is easy to say: behave like how you want to be treated yourself. If you are in the street you want to be safe, that’s how it is.”
Worries over the safety of fans next week dominated preparations for Saturday’s visit of Stoke.
Klopp has a number of injury worries with only three fit senior midfielders after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s season was ended by a knee ligament problem sustained in the 5-2 win over Roma.
“I have no words for that,” said Klopp.
“I cannot believe that this wonderful player, person, in such a positive situation, helping the team, having a clear, clear challenge, something like this happens.
“It’s just a shame, it’s not fair, to be honest.
“I told him we will wait for him like a good wife when a man is in prison.”
Klopp also has a concern over Sadio Mane, who was pictured visiting a private hospital in the city on Thursday.
“He was only visiting a friend,” he joked.
“Of course there is something. We will see.
“It is not that serious; there is a chance for tomorrow. If we use that chance or not… it is quite early in the day.
“In these times, you always have to use each second and minute, speak to the player, speak to the doctor, speak to the physiotherapists and all that stuff.
“At the end, you have to make a decision and I will make a decision.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Press Association Sport has been told the former Liverpool and England skipper has jumped straight to the top of the Scottish club’s wish list after talks were launched last week.
The 37-year-old hung up his boots after a 12-month stint with LA Galaxy and has spent the time since cutting his teeth with the Reds’ Under-18s.
Rangers chairman Dave King was spotted at Anfield on Tuesday night as Liverpool took on Roma in their Champions League semi-final – a match where Gerrard was working as a television pundit.
Klopp said: “I am not worried. Whatever he wants to do we will support him in that. There is no decision. I can imagine clubs are interested in signing Stevie, (he has) massive experience as a player so I would think about him signing for a club. We will support him in all directions.”