Dave Tindall reflects on two positive results in this week’s Red Letter column – and contemplates Liverpool’s bright young talents and the likely end of another’s two players’ time at Anfield.
It wasn’t particularly pretty but most Liverpool fans would have accepted a draw at Manchester United and progress in the FA Cup.
Although frustrating in that we were just six minutes plus injury time away from holding out for a 1-0 win, the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford was a good point overall.
It kept the gap between us and United at five, stopped us slipping to fourth and maintained our excellent record against other teams in the top six.
That’s now three wins and two draws – 11 points from five games – vs Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United and, of course, four of those matches were played away from home.
Psychologically, the draw felt like a forward move again after the hiccups against Sunderland, Plymouth (first leg) and Southampton – especially as we were without key players while they had all their star men.
As Klopp said, United resorted to long-ball tactics to get back into the game and they looked fairly ordinary.
We hardly sparkled but had more shots on goal than them and they were the team with all the momentum coming into the match.
There were some decent displays but most impressive was the performance of youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Thrown in at the deep end after Nathaniel Clyne was declared unfit, the 18-year-old showed an exciting mix of verve and maturity on his first Premier League start and didn’t look out of place one bit.
Three nights later and he was one of the Reds most assured performers in the FA Cup win at Plymouth, stopping what looked a certain equaliser with his pace and positional awareness.
Gerrard praise for Alexander-Arnold
Liverpool fans have now seen with their own eyes what a talent he is but it’s intriguing that, at age 16, he came in for a special mention in Steven Gerrard’s most recent autobiography.
Gerrard had seen the youngster in action at Melwood and wrote: “Trent Arnold has a terrific chance of making it as a top professional.
“He’s quite leggy but he’s got a lovely frame and seems to have all the attributes you need.
“He has the right attitude and comes from West Derby, home to Melwood. So Trent is another Scouser and apparently, just as I tried to be John Barnes and Steve McMahon, he grew up pretending to be me while playing in the Merseyside parks.
“He can play as a number 6, a holding midfielder, but he’s versatile and I’ve seen him fill various positions. I know England are all over him.”
Prophetic words Stevie! Right now, he’s perfect as a back-up for Clyne but, as Gerrard notes, Alexander-Arnold could slot in elsewhere. Quite simply, he has a huge future.
Teenage kicks show Liverpool a glimpse of the future
Thinking about the future was the central theme at Plymouth.
When the full-time whistle went, we had six teenagers on the pitch and full credit to Jurgen Klopp for throwing them in when the game was in the balance and it would have been tempting to keep the established stars on.
So, just how big a future do these young starlets have? That remains to be seen but Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez are already oozing class.
Sturridge sale looks likely after Liverpool tipping point was reached
Equally, but from a very different perspective, what does the future hold for Daniel Sturridge and Lucas Leiva?
Lucas can still do a job in games like this although his winning goal was a complete bonus. He hadn’t scored one for 201 games!
If the Brazilian left, we’d pat him on the back and thank him for the many years of service.
Sturridge’s situation is more complex. If we let him go, we could come to regret it big time.
And yet, the more I watch him, the more I see a player lacking the zip and energy needed to play in a Klopp team.
The bottom line for Sturridge is goals and if he was knocking them in at an incredible rate, he critics would have nowhere to go.
But his tally this season is six in 17 games. It’s hardly compelling.
Perhaps it’s time to accept that he doesn’t fit the plan although I’d rather that decision was taken in the summer as his goal power could still help us achieve big things this season.
Divock Origi is still blowing hot and cold so Sturridge is still needed for now.
I continue to think that the England striker is of most use when Liverpool play at home and need that extra bit of clever movement to create openings. Away from Anfield, he just doesn’t seem to have the legs to close down or stretch teams.
As it happens, we now have back-to-back home games coming up – Swansea on Saturday and Southampton in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final – so, potentially, Sturridge has the chance to shine again.
Perhaps this time next week if he’s fired us to Wembley I’ll be singing his praises again.
But, after much reluctance, I think I’ve finally reached the tipping point where I’m happy to let him go in the summer if the right bid comes in.