What do Martin Odegaard, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Bruno Fernandes, Youri Tielemans, Raheem Sterling, Michael Olise, Rodri, Bruno Guimaraes, and Gabriel Jesus have in common? Obviously they’re all really good at football and play in the Premier League, sure, but what else?
You are absolutely correct — they all have the same amount of Premier League assists as Conor Bradley this season.
The thing is, Conor Bradley has managed that feat in just two league appearances for Liverpool so far.
Now, obviously there are statistical blips from time to time — Fabian Schar went a season-and-a-half without scoring until he bundled two in against Villa on Tuesday and, if that was the first football match you’d ever seen, you’d think Schar was a prolific striker.
Then there was Federico Macheda scoring a wonder goal in his first game for Manchester United, being hyped up as the next Del Piero… Macheda is currently on the eighth loan spell of his career, in Cyprus this time, which sounds really nice, to be fair.
This feels different, though. There is bursting onto the scene, and then there is grabbing the scene by its ball bag and making the scene a bit scared of you. Conor Bradley’s performance last night had the scene eyeing him warily, the way you might look at an unpredictable dog, wondering what he’s going to do next.
There were tackles, dribbles, tidy pieces of skill, threaded balls, long balls, foot races won, two assists, and a goal. You don’t produce performances like that against (an admittedly poor) Chelsea by fluke.
It was the ultimate coming-of-age performance, and one we’ll be thinking about for quite some time. If Conor Bradley’s performance last night were a film, it would be Stand By Me, where those kids walk down the railroad tracks and find a body in a swamp, and essentially come home as traumatised young men.
Naturally there were key elements of that classic film missing in last night’s game, thank goodness, but Conor Bradley definitively came of age. Conor Bradley is now of age.
Conor Bradley vs Chelsea:
Tonight, our boy came of age.
— Watch LFC (@Watch_LFC) February 1, 2024
It’s the first assist that clinches it for us. Bradley steals the ball from Ben Chilwell, plays a little one-two with Dominik Szoboszlai, bursts down the right wing, gives it to Diogo Jota on the edge of the box and then bursts into the penalty area, demanding the ball back for a shot on goal.
Not asking; he is demanding the ball from Portugal international forward Diogo Jota.
Jota wriggles through Chelsea’s backline like an agitated gerbil and he scores. Thankfully, too. Because if he hadn’t, we think Bradley might actually have lamped him.
That level of confidence in only your second league appearance is, frankly, absolutely absurd. The stones to rock up to the cauldron that is Anfield post-Klopp departure announcement and put in a performance like that. The cheek of it.
Something big is happening on Merseyside, and Trent Alexander-Arnold must be shaking in his lovely Preds-with-the-tongue-strap.
Sod it — if Bradley keeps going the way he is, he won’t just be taking Trent’s chain as he forces him into midfield, he’ll be taking those gorgeous boots off him as well.
By Andrew Martin