Welcome to the New Year, same as the last one.
As the rain tumbled down and a wind blew to chill the bones of the dead, Liverpool and Newcastle served up an absurdist piece of drama with enough incident to fill five matches.
It was the kind of match that the Premier League does best; don’t think too hard about the long-term consequences, but perfect to nurse a hangover and make your WhatsApp group pop off.
Liverpool should’ve beaten Newcastle by a greater scoreline than 4-2. In fact, if Newcastle had been beaten 8-1, Eddie Howe could’ve done nothing but front up to the camera and admit his side deserved their paddling.
The Premier League table-toppers were irresistible going forward; Mohamed Salah scored twice despite looking unerringly like Krusty the Clown, while Luis Diaz was back to his 2021-22 self.
Even Darwin Nunez, despite his familiar catalogue of misses that would’ve had Einstein scratching his head, was a menace to the opposition defence like an XL Bully let loose in the local park.
None were Liverpool’s star performer. It was the Scouser in their team that stole the show.
It took Trent Alexander-Arnold mere minutes to turn Anthony Gordon into mincemeat, drifting down the left touchline with his temporary enemy in pursuit before sending him into the Irish sea with a subtle shimmy.
Much was made of Alexander-Arnold’s inverted role last year, drifting into midfield and peppering Liverpool’s attackers with passes that left mere mortals reaching for their geometry set.
But yesterday’s pummelling of
Saudi Arabia’s finest Newcastle saw the England international float all over the pitch, like a plastic bag in a tornado, with devastating effect.
Trent sending Gordon back to St.James'park.. pic.twitter.com/lC1KnjhKBZ
— Salah's Era (@Jimmyp1892) January 2, 2024
The cherry on top of this delicious Victoria sponge of a performance was his improvised attempt at wrapping up the Puskas Award on 2024’s opening night.
At an angle that made impossible feel something of an understatement, Alexander-Arnold lashed the ball into the gap between Martin Dubravka and the net like he was prime Roberto Carlos.
Only the party-pooping woodwork denied the Liverpool man his place amongst the gods.
Stop that Trent. pic.twitter.com/XuEnY3TQMH
— Stop That Football (@stopthatfooty) January 2, 2024
Speaking to Sky Sports earlier this season, Alexander-Arnold said of how he has adapted to his new role: “On the right side of the pitch you are quite limited because most of the time you are quite close to the touchline so you cannot pass to the right.
“When you are in the middle, you can pass left and right.
“It opens up that passing option to the right out to Mo or whoever it is occupying that space out there.
“The only time I was connected to Robbo was a big switch of play. Now it is a much shorter pass.
“It is a lot more connected. I feel like I am able to dictate games in there as well. You get more chance to get on the ball and dictate the tempo, dictate when and where we attack. Just that feeling of being in control of games.”
As the Liverpool supporters filtered away from Anfield to somewhere warm and dry, Alexander-Arnold had already carried his superb 2023 form into the New Year.
With a genuine game-breaker pulling the strings wherever he sees fit, Jurgen Klopp’s side could have a glorious 12 months ahead of them.
By Michael Lee