Thursday, June 17
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Liverpool analysis – Trent Alexander-Arnold a victim of own success as new star emerges – Liverpool Echo

Captain Trent

While a 1-1 draw with FC Midtjylland in a Champions League dead-rubber is not a famous European night that Liverpool fans are likely to remember, it is one that Trent Alexander-Arnold will never forget.

The 22-year-old captained his boyhood side for the first time in his career, fulfilling a lifelong dream and following in the footsteps of two of his heroes.

Becoming the third-youngest captain in Reds history, the right-back was also the youngest Liverpool skipper in European competition since Jamie Carragher against Rapid Bucharest back in 2000.

Meanwhile, in being handed the armband at the age of 22, Alexander-Arnold follows in the path of Steven Gerrard who served as vice-captain to Sami Hyypia for a year before being named permanent captain as a 23-year-old in October 2003.

As he idolised Gerrard and Carragher, the next generation idolise him.

A Premier League, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup winner, the Scouser has already achieved so much in his young career.

Yet he’ll be disappointed by how the evening turned out with a shaky, youthful Liverpool defensive display in the second half ultimately costing them all three points on a night they were calling out for a leader.

Unable to get forward and impact the game as much as he would like, Alexander-Arnold is clearly still feeling his way back from injury.

Handed his first start for a month following his return against Wolves, he has admittedly endured a stop-start campaign.

Injured in pre-season, the right-back has been playing catch-up from the get-go in this unprecedented campaign and is yet to demonstrate the displays that saw him named PFA Young Player of the Season last season.

His assist for Liverpool’s fourth goal against Wolves was his first domestically this season and while his total of three assists from 13 appearances this campaign is respectable, it highlights the defender’s talents that he has not met the standards he has set before.

The captaincy can wait, for now he needs to focus on getting back to full fitness and back to his best.

With Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Virgil van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum all ahead of him in the captaincy ranks, Alexander-Arnold will have to be patient for such an opportunity again, even as the Liverpool squad continues to be plagued by injury.

He has the right leaders to learn from, and while he didn’t put in a performance befitting of the occasion against Midtjylland and he won’t be inheriting the armband permanently anytime soon, rest assured his time will come.

VAR-RRRGGH

What is it about Liverpool and VAR?

Be it the Premier League or the Champions League, the Reds are never too far away from their latest video technology controversy.

And while Sunday saw a rare instance of VAR awarded in Liverpool’s favour to overrule a Wolves penalty decision, the Reds were left cursing it once again in Denmark against Midtjylland.

First utilised to award the Danes a penalty after Caoimhin Kelleher was adjudged to have clipped Anders Dreyer, despite the assistant referee ruling for offside, though one VAR angle belatedly appeared to show the forward in line with Liverpool’s last defender.

It’s hard to ignore such comparisons to October’s Merseyside derby when Virgil van Dijk saw his season ended by an atrocious challenge by Jordan Pickford, only for no penalty to be awarded because the Dutchman was offside by the tightest of margins.

So which is the correct ruling?

FC Midtjylland vs Liverpool

In a decision going Liverpool’s way, the Danes were denied a winner when Alexander Scholz from an acute angle only to be ruled out for offside after a lengthy VAR review.

But the most contentious was still to come as Takumi Minamino’s late winner was ruled out for a handball against Sadio Mane with angles of the incident unclear.

VAR was supposed to be introduced to make the officials’ lives easier but in truth, it is just an inconsistent, confusing mess.

And unlike hawkeye ruling out goals by the narrowest of margins on the line, all VAR has done is induce further debate.

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Meant to advise for clear and obvious errors, we’re now far beyond such usage.

A decision might be technically accurate but gone is the skill in a forward timing his run to stay onside with benefit of the doubt now a thing of the past.

In a year where the sport has already been struggling without the passion of fans inside stadiums, this cold way of policing matches has robbed football of its humanity.

Is it any wonder Jurgen Klopp admitted he is no longer in favour of the system after the game?

Leighton living the dream

Having made his Liverpool debut last season in last season’s 5-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup, before turning out in the 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury Town, Leighton Clarkson was able to run out for a Jurgen Klopp side for the first time on Wednesday night.

While his third club outing might have been his first opportunity to play for ‘Liverpool proper’ the 19-year-old can sleep well after a job well done on his Champions League debut.

The Reds injury crisis has seen them forced to turn to a number of youngsters this season and the majority have delivered.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

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Curtis Jones is now well-established in Klopp’s first team squad, following in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s footsteps, Neco Williams is building on his performances last season as he eyes a place in Wales’ EURO 2020 squad and Caoimhin Kelleher and Rhys Williams have both ensured the Anfield product line keeps producing.

And while the duo have both grabbed their opportunities in Europe this season, it was the turn of Clarkson in Denmark.

The standout performer in Liverpool’s youngest ever team to play in the Champions League, his passing was a particular highlight in midfield as he showcased his ability as a number six to justify his start.

The Reds’ midfield is well-stacked so further opportunities this season might well be limited, but Clarkson has shown he can be trusted if called upon.

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