If you turned your TV off in a sulk at half-time at around 8.45pm on Thursday evening, you’re not alone.
On the brink of half-time in Liverpool‘s clash with Burnley at Anfield, Trent Alexander-Arnold stepped up to take a free-kick on the edge of the box…and shanked it into the stand.
After a team performance that was so collectively poor that it has since been labelled the hallmark of a genuine crisis, it may seem peculiar to zero in on one moment of fleeting wastefulness. But it was a clear symptom of a wider problem – Liverpool’s creative threat from the right has lost his swagger.
We’ve seen it festering since his dreary display against Newcastle just after Christmas, where he gave the ball away 31 times – more than any player had in a single Premier League game to that point.
He has since surrendered possession 38 times against Southampton and 39 times against Burnley. He’s losing a competition to himself and he looks clueless as to how to stop it.
Liverpool were bereft of ideas on the whole against the Clarets, their usual incisive passing making way for a shoot-on-sight approach that left Nick Pope far more comfortable than his eight saves suggests. But where they would normally look to Alexander-Arnold for inspiration, it was nowhere to be found. Incredibly, he attempted 21 crosses, and just one of them found a red shirt.
It was a corner.
With most pieces in the series, like with Timo Werner and Zinedine Zidane, it can be difficult to answer the question directly. Don’t let its simplicity fool you – What’s going on, buddy? has multitudes.
With Trent, though, the answer is straightforward. As is the case with many of his team-mates, he looks burned out, and desperately lacking in self-belief.
The ideal solution might be to leave him out of the team for a short spell, but that’s not a luxury Jurgen Klopp can afford while his two primary centre-backs are on the sidelines. If his defence gets any more make-shift then it is at risk of crumbling like a shoddily-build Ikea desk – not ideal when they’ve gone 432 minutes without scoring.
It’s unfair to point the finger entirely at Alexander-Arnold here, of course. It’s easy to lose among all the assists and accolades that he is just 22. The responsibility to dig Liverpool out of the doldrums falls on everyone, and once the more experienced players around him rediscover the winning mentality that carried them to the title last season, we should start to see his best form shine through.
Part of what has made Alexander-Arnold such a revelation to this point, though, has been his restless streak – the ability to make things happen, matched by a burning desire to use it, even when the chips are down.
He has never been one to drop his head, but when he watched his strike against Burnley sail wide, there was a look of quiet resignation on his face that may put Klopp’s man-management skills to the test over the next few weeks.