Here Comes the Young STAApper

[Liverpool 2 – 1 Aston Villa].

You know one of the things that makes champions? That ability to pull the iron out of the fire, seemingly out of nowhere, when their momentum is spent and a game’s dying embers are growing cold? In the historic last season (and, for what it’s worth, the one before as well), Liverpool did this all the time. Heck, they even did it to Villa themselves. It became so common the term “Kloppage Time” got coined.

Oh, how we missed you, coined term.

There is no denying it anymore. With this game, the third win in a row in the premier league, the first in Anfield for I don’t care to even remember how long, Liverpool’s engine has clearly sputtered back to life. The starter has caught, the clutch went in (ha), and first gear is on, not a moment too soon. It is only fitting that the one who kept it alive at all, Mo Salah, was first on the score sheet. It was a brilliant poacher’s effort, and it serves to underline the Egyptian’s rather remarkable season, as he is somehow still up there in the Golden Boot race. To be fair, it was Bobby who scored first for the Reds, but as has become a sort of sad joke when it comes to Liverpool, this time it was a loose shirt string dangling off of Jota’s elbow that VAR judged to have marked him offside in the lead-up to the play.

And even though they chalked it off, Bobby will have gained confidence from his clever finish, and that will serve the team well in the last stretch.

Ollie Watkins did well to run up his tab with Liverpool, with an emphatic finish that Alisson was ultimately unlucky to deflect into his own goal. But Liverpool got much luckier later on when a brilliant Trezegues strike hit the inside post and ended up on right side of the goal line. This strange sort of luck is another aspect of winning teams, and that may have been a bit of a signal that it could decide to settle back in merseyside.

It would be a welcome tenant.

The best, however, was kept to last. Trent Alexander-Arnold could not have possibly hit that ball any more sweetly. In fact, no one could; it would be a brilliant finish from any player in any position on the field. The stop from Martinez to deny Thiago his first that led to the opportunity was world-class, but young TAA still had a lot to do. There were some six white shirts between him and the goal. He made it look elegant, as he cushioned the ball, stepped over it, and then drove the laces through it to fire it into the far corner, a world-class beauty that should add nicely to his already burgeoning highlights reel.

A midfielder in fullback’s clothes, this one.

It’s hard to pick a man-of-the-match in a game like this. Amongst the ones who may have earned it, Trent has a claim for it, but he made some potentially costly errors in the back. Jota was energetic and a constant thorn for Villa, but also somewhat wasteful. The same can be said for Bobby and Fab, who otherwise did a lot to stop Villa from building up a head of steam. Mo was Mo, and Phillips was Phillips, meaning they both did very well in their roles, and one of them probably deserves it. But I like to take opportunities like this to name someone unexpected, and in this case, I give it to Alisson, who had to be constantly aware of the extreme danger poised by a spirited Villa. They could otherwise have easily ended up with another ridiculous tally against the Reds were it not for him. And I’m counting not only their shots on goal, but also the many counters he broke down before they became another attempt on target.

In a season like this one, even little winning streaks can make a big difference, as Liverpool is proving right now. A crucial top-four finish is ever more likely, as the other teams in the vicinity all have to play each other while Liverpool mostly has to deal with bottom-half opposition. This is what makes the premier league so compelling.

And, perhaps optimistically, momentum at this stage can be decisive.