Trent Alexander-Arnold undaunted by Liverpool’s quadruple quest

Alexander-Arnold takes a corner against Villarreal from the same spot he stunned Barcelona three years ago

Trent Alexander-Arnold feels an appropriate person to discuss what Jurgen Klopp calls “the second most important game you can play” and not merely because, at the tender age of 23, he is already midway through his third. Liverpool’s history in European Cup or Champions League semi-finals dates back to 1965 and incorporates eight times when they have progressed to what Klopp terms the biggest match of all, but Alexander-Arnold was the architect of their greatest moment on this stage. It was his quickly taken corner, when only two people in Anfield felt alert to the possibility, that led to Divock Origi’s decider against Barcelona three years ago.

His semi-final second legs have been epics in their own way: a 4-2 loss to Roma, which was not enough to overturn the 5-2 advantage Liverpool took from Anfield, and the 4-0 humiliation of Barcelona. Now, with Liverpool 2-0 up on Villarreal, he is hoping for a less memorable affair. “Looking back on the two previous semis, we made it quite difficult for ourselves, especially in the second legs we had to dig deep and see the game out,” Alexander-Arnold reflected. “We go there to win the game, score goals and put the game to bed. It is easier said than done.”

With Villarreal seventh in La Liga, Liverpool having won each of their European away games this season and Klopp’s side yet to lose by two goals in the campaign, it could feel a formality. Liverpool are trying to guard against such sentiments. But if anyone could be forgiven for feeling this is normal, it is Alexander-Arnold. He faced Roma in the last four at 19, Barcelona at 20. Now, at 23, he could be entitled to think several more semi-finals will follow, that this is just how football works.

Klopp may have inadvertently encouraged that, his new four-year contract suggesting Liverpool’s modern-day golden age will extend to at least 2026. “It gives us that boost that we have four more years of these kinds of seasons to come,” the right-back said.

And yet his manager warned: “We have an exceptional team here but you need luck. You never know if you will reach a semi-final again.” Alexander-Arnold agreed: “It is easy to get that complacency where you think: ‘We have got world-class players, world-class staff, a world-class manager, this is our third semi-final in five years so we will probably get there again and so it doesn’t matter’. That is not the case with us. We don’t know if we are going to get this opportunity [again].”

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Alexander-Arnold showed precocious calmness in his last Champions League semi-final second leg, the youngest player on the pitch thinking clearer than anyone else to pick out Origi. Three years on, he has the experience of 220 games for his hometown club, many high-pressure affairs, but seems to retain the fearlessness of youth. Liverpool had selected Alexander-Arnold to speak to the media at the same point in 2019 when, without the injured Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, they trailed Barcelona 3-0. He sounded confident then and was vindicated by a stunning turnaround. Now, with the cameras and microphones on again, he appeared undaunted by their quadruple quest.

Alexander-Arnold was just 20 when he helped shock Barcelona

“I feel like this is always the best time of the season,” he said. “These are the exciting games. You want to be playing in these, you want everything on the line. It is exciting, the buzz you get from scoring a goal and knowing it is important. Naby [Keita]’s goal on Saturday… there was a feeling, ‘this is a big goal’. The same with Hendo’s cross-shot against Villarreal.” If that was a deliberately cheeky reference to Jordan Henderson’s opener last week, Alexander-Arnold was pictured laughing on the bench, as he was rested, when the captain got a rare chance to shoot from a free kick at Newcastle on Saturday and dispatched it some way wide. “Don’t,” he smiled, when reminded of his reaction. “I have had it in my ear for that.”

If it showed the relaxed attitude in the camp, he would rather be reminded about semi-final successes than wayward set-pieces. “When you do get so close you do get those memories of what it felt like – the memories and the special feelings you had – and sharing it with your teammates and family,” he said.

The Liverpool right-back was rested against Newcastle on Saturday

More than most, Alexander-Arnold has seemed keen to urge Liverpool on to generate more memories. Before they lifted the Carabao Cup, he spoke of securing silverware every year. But in campaigns like this, one medal does not sound enough for him. “I did say one trophy a season minimum and that is in a season that isn’t our best,” he added. “When you are staring down the barrel and looking at more trophies, where if we win every game we are looking at more silverware, that is what we are looking at. Who can complain? This is a very special season for us all and hopefully we will see it though and at the end, we will be in the history books again.”

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