Sunday’s encounter was a spectacle nobody was anticipating, as Liverpool made it sevens wins from seven home Premier League games in this season of rapid turnaround at Anfield - and with a match of equally rapid turnaround.
Not only was the intensity turned up to the maximum, the quality of Liverpool’s goals had Anfield purring with delight, as they gave up the initial lead before eventually coming from behind to beat Fulham 4-3.
There are few players, past or present, whose position is up for debate more than Trent Alexander-Arnold’s. Jurgen Klopp clearly cannot decide what camp he sits in. While he concurs with the argument such a passing range could be wasted at full-back, he also remembers the damage Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson did flying down the wing in the Reds’ 2019-20 title-winning campaign.
As a compromise, giving Alexander-Arnold this hybrid role has drawn yet more battle lines. The naysayers point to the gaps the advancing metronome leaves when drifting inside – something Fulham certainly benefitted from. But one thing is beyond any doubt – however he does it, whatever system he plays and whatever cover he can arrange defensively, Klopp must keep getting Alexander-Arnold into positions where he can affect games.
We know he can create chances like few defenders ever have in the history of the game, but his match-winning contribution in this Anfield thriller, to give Liverpool’s title tilt yet further credibility, has added another angle to the question over Alexander-Arnold’s position – he can score goals, crucial ones at that, too.
For the first time in his Liverpool career, Alexander-Arnold thought he had found the net in successive league matches after 20 minutes, with his direct free-kick, on first viewing, a real work of art, off the underside of the crossbar and in. The only smudge on the masterpiece being a small deflection off Bernd Leno on the way into the net, degrading its value somewhat.
It was mission accomplished less than four minutes later as another Liverpool academy graduate scored in front of the Kop, even if Harry Wilson did so in Fulham colours. A proud day for his family surely ruined by the fact he didn’t celebrate.
Anything Alexander-Arnold could do, another player being deployed in a fluid role, Alexis Mac Allister, could do better, as he arrowed home a first-time effort from 27 yards that had enough slice on it to take the ball into the top corner – his first for the club and another picture-perfect Anfield goal.
Down the other end of the beauty scale, Fulham levelled again in first-half stoppage-time; Kenny Tete, on his first start since mid-September, bundling the ball under a flailing Caoimhin Kelleher in the home goal. For both goals, the Republic of Ireland stopper, standing in for the injured Alisson, did not cover himself in glory.
Klopp was rather philosophical in his pre-match programme notes, insisting that “sometimes the toughest steps are also the most helpful”. This really was a true test of Liverpool’s character. Two stunning goals that, had Alisson been fit, would probably have put them 2-0 up at the break and in cruise control. The quality of the strikes deserved such a reward.
But Fulham could dig in from their position of undeserved parity in the contest. All the frustration hits were coming out to really push those Liverpool buttons. A new hairstyle did not change Darwin Nunez’s fortunes, as he thundered an effort against the crossbar early in the second half before wasting another perfect Mohamed Salah pickout in typically slapstick style.
This latest challenge really did look beyond the hosts after Bobby DeCordova-Reid headed Fulham in front, on the end of a perfect Tom Cairney cross ten minutes from time, with Salah’s incredible miss from two yards out moments later leaving him waiting for that 200th Liverpool goal.
The Reds, at home especially, make a mockery of any test presented to them, however. After Wataru Endo’s superb leveller three minutes from time, there really was only going to be one winner.
The fact it was Trent, another squeaky-clean strike of the ball, made the recovery that bit sweeter. Their Sunday struggles were soon forgotten, the hometown hero was running arms wide open into his people in the corner, with Klopp beating his chest to the Kop upon the final whistle.
A proud home record – one defeat from 104 home matches in front of fans since April 2017 - extended by a Scouser in front of the Kop. Forget about any defensive frailties, Alexander-Arnold has added goals to his bow, and that should not be curtailed.