London: Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers described Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold’s range of passing as “phenomenal” and said the 21-year-old’s attacking instincts were as good as that of a midfielder.
Alexander-Arnold provided two assists for Roberto Firmino and scored late as the Premier League leaders blasted past second-placed Leicester 4-0 on Thursday to open up a 13-point gap at the top with a game in hand.
The academy graduate began his career in central midfield and got his first taste of senior soccer under former Liverpool manager Rodgers in 2015, but has excelled in Juergen Klopp’s back line making eight league assists this season.
“For me, he plays full back as a midfield player. His range of passing is phenomenal ... he was a midfielder as a youngster,” Rodgers told a news conference.
“His quality, the experiences he has gained, for Juergen he has been absolutely amazing. Trent is up there and is very much England’s number one (right back) and playing consistently at a high level.” Klopp said Alexander-Arnold’s crossing, which also led to a penalty against Leicester, was exceptional but he batted away questions on whether the right back was the best player in the world in that position.
“I’m not too interested, to be honest. We’re not looking for one, let me say it like this,” Klopp added.
“He played a really good game, but not a perfect game ... it was decisive and helped us a lot. We know how important these crosses are for us, so that’s absolutely exceptional.
“But I can’t compare because at the moment I watch pretty much only Liverpool games so I don’t see the others.”
With Firmino deadly in front of goal and Liverpool in total control throughout, it was a performance that suggested the title race is all but over at the halfway stage.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has been vocal in his criticism of his team’s intense schedule but the European champions showed no signs of any adverse influence from their trip to Qatar, where they won the Club World Cup.
A trip to Leicester, who went into the game unbeaten at home this season, was the toughest test of the season, but Klopp’s men passed the test with barely a hint of drama and it will now take an extraordinary slump for them to fail to win their first title of the Premier League era.
“We played really good football after all the travelling and intense period, yes it is the best performance of the season and we controlled it, to get four goals is something to be proud of,” said Alexander-Arnold.
“You don’t really think you will be 13 points clear but we are happy to be in this position and we won’t take it for granted. This is the Premier League and anything can happen,” he added.
Popping up in the inside-left position, Alexander-Arnold floated a pinpoint cross to the backpost for Brazilian Firmino to head Liverpool into the lead in the 31st minute.
Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel then produced an outstanding close-range save to foil Sadio Mane and Liverpool would be have been disappointed to go in at halftime with only the solitary goal.
Liverpool were utterly dominant but had to wait until the 71st minute to extend their lead when Alexander-Arnold’s corner struck the left arm of Caglar Soyuncu and substitute James Milner slotted home the penalty with his first touch of the ball.
Firmino then made it 3-0, collecting and firing home a powerfully struck low-cross from Alexander-Arnold before the 21-year-old rounded off the rout, hammering a low shot into the far, bottom corner at the end of a swift counter-attack.
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