Trent inspires a Liverpool side in need but bigger tests await 

Already 11 points behind leaders Arsenal and 10 behind champions Manchester City in the Premier League, Liverpool went into this match in Europe sitting ninth in their domestic table, unthinkable given the talent available to them.
Trent inspires a Liverpool side in need but bigger tests await 

BOY WONDER: Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool scores his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Liverpool FC and Rangers FC. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool, who have looked in need of a reset in recent times, have taken an important step to achieving that aim by beating Rangers in the Champions League - but there are now bigger tests on the horizon as they continue to navigate 12 days which could decide their season.

A 2-0 victory, inspired by their most under-pressure performer Trent Alexander-Arnold, has given Jurgen Klopp some vital breathing space at a time when critics were suggesting his team is on the wane.

Already 11 points behind leaders Arsenal and 10 behind champions Manchester City in the Premier League, Liverpool went into this match in Europe sitting ninth in their domestic table, unthinkable given the talent available to them.

So, the relief at coming through it with a positive result, which also looks likely to ease them into the knockout stages in Europe, is palpable ahead of a crucial trip to the Emirates on Sunday.

Klopp opted for a new formation to draw a line under recent performances, which include 15 goals conceded in their previous eight games in all competitions (three of them in a 3-3 home draw against Brighton last weekend).

Players talked of a ‘lack of confidence’ after that result, and Klopp himself admitted to problems which needed to be solved.

You wouldn’t say that aim has been achieved just yet, but at least the German was rewarded with a comfortable victory which takes his side into Sunday’s fixture in better mood.

Get over that hurdle and it is City at home next up on Sunday October 16t h with a chance to change the narrative of a frustrating start to the campaign. Lose both those games, however, and it won’t only be the title that is disappearing over the horizon but the top four, too.

So, although beating Rangers to sit second in Group A of the Champions League (and to win the unofficial Battle of Britain) was crucial ahead of a return match Ibrox next week, it could eventually prove even more important for their long-term hopes.

Liverpool, of course, have come through periods like this before, not least in their title defence season of 2020-21, in which a late burst rescued a place in the Champions League when all had looked lost.

But the Premier League has evolved since then. It’s not only City to worry about. Arsenal are stronger, Tottenham are stronger, Chelsea are rebuilding, smaller clubs have joined the mix. It won’t be easy to do it all again in a season which is also interrupted by the World Cup in November and December.

So, that’s why it was absolutely vital to negotiate a banana skin against Rangers at Anfield.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that this Liverpool team was chasing a quadruple last season, and although they have lost Sadio Mane, little else has changed.

But, in some ways, that only adds to the conundrum. If nothing has changed, what on earth is the root cause of their struggles?

Many pundits have surmised that it is the age of the team, a side that has run its course and needs a refresh.

Former Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana, who was at Anfield last weekend with Brighton, knows the club better than most having spent so many years there as a player. And he suggested that his former club ‘need to reinvent themselves’.

If so, that’s a long-term project and not a quick fix.

Nevertheless, there was encouragement against Rangers because if it had not been for goalkeeper Alan McGregor it could have been a far more convincing victory.

Liverpool got off to the perfect start through Alexander-Arnold, who has borne the brunt of the criticism for Liverpool’s poor league campaign.

Left out by England and lambasted for being unable to defend, he once again proved he’s far better going forward – scoring a stunning free-kick after only eight minutes which settled home nerves.

With Jota, Salah and Diaz playing in a three behind striker Nunez, it was an attacking side put out by Klopp, despite opting to bolster his defence with two defensive midfielders, Henderson and Thiago. That seemed unnecessary against a Rangers side which rarely threatened until the final five minutes, but perhaps it was a practice run ahead of those games against Arsenal and City, looming ominously on the horizon.

He was rewarded with a second goal after 53 minutes, a decisive penalty from Salah, who has been one of the players said to be underperforming so far this campaign, but who looked lively and confident again.

Going to north London next won’t be easy, not when Arsenal have been flying and sit a point clear of Manchester City at the top; but it looks far less daunting having drawn a line under recent frustrations. Is this enough of a reset to change Liverpool's season? We have another 11 days to find out.

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