Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold rolled back the years as they helped Liverpool beat Aston Villa in the Premier League’s return from the World Cup.
Liverpool went into the World Cup break on a run of two consecutive wins in the league, but they hadn’t managed to string together three in a row this season. They marked their return to competitive action with a defeat to Manchester City in the EFL Cup, but the Premier League proved to be a much happier hunting ground.
Travelling to Aston Villa, Liverpool were eighth by the time they kicked off, but within minutes they had lifted themselves up the table, closing the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
It was a pass worthy of a pre-assist, given how it broke open the Villa defence, and will be remembered just as much as Robertson actually teeing up the goal. For Robertson, it was his 54th assist in the Premier League, moving him one clear of Leighton Baines as the defender with the most assists in the division’s history.
But perhaps more significant for Liverpool and their fans was the fact that the goal brought a much-sought after Robertson x Alexander-Arnold linkup. While Robertson has been flying this season, a lot of focus has been on Alexander-Arnold not hitting his usually high levels of creativity, or at least a lack of assists (still awaiting his first in the league this season).
This may not have counted for an Alexander-Arnold assist, but it served as a reminder of what he could do, for those who had forgotten. It was during the 2018/19 season that Alexander-Arnold and Robertson truly starting to thrive, combining to assist 23 times in the Premier League, with the Englishman just coming out on top at 12 vs the Scot’s 11.
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A year later they were even more crucial for Liverpool, with Alexander-Arnold assisting 13 and Robertson 12 to help the Reds end a long wait for the Premier League title, blowing the rest of the division away. At the time, the duo were being compared to Roberto Carlos and Cafu, and they resurfaced on Monday evening after Liverpool went 1-0 up.
Robertson x Trent Alexander-Arnold pic.twitter.com/Za3QP89btc
— Shwet. (@trent2robbo) December 26, 2022
Trent-Arnold e Robertson: Cafú e Roberto Carlos do Liverpool.
— José Kennedy (@JoseKennedyLS) December 26, 2022
Other Liverpool fans were reminiscing of the successful seasons in which Robertson and Alexander-Arnold ran riot, with a hint of hope that this will be the start of a revival, lifting the duo up among the best partnerships in history.
Both passes there from Trent Alexander-Arnold & Andy Robertson exquisite. Of the highest quality. Not seen that kind of combination play from Liverpool’s two full-backs in a long while.
— Ryan Taylor (@RyanTaylorSport) December 26, 2022
Trent and Robertson, the best right back and left back Liverpool have ever had right?
— H⚽🔭 (@OrangeMentosSzn) December 26, 2022
Trent to Robertson to Salah build up gave similar vibes to the goal Vs city in 19/20
— Adil (@adil_s11) December 26, 2022
Trent and Robertson is such a class duo pic.twitter.com/4r3OiFxTaF
— Dani 🇩🇰 (@ChickenTikkaMo7) December 26, 2022
Robertson and Trent are still the best fullback pairing in the world. End of debate.
— Samuel (@SamueILFC) December 26, 2022
— Zubin Daver (@zubinofficial) December 26, 2022
Robertson and Trent! I don't think the Premier League has ever witnessed such phenomenal pairing of fullbacks.
— Ayomide (@Ayomide_nm) December 26, 2022
That’s 18/19 from Trent and Robertson
— Belinder (@_bubblxs) December 26, 2022
While fans were talking about Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, the main topic of conversation surrounding the match was on the performance of Nunez who trended on Twitter with 65,000 tweets during the match. The Uruguayan hasn’t had the best of starts to life as a Liverpool player and every game in which he fails to score, rival fans pile on the criticism. This was only boosted by his failure to find the net at the World Cup, and against Villa he didn’t have the best of games in front of goal.
Darwin Núñez missed three Big Chances in the first half against Aston Villa, only Aleksandar Mitrović has missed more in a single Premier League game this season (4 vs. Brentford). 😅#AVLLIV pic.twitter.com/eVZrYFPTma
— Squawka (@Squawka) December 26, 2022
Nunez had six shots against Robin Olsen, four of which were Big Chances, but failed to truly test Villa’s second-choice goalkeeper. Across the season as a whole, Nunez has missed 12 Big Chances in the Premier League, with no player missing more. No player has also missed more than his four in a single match, with the above tweet coming at half-time. However, while Nunez may not have scored, and he may have missed the Big Chances, his performance was promising as part of the wider Liverpool gameplan. Just before Christmas, this brought comparisons to Andy Cole, though the former Manchester United striker wasn’t happy with that.
“Cole, Nunez, not sure where this nonsense started but it’s Christmas, the festive season – I am happily retired,” he tweeted.
“Five Premier League titles, two FA cups, one League Cup, one Champions League, Golden Boot, Young Player of the Year, 187 Premier League goals, one penalty. Life is what you make it.”
Back to Nunez, the Uruguayan was even named Man of the Match by Andy Townsend, who was doing commentary on Amazon Prime’s coverage of the game. But, that didn’t stop the criticism and banter online.
Darwin Nunez does exactly what I’d do in every situation on a football pitch, which I can’t help but feel is a bad sign.
— Dan Sandison (@DanMUNDIAL) December 26, 2022
Darwin Nunez can’t be real, he’s like a footballer written by AI or something, displays no human qualities whatsoever just pure chaos
— Billie (@Billie_T) December 26, 2022
Watching Darwin Nunez is like watching a nature documentary. Like, it has become fascinating to watch something I have no ability to predict.
— Umir (@umirf1) December 26, 2022
Let’s end on a positive note, though.
Nunez’s all round game ain’t bad. Once he gets an all round calmness, which is probably a more suitable word than clinical then we are onto something. Again fingers crossed 😂🤞🏿
— daRealAAkinfenwa (@daRealAkinfenwa) December 26, 2022
Darwin Nunez gets a big ovation from the away end as he's subbed off late on. Erratic tonight but played a big part in the third goal and his head never dropped. Put in a real shift.
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) December 26, 2022