February 2016 and Trent Alexander-Arnold failed to deal with what was going on.
Several times, Liverpool’s right-back was left on the counterattack by opponent wing Brandon Barker while Manchester City won 3-0 against Anfield.
Alexander-Arnold, then only 17, was making his first appearance for what was then the under 21 team after making the move from the U18. It was a punishment experience.
“It was one of the first times that I played with the right back,” said the defender, reflecting later in the afternoon. “I hadn’t played it too often.
“This is probably one of the toughest games I̵
The previous day, 21-year-old Andy Robertson was facing disappointment at being part of a Hull City team that, while leading the championship, had been 1-0 defeated at Burnley.
Fast forward 18 months and the pair first went out for Liverpool in the Premier League.
Alexander-Arnold, who proved to be a quick student, made his league debut at Old Trafford in January 2017, while Robertson impressed Hull enough to make a £ 8m move to Anfield in the summer.
But their outing against Burnley in September was one of only four Premier League appearances in the same initial lineup during the first half of the season – and one of those in Brighton and Hove Albion saw the duo employed as a full back.
While Robertson’s long adaptation period is well known, it’s easy to forget that Alexander-Arnold was challenging Joe Gomez for the right wing.
It was not until February that he started three consecutive league games, when Robertson had, thanks initially to an injury to Alberto Moreno, become a normal left back.
Since then they have never looked back, perhaps the best fullback attack in world football.
In the 27 Premier League games they performed together last season, they required 22 assists. This term is 20 from 29 games.
Alexander-Arnold, who is only 21 years old, has become not only an integral part of the team, but also an exceptional ambassador for the club, a model for the prospects and supporters of the Academy as a whole.
Furthermore, of course, it is the Scouser in the Liverpool team that has dominated Europe, the world and is now, finally, English champion.
He also redefined the role of the right back, essentially becoming the director of the Reds from the position.
The pinnacle appeared in his display in the 4-0 win at Leicester City on Boxing Day, when he claimed two assists before ending the victory with an arrow finish by Carlos Albertoesque in the bottom corner.
Past and present players, normally good enough to spot a talent, couldn’t help but be impressed.
“Alexander-Arnold” tweeted Javier Mascherano, former Liverpool midfielder, while Gary Lineker said: “It’s just a joke. Fantastic footballer.”
Anyone who even paid short notice to the Liverpool Academy in the years leading up to Alexander-Arnold’s turn would not have been completely surprised by its impact.
And in retrospect, it should have been patently obvious that Robertson would also become a resounding success in the club.
With the infectious enthusiasm of Joey Jones and the progressive comedy of Steve Nicol and Alan Kennedy, Robertson is an amalgamation of terrible full-backs with the Reds.
Oh, and it seems to be Scottish.
The influence from North of the Border has been prevalent in all the successful matches of the Liverpool championship, so much so that in the late 70s and early 80s photographers routinely asked for “Jock Pictures” in which Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness sported the last silverware earned. Steve Nicol, Gary Gillespie and John Wark would also be involved later.
Gary McAllister was at the center of the cup highs in 2001 and Charlie Adam could claim a League Cup in 2012, but otherwise the Scottish representation has been sparse on the ground since the 1990 title triumph.
Now Robertson has restored balance. “He has been the best left-back in England and perhaps in Europe for the past two years,” said Danny Rose, who was part of the Tottenham Hotspur team beaten by Liverpool in last year’s Champions League final.
“That’s what I’m trying to catch, no doubt. He’s the best. Andy Robertson seems like a joke from nature. He is simply brilliant.”
The final word, however, must go to Jurgen Klopp, whose approach to the game, confidence in youth and an eye for a player have allowed the duo to thrive so beautifully.
“Not many young guys want to say they want to be a full back, but they are much more important now,” said chief Reds.
“The game has changed now and you have to be really strong on the defensive, but now the teams release their wings for full-backs who must have the quality of football to put the crosses on the other side too.”
Alexander-Arnold and Robertson didn’t just change Liverpool. They altered perceptions of the role of the full-back model, the standard-bearer for a new era.
And of course, they are champions of the Premier League.