By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
As Liverpool earned 97 points in the Premier League last season, there were a number of standout performers in a spectacular season-long team effort.
Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah’s 22 goals each scooped the Golden Boot award – along with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – while Virgil van Dijk’s defensive prowess and Alisson’s commanding presence contributed to a record-breaking 21 clean sheets and a Golden Glove for the Brazilian goalkeeper.
And then there were the full-backs. Andy Robertson and his young Scouse sidekick Trent Alexander-Arnold combined to create 23 goals for the Reds in the league alone. Without them, the African forwards would never have gotten near the amount of strikes they managed – and Liverpool would never have gotten near 97 points.
Clearly, both have magnificent crossing ability and are creative players, but their productive campaign was no doubt aided by a bit of healthy competition. The pair’s personal duel was well publicised, with each of the players determined to register more assists than the other.
It was Alexander-Arnold who would – eventually – be the winner, with the Englishman’s 12th of the campaign produced on the final day victory over Wolves with a sumptuous cross from deep that found Mané. The Scot finished one behind on 11, but will get the chance to set the record straight as they gear up to face off again in 2019/20.
Personally, I’m delighted at this news. Of course, their natural ability played a huge part in their impressive performances over the course of the season, but I feel the friendly rivalry helped to push them both on. It really helped get the best out of them.
Credit must be given to Jurgen Klopp and the coaching staff too, who allowed and encouraged them to do it. Others may have forbidden this sort of personal thinking, but the manager saw the potential benefits and it certainly paid off.
Which is why I want to see more of it – not just from Robbo and Trent, but also elsewhere in the squad. Perhaps if Salah and Mané, for example, had a competition to see who could score the most goals, it would help squeeze a few more strikes out of them.
Maybe, but it wasn’t something that affected the full-backs. Not once did either Robertson or Alexander-Arnold decided against a cross-field ball to the other, just because the move could end in an assist for their rival. It was just two professionals playing well, helping the team and having fun.
There’s no reason why Mané and Salah couldn’t have a similar duel while prioritising the squads interest. And why stop there? Perhaps the central defenders can compete over number of appearances alongside van Dijk, or the midfielders over key passes or athleticism.
My point is, this squad has a great chemistry and togetherness about it. Maybe the key to squeezing out a few extra points this season is introducing a little more friendly, responsible rivalries within it.
Just no competition over the amount of time spent on the injury table, please. We all know Adam Lallana likely has that sewn up, anyway.