Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold believes the “humbling” defeat at Aston Villa a month ago has allowed the players to get back to the level which allows them to “kick down doors” again.
Since the shock 7-2 reverse at Villa Park on October 4 – the club’s heaviest defeat in 57 years – they have won four and drawn one, establishing themselves at the top of the Premier League again – all without defensive linchpin Virgil Van Dijk.
That run also includes back-to-back Champions League victories, which has already put them two points ahead in Group D ahead of the trip to face Atalanta where a win would put them within touching distance of the knockout stage.
And Alexander-Arnold believes the Villa defeat has had a positive effect.
“There was a meeting when we came back but we always have a meeting anyway. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary,” the full-back said.
“But I think it was more about self-reflection in that period, and knowing that can’t happen.
“It was kind of a one-off. To concede seven goals is unacceptable but it is about learning from these things.
“It kind of humbled us as a team and it let us know that we can’t just win games because we are Liverpool with the history of the club and the players we’ve got, it is about mentality and the work we put in.
“If we are not at 100 per cent, these things can happen. It wasn’t an outrageously bad performance from us but our mentality wasn’t there on the day and we got punished for it.
“Since then we have been really able to focus on that and, looking back on the last two years especially, it is our mentality that has got us to where we are now.
“That has enabled us to come back from any position, to break through walls and kick down doors in that respect.
“Since that game we have been able to get back into that stride.”
Liverpool have managed to shrug off the loss of Van Dijk and injuries to Joel Matip and Fabinho which left them with one senior centre-back in putting together their current run of form.
With the likes of 19-year-old Rhys Williams, who a year ago was on loan at National League North side Kidderminster, and Nat Phillips, with just one senior appearance for the club behind him last season, being last-resort options at centre-back, Alexander-Arnold and full-back colleague Andy Robertson have had to take on extra responsibility.
“It’s something I have thought about myself – showing more leadership and stepping up,” added the England international, who made his 100th Premier League appearance last weekend.
“I think I’ve made enough appearances now and had enough experience to not class myself as a young player any more and class myself as someone who needs to step up in moments like this.
“Missing Virgil, he is obviously a massive player for us, and it has been probably one of the weirdest tests that we have had because since he came in I don’t think he has really missed any minutes of football.
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“When you miss such a leader, and probably the captain of the back four really, then it gives the rest of the back four an opportunity.
“It would be difficult to say me or Robbo or Joe could step in and do exactly what Virgil does, because we are not the same type of player and it’s not easy to do something like that.
“But I think if the players who are really consistently in the back line can step forward and come together and make sure Virgil’s presence isn’t missed as much as possible, then I think that puts us in a good place. So far we have been able to do that.”
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