Trent Alexander-Arnold kept Liverpool's seemingly inevitable march to the Premier League title going by inspiring the leaders to an emphatic win over Leicester City on Boxing Day.
The Reds' right-back was the star of the show during a 4-0 victory at the King Power Stadium. It marked the second time in as many matches the Foxes played one of last season's top two and lost following Saturday's 3-1 reversal away to Manchester City.
Those results have punctuated some of the hype around manager Brendan Rodgers and his team.
Rodgers was one of the names linked with the Arsenal job, but Mikel Arteta now has the Gunners hot seat all to himself. His tenure officially began with a 1-1 draw away to Bournemouth, where Arsenal failed to turn possession into goals, largely because of how much Alexandre Lacazette struggled on a rare start in the league.
Lacazette's tepid display was in stark contrast to those of Manchester United's strikers. Every member of the Red Devils' front three found the net to brush aside Newcastle United 4-1, with youngsters Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood offering a glimpse of a successful future.
Week 19 Scores
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
- Aston Villa 1-0 Norwich City
- Bournemouth 1-1 Arsenal
- Chelsea 0-2 Southampton
- Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham United
- Everton 1-0 Burnley
- Sheffield United 1-1 Watford
- Manchester United 4-1 Newcastle United
- Leicester City 0-4 Liverpool
Winner: Trent Alexander-Arnold
He isn't just redefining the job requirement for full-backs in the modern era—Alexander-Arnold is creating new expectations for the position. While today's full-backs are expected to be useful going forward, Liverpool's No. 66 is surpassing many of the game's great playmakers and wingers in the creative department.
He was already putting together an exceptional campaign in this area, but two more assists have given Alexander-Arnold eight in the league so far this season. He now trails only City schemer Kevin De Bruyne as the most prolific provider in the division.
Two fine deliveries teed up different Roberto Firmino goals against Leicester. The first was a header to meet a chipped cross from the inside left channel, while the second was a swept finish after a clever pull-back along the deck.
There is a range to Alexander-Arnold's vision and passing. He trusts his vision and is decisive when played into space.
Sometimes being decisive means taking a chance rather than manufacturing one. It's what the 21-year-old did when played in by Sadio Mane 12 minutes from time:
Alexander-Arnold is enjoying an exceptional season, but he is merely one part of a relentless Liverpool machine. Defenders who can score and create freely, supporting attackers who defend superbly from the front, is why these Reds are destined to lift the title.
Loser: Brendan Rodgers
There is rarely a shortage of hype around Rodgers when a top job emerges. His willingness to be tactically flexible when it comes to formations, an adherence to attractive, attacking football and a personable manner make the 46-year-old highly regarded by pundits, media and many within the game itself.
While most of the praise is merited, big clubs may have cause for concern the next time they run the rule over Rodgers after the way his team was swatted aside by both City and Liverpool.
Losing 7-1 on aggregate to last season's top two may not be considered a cardinal sin by many. However, the strength of the opposition doesn't mask all ills.
The fact remains many believe Leicester is destined to be around the top for a long while:
It's a squad littered with promising talents such as left-back Ben Chilwell, centre-back Caglar Soyuncu and midfield trio Wilfred Ndidi, Youri Tielemans and James Maddison.
Rodgers had all of the key names available for the recent two-game tilt against the division's heavyweights, so it's not unreasonable to think Leicester should have played City and Liverpool closer.
It would surely have provided an accurate gauge of the team and its ability to do more than impress during a season where established names Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and United have all been inconsistent.
Without a more credible challenge to the elite, Rodgers won't be able to shake the idea his success at Celtic owed a lot to weak competition and that he can't quite cut it at the highest level.
Winner: United's Young Front 3
Leicester have outperformed United this season, but the upside of the Red Devils' attacking talents suggest this reversal of fortunes will be merely temporary. Needing a win after drawing with Everton and losing to Watford, United turned three strikers loose up top, and every one of them delivered.
Martial scored twice, while Greenwood and Rashford also found the net. At 24, Martial is the oldest, two years Rashford's senior and six older than Greenwood.
Their time and potential to get better should scare United's rivals:
The signs are pointed toward continued improvement from each. Academy success story Greenwood has already set a club record:
Meanwhile, Rashford is still only 22 despite being a fixture in the senior squad since 2016. His header against Newcastle was his 11th league goal, the best of his burgeoning career.
However, it's Martial who is catching the eye as a natural but frustrating talent who is finally starting to get it. No longer just a wayward presence at multiple positions up top, the Frenchman is becoming a useful modern No. 9.
His intelligent running, cultured passing and instinct for when to drop off the front are the focal points of United's fluid game going forward. Martial, like his strike partners, will continue getting better and make United feared once again as an attacking force.
Loser: Alexandre Lacazette
Lacazette hadn't started any of Arsenal's last three league matches before the trip to the Vitality Stadium. To say he was rusty on his return would be kind.
The former Lyon's man's copybook from the game makes for grim reading. Lacazette twice fluffed his lines when played through one-on-one, failing to sort his feet out or make quick decisions, allowing Bournemouth defenders to get a block in.
It wasn't just the finishing touch that deserted Lacazette. His distribution was also shoddy, particularly when he passed to Reiss Nelson on the right to waste a promising break in the second half after overlooking free runners on his left.
Lacazette's dire day at the office could have been doubly costly for Arsenal had his reckless challenge on Ryan Fraser deep into stoppage time resulted in a goal. Instead, Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson squandered the resulting free-kick and spared Lacazette's blushes in the process.
Arteta, who watched Saturday's 0-0 draw at Everton from the stands while interim boss Freddie Ljungberg stayed in charge, is unlikely to have been impressed by the No. 9 he inherited.
This was a golden opportunity for a forgotten big name to show his new boss why he should be brought back into the fold. Lacazette wasted it, bad news for a striker left needing to prove he should lead the line ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Gabriel Martinelli.