LONDON — After Liverpool’s euphoric start to the season, a trip to Italy provided a more sobering experience for Trent Alexander-Arnold and his teammates.
Five successive victories had sent Liverpool five points clear at the top of the Premier League. There had already been an addition to the trophy cabinet by collecting the UEFA Super Cup.
But the Champions League title defence, the quest for a seventh European title, began with a 2-0 collapse at Napoli on Tuesday. So strong was some of the reaction that left back Andy Robertson deactivated his Twitter account after giving away a penalty.
"He’s mentally a really strong character so I’m sure whatever reason he had for doing that, that was the best possible for him," right back Alexander-Arnold said in an interview Wednesday night with The Associated Press in London at the launch of the FIFA20 video game. "So I think whenever we see each other next, it will be obviously to see how he is, make sure that nothing is too bad. I think all the lads would have texted him and spoken to him, to make sure everything is OK."
Off the field, too, it was a trip to forget for the Liverpool fans attacked in Naples ahead of the game. Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore went to the hospital to visit one injured fan.
"The way that the club wants to work is being there for everyone, no one is above each other," Alexander-Arnold said. "We want to help the fans out and the fans want to help us out.
"It’s a collective, it works hand in hand. So, it doesn’t matter what position you are in the club, it’s all one big club and we all make it work."
While no incidents of racism were reported at Liverpool’s Champions League group stage opener, Alexander-Arnold has been troubled by the abuse fellow black players have faced in Italy.
Cagliari again this week escaped punishment from Serie A for racist abuse by its fans despite a video of monkey noises being aimed at Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku.
"Every team should be punished, every team’s fans should be punished for those sorts of actions," Alexander-Arnold said. "It shouldn’t be happening in the game nowadays especially. So I think it’s disappointing to see that, but obviously I’m sure that Lukaku especially is a strong enough character to break through that.
"Like you’ve seen straight away, he scored the penalty (at Cagliari) and was able to shut the fans up straight away. So that was a positive for him and I’m sure he will bounce back from that and keep on doing what he does, scoring goals."
Alexander-Arnold sees the loss at Napoli as a blip. And Juergen Klopp’s side managed to lose to the same opponent last season before advancing from the group stage by beating them at Anfield and ultimately collecting the European Cup by defeating Tottenham.
"We weren’t at our best (on Tuesday) as a collective," Alexander-Arnold said. "It was better than our performance there last season, so there are positives to take."
You won’t hear the players saying it but the priority for Liverpool is undoubtedly ensuring the 30-year English title drought ends with the Premier League trophy being lifted in May.
After missing out to Manchester City by one point last season, Liverpool heads to Chelsea on Sunday with an unexpectedly strong five-point lead over the champions, thanks in part to Alexander-Arnold’s contribution. No other defender has created more big chances in Premier League games this season than the England international, who also has two assists.
"Last season, near the end of the season we all got really excited but it wasn’t in our hands," Alexander-Arnold said. "City did really well to keep hold of it. We know this year we will be pushed to the end again."