Burnley manager Sean Dyche admits his side picked out Trent Alexander-Arnold as a weakness to exploit during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Anfield.
The Liverpool right-back was beaten in a vital header that led to the Reds falling behind in the 27th minute to Scott Arfield’s clinical finish.
That said, the teenager wasn’t helped at all by some weak defending from Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Andrew Robertson-who failed to clear the initial ball into the box and gave Arfield the time he needed to finish calmly.
Reflecting on his side’s tactics, Dyche told the Liverpool Echo: “Our gameplan wasn’t to come here and keep the ball all afternoon — it isn’t going to happen.”
“You know they’re going to have some efforts but if you keep them as far out as we kept them, as in distance from the goal, you know the stats say it’s much harder to score from 30 yards than it is from six.”
“Our shape was good, our defensive unit was excellent, other than their goal – we got caught square on a long ball, the irony of that, hey?”
“Everyone in these parts tells you that they’re having a tough time with set-pieces. We felt that would be important.”
“As it happens, we had two cleared off the line from set-pieces, so our game-planning was right to take that seriously. [We tried to] make it uncomfortable for them because you’re not going to out-football them….
“We thought that might be a weak link aerially on the right back.”
Publicly pinpointing an 18-year-old as an area to target won’t sit well with Jurgen Klopp, who reacted angrily to a case last season when Bournemouth’s Steve Cook made a similar remark about goalkeeper Loris Karius.
Alexander-Arnold, known to set high standards for himself, will be the first to admit it wasn’t a great individual performance on the day.
It was yet another learning curve though, and the kind of game that will be valuable to his development.
A couple of testing outings aside, he has started the new season in admirable fashion and filled in superbly for the injured Nathaniel Clyne.
Becoming subject to harsh lessons so early on in his career has the potential to springboard an undeniably talented athlete.
Opposition teams won’t be targeting him for long.