Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have been influential for Liverpool all season; Neville feels mentioning them in the same breath as Brazilians Cafu and Roberto Carlos is justified
Tuesday 21 December 2021 10:49, UK
Gary Neville believes Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold may be the best Premier League full-backs in history.
Both Alexander-Arnold and Robertson were heavily involved in Sunday's epic 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Tottenham; both full-backs assisted goals, Robertson scored himself, and was also sent off for a hefty challenge on Emerson Royal.
The pairing have been influential for Liverpool all season, and Neville feels mentioning them in the same breath as Brazilians Cafu and Roberto Carlos is justified.
Speaking on his podcast after the game, Neville also explains why Antonio Conte's Spurs could strike fear into their top-four rivals, why Man City are like no other team in Europe, and whether there is pressure on Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea.
"Sometimes, during a game, you have to check yourself when you're involved in an emotional game like this as a co-commentator or commentator, you're mentioning them in the same breath as probably the two greatest full-backs I've ever seen, Roberto Carlos and Cafu.
"For so many years they were the shining example. They transformed full-back play. I know there had been attacking full-backs before, the Liverpool teams of the 70s, but when you think of them as being an attacker first, defender second, contributing to free-kicks, attacks, crosses, every part of the game. They made full-backs a prominent part of the team.
"They were exceptional, but these two... I don't think I've seen two full-backs play in the Premier League that are as good as these two as a pair. The way in which they combine on the pitch, the way they play the game, they're an absolute joy.
"Robertson with his consistency does everything well. Defends well, he's competitive - slightly too much at the end - but he scored a goal and set up a goal. Alexander-Arnold is an absolute phenomenon when it comes to the quality of his passing, his delivery. It's something I've never seen before from a full-back.
"It's like De Bruyne, it's Beckham, it's Gerrard, and they're attacking players. He's playing at right-back, it's the highest accolade I could pay him.
"The contribution these two make is unbelievable. It's bizarre to me. I grew up saying let the full-back have it. You can't let these two have it.
"Conte knowingly let them have it, which was the beauty of the match, because it encouraged them forward thinking 'here we go I can win the game for my team'. But in Conte's mind, that was how he was going to win the game, to expose Liverpool's centre-backs."
The draw means Tottenham are unbeaten in the Premier League under Conte - winning three and drawing two - and though they are six points behind Arsenal in fourth, they do have three games in hand.
"He's a great manager, you can see the influence he's had on this group. The energy compared to how they were before, the stadium is electric, and it was brilliant in here all the way through the game.
"You can see him on the touchline. The emotions. He cares passionately and is desperate to win.
"He'll be disappointed with the chances missed because I think he set up his team perfectly, but also proud and realise he's got a good group of players here. We started to question that over the last 12-18 months
"Were this team over the hill and were they spent under Mauricio Pochettino and as good as it can get? But they've shown a performance today that can tell us they can really be competitive and push for the top four.
"It will strike a little bit of fear into Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, West Ham, all the others with aspirations to be up there. This Tottenham team are going to be real in the next four to five months."
"What I've just seen here today is something special. People going into Christmas worried about making sure they can see their families, worried about potential further restrictions, that will have boosted them this afternoon. It has boosted me and everyone in this stadium.
"The fans leaving here will have seen something special. I don't say that lightly, it's a 2-2 draw midway through the season with no trophies at stake. But the group of players, managers, coaching staff have delivered a real spectacle.
"Everything I want the Premier League to be. Fast. End-to-end. Tactical as well. It was a game of chicken in some ways, but they both came out on top."
Liverpool are now three points behind Manchester City, after Pep Guardiola's side won 4-0 at Newcastle, and Neville says City operate like no other side in Europe.
"We've got exceptional teams. This Pep Guardiola and Man City team are exceptional, as this Jurgen Klopp team are at Liverpool.
"They're another level, two of the teams you'll see in Premier League history. [Man City] play football like no other, completely different than any other team in Europe actually, not just this league.
"The technical ability, the passing, the possession, the care on the ball, the efficiency, methodical, disciplined, their starting positions, the movements - they're all just like clockwork. The absolute best timepiece you could almost see, Pep Guardiola's system of play.
"Newcastle were nowhere near them. The second half was a procession."
In the blink of an eye, Chelsea are now six points behind City having led the Premier league table just two-and-a-half weeks ago, but Neville says Thomas Tuchel has more than enough credit in the bank.
"I think he's got enough credit in the bank. I know it's a club that does things very differently, but I'd hate to think that Thomas Tuchel is under pressure.
"I think he'll be a little bit worried. I think mentally when you try to get a game called off and you're then told to play it, I can't think that will help the mindset in that game.
"I know they didn't have a full bench, and we'll have to ask later why more young players couldn't come onto it, but it was a strong Chelsea team."