Neither Trent Alexander-Arnold nor Andrew Robertson have Lionel Messi’s star power, but the buccaneering Liverpool defenders could play just as vital a role as the Barcelona captain in their mouth-watering Champions League semi-final.
Virgil van Dijk has hogged the spotlight among Liverpool’s defenders with a superb campaign that earned the Dutch centre-back the Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year award.
Ahead of Wednesday’s first leg against Messi’s Barca, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold have emerged as essential contributors to Liverpool’s bid for Champions League glory.
With 24 assists between them in all competitions, England right-back Alexander-Arnold and Scotland left-back Robertson are pivotal figures in Jurgen Klopp’s game-plan.
Robertson’s 11 assists have equalled the Premier League record for a defender and Alexander-Arnold is not far behind, with nine, making Liverpool’s full-backs are as many wingers as defenders.
It has become the most demanding, tactically significant position in the Liverpool team.
Without Robertson, 25, doing the job of two players with his lung-bursting runs up and down the flanks, Senegal winger Sadio Mane would not have the freedom to move infield, from where he has scored 24 goals this term.
Mohamed Salah’s licence to roam from the wing is only possible because there is less need to track back defensively while Alexander-Arnold, 20, tirelessly covers every blade of grass on the right.
Klopp’s bold system has reaped rich rewards as rivals struggle to find a way to turn off the supply line fuelled by Robertson and Alexander-Arnold.
In producing perfectly weighted crosses for Mane’s double and a Van Dijk goal, Alexander-Arnold became the youngest Premier League player to create three goals in a single fixture when Liverpool thrashed Watford in February.
Then, when Robertson supplied Roberto Firmino with Liverpool’s opening goal against Tottenham recently, Alexander-Arnold matched him by crossing for Salah’s header that led to Toby Alderweireld’s decisive late own goal.
– Unlikely heroes –
They are the kind of key contributions that have become commonplace this season and Robertson admits the pair’s friendly rivalry is spurring them to ever greater heights.
“I always try and go forward. Sometimes my passes don’t find people. But I do try and create. If I get two assists, I expect Trent to get three,” Robertson said with a smile.
“We all need to chip in with goals and assists. It’s not just the front three. It’s not just the defence that keeps clean sheets, either. It’s a team game.”
Liverpool’s unlikely heroes have taken contrasting routes to the top.
Liverpool-born Alexander-Arnold is the soft-spoken prodigy who still lived with his mum at the start of this season, such has been the rapid nature of his rise from the club’s academy
Robertson started his career in obscurity at Queen’s Park and Dundee United before joining Liverpool from Hull for £8 million ($10.3 million) in 2017 — a deal that Klopp says came at a time when “there weren’t 500 clubs asking about him”.
Now comes the acid test of the duo against Barcelona in the Camp Nou.
Inspired by the sublime Messi, Barca have scored more than 130 goals in all competitions already this term and wrapped up the Spanish title at the weekend.
But, while he acknowledges the threat posed by Messi, Luis Suarez and company, Robertson believes Liverpool should stick to their guns.
“We know we’ll have our hands full defensively but we all defend as a team and we attack as a team. If me and Trent have time to go forward, we will do it. It’s not going to stop us,” Robertson said.
“We know that we can create goals and chances, so why change that? But look, we will learn from the game and move from that and see how it pans out.
“It’s a challenge we all look forward to.”
100 Days of Coronavirus in Nigeria: Cross River Maintains Clean Slate
By Eric Elezuo
Today marks exactly 100 days since the incursion of the dreaded coronavirus disease into Nigeria. The advent of Coronavirus, nicknamed COVID-19, in Nigeria on February 27, 2020 took many by surprise, but to many others, it was just the consequence of weeks of official indecision. The disease finally entered through the airport via an index-Italian, whose name is still unknown.
COVID-19 was first discovered in the Wuhan Province of China, and made public on December 31, 2019. It has been reported that the origin story of coronavirus says that someone at the now world-famous Huanan seafood market in Wuhan was infected with a virus from an animal. All fingers have been pointed at pangolins; a scaly mammal that looks like an anteater, suggesting this animal was the staging post for the virus before it spread to humans.
The rest is still an undeveloped history, but the fact of the matter remains that the spreading from that first cluster in the capital of China’s Hubei province to a pandemic that has killed over 315,000 people so far, globally.
In Nigeria, after 100 days of the first infection, the spread of the novel Disease continues to rise as the latest statistics provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reveal there are about 12, 000 confirmed cases. Presently, with the 300 new confirmed cases and 8 deaths recorded on June 5, 2020, the country seems far from flattening the curve.
The NCDC said, “On the 5th of June 2020, 328 new confirmed cases and 10 deaths were recorded in Nigeria.
“No new state has reported a case in the last 24 hours.
“Till date, 11844 cases have been confirmed, 3696 cases have been discharged and 333 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
“The 328 new cases are reported from 14 states- Lagos (121), FCT (70), Bauchi (25), Rivers (18), Oyo (16), Kaduna (15), Gombe (14), Edo (13),Ogun (13), Jigawa (8), Enugu (6), Kano (5), Osun (2), Ondo (2).”
- Total Number of Cases – 11,844
- Total Number Discharged – 3,696
- Total Deaths – 333
- Total Tests Carried Out – 71,336±
The latest numbers bring Lagos state total confirmed cases to 5644, followed by Kano (975), Abuja at 862, Katsina (400), Edo (364), Borno (322), Kaduna (320), Oyo (334), Ogun (363), Rivers (308), Jigawa (282), Bauchi (281), Gombe (184), Kwara (127).
Delta State has recorded 116 cases, Sokoto (115), Plateau (113), Nasarawa (90), Ebonyi (80), Zamfara (76), Yobe (52), Osun (49) Imo (47), Akwa Ibom (45), Adamawa (42), Niger (41), Ondo (38), Kebbi (33), Bayelsa (30), Ekiti (25), Enugu (30), Taraba (18), Abia (15), Benue (13), Anambra (12), while Kogi state has recorded only 3 cases.
Of the COVID-19 related deaths so far recorded, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, late Mallam Abba Kyari, remained the highest official to bow to the disease. The likes Bauchi State government, Bala Mohammed, Kaduna State governor, Nasir, el-Rufai, Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, Chairman, Daar Communications, Raymond Dokpesi, and his family among others have remained some of the big shots that tested positive to the disease, but got ‘cured’.
While trying to contain disease in the last 100 days, President Muhammadu Buhari, among iterating the regular safety measures as authorised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) directed the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT and Ogun State for an initial period of 14 days, which took effect from 11 pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. The lockdown was renewed for another 14 days at the expiration on April 13, 2020.
On April 27, 2020, when the second 14 days expired, President Muhammadu Buhari took different measures. He declared an overnight curfew from 8pm to 6am across the country, as part of new measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19. This comes along with the phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos, and Ogun States, which took effect from Saturday, 2nd May 2020, at 9am. The movement restrictions was partially put on hold with some businesses commencing operations from May 4.
By June 1, 2020, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, Boss Mustapha, announced that business activities as well as places of worship would reopen, but at the instance of the state governments, who were expected to implement the guidelines following.
Consequently, Lagos, the epicentre of the disease, has declared Friday, June 19 for the reopening of religious centres with special emphasis to churches and mosques. The reopening is inundated with strict guidelines.
Analysts believe that Nigeria may have fared well in 100 days in comparison to most European countries whose blew out of proportion within weeks of their index case. Others have however, said the situation in Nigeria could be worse if adequate testing is being carried out.
So far, Cross Rivers State remains the only state in Nigeria yet to record a COVID-19 case 100 days after.
Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Now 11,844 with 328 New Infections
328 persons were tested for coronavirus in Nigeria in the past 24 hours.
This brings the total number of infections in the country to 11,844.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control made this known on Friday.
The 328 new fresh cases of #COVID19 are broken down as follows:
FCT – 70
Bauchi – 25
Rivers – 18
Oyo – 16
Kaduna – 15
Gombe – 14
Edo – 13
Ogun – 13
Jigawa – 8
Enugu – 6
Kano – 5
Osun – 2
Ondo – 2
Finally, AfDB Agrees for Independent Investigation of Adesina
The Bureau of the Board of Governors, Africa Development Bank Group has approved an independent investigation of the allegations against the President of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina.
The decision, taken at the meeting of the Bureau Thursday regarding the whistle-blowers’ complaints against Mr Adesina, is in deference to the demand by the U.S. government that a fresh and in-depth investigation be conducted into the allegations against Mr Adesina using an independent investigator.
On May 5, the ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, said in its report that Mr Adesina was not guilty on all counts.
Mr Yano is a Japanese executive director charged with the responsibility of investigating allegations by some concerned employees against the Bank’s president.
The committee described the allegations that Mr Adesina violated the code of conduct of the institution as “spurious and unfounded”.
Regardless, the United States government expressed “deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process” and called for a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations.”
At the end of its meeting Thursday, the Bureau of Board of Governors issued a communique, agreeing with the U.S and authorizing an independent review of the ethic committee’s report.
The communique, signed by the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Boards of Governors, Niale Kaba, reads,
“The Bureau reiterates that it agrees that the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors performed its role on this matter in accordance with the applicable rule under Resolution B/BG/2008/11 of the Board of Governors.
“The Bureau also reiterates that the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors performed her role in accepting the findings of the Ethics Committee in accordance with the said Resolution.
“However, based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process.
“The Independent Review shall be conducted by a neutral high calibre individual with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and integrity within a short time period of not more than two to four weeks maximum, taking the Bank Group’s electoral calendar into account.
“The Bureau agrees that, within a three to six month period and following the independent review of the Ethics Committee Report, an independent comprehensive review of the implementation of the Bank Group’s Whistle-Blowing and Complaints Handling Policy should be conducted with a view to ensuring that the Policy is properly implemented, and revising it where necessary, to avoid situations of this nature in the future.”