Made in Liverpool, heard around Europe

ONE swallow does not make a summer, but a swish of a sumptuous right foot from a teenage Scally just might have saved one for Liverpool.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's stunning freekick at Hoffenheim was not just worthy of Phillippe Coutinho, it could amount to a sizable chunk of the Brazilian's fee, if and when he does finally slink away to Barcelona.

It has given them the edge in their Champions League qualifier with the return to come at Anfield. And a place in the tournament proper is worth close to £40m in TV rights, gate money and sponsorship alone.

But in terms of prestige and being back where the five-times European champions belong, it's much more than that. And that it was a local lad, not 19 till October, born a raking through-ball from the club's Melwood training ground, made it all the sweeter.

Earmarked by Steven Gerrard on page 353 of his My Story as a potential star, Alexander-Arnold's emergence signals that the local production line is back in business.

Kopites have had little to cheer through this summer of discontent. The plotline has been about three players – two they wanted to sign and one they are still desperate to keep. But to their utmost frustration, it's looking like worst-case scenario.

It all looked hunky-dory when Jurgen Klopp's men ended last season by clinching fourth place. Shrugging off the sniffy notion that they might have over-achieved, the assumption was they were back among Europe's elite.

Few worried that they might have a tricky qualifier to negotiate. They still do.

The job is not done with that 2-1 win and the nervy ending and concession of a late goal is a metaphor for the summer – they still can't relax and still can't guarantee being in the Champions League. Yep, they can still cock it up.

The issue fans have with Jurgen Klopp and the hierarchy is that the defence is like a dangerous road junction – a place where accidents happen all too frequently. Three times at Watford and once in Germany they were punished - and it might have been more.

Indeed, as the man they banked on signing, Virgil van Dijk, looks less and less likely to come, the penny has dropped that even he might not be enough to shore up this ramshackle rearguard.

Dejan Lovren looked dodgy when he first arrived under Brendan Rogers, but in his second season he improved. Now he's reverted to his first season indecision and sloppiness. Ditto Alberto Moreno while Joel Matip, although a decent freebie, is not exactly Alan Hansen.

Simon Mignolet was a hero at Hoffenheim but his display at Vicarage Road had all his old traits, and Scouse hearts will always go to mouths whenever a cross comes anywhere near him.

This raises two questions about Jurgen Klopp and the club hierarchy. The manager is still a much-loved figure in the red half of Merseyside, but there are quibbles that he doesn't have a Plan B – either on the field or off it.

Whether his side is struggling to break down a stubborn defence or persuade a stubborn club to let him have a player, he appears to lack alternatives.

All his eggs have been in the Van Dijk basket even after they were ticked off for tapping up the Dutchman early in June. And after the Chinese takeover of Southampton this week, he is even less likely to be sold. Saints chairman Ralph Krueger has unequivocally stated that the days of them being Liverpool's feeder club are over and VVD is not for the taking.

Yesterday, we saw that even Manchester City have lowered their sights with a shock bid for Jonny Evans – not a player acceptable to Kopites either for his unreliability or his Manc past - but it shows even Pep can be flexible. Yet Klopp looks set to persist with Lovren and Matip.

He is ignoring the substantial claims of Mamadou Sakho who many feel – for all his peccadilloes and burned bridges – is the best central defender on the books. The Frenchman's combativeness is just what Liverpool need and it basically saved Crystal Palace from relegation last season. But this is not the only area lacking in leadership.

Jordan Henderson is not a defensive midfielder and his two performances so far suggest he's not even match-fit. Taken off after a lacklustre hour on Tuesday, he lacks the skill and leadership to be the new Stevie G.

In fact, Liverpool lack big characters and loud voices all over the pitch which is why Alexander-Arnold was allowed to step up and take that freekick – a leader in the making.

Coupled with the ordinary Georginio Wijnaldum, there's a lack of dynamism in the middle of the park that not even the quicksilver Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah can make up for. And another factor in the absence and impending departure of Coutinho is how it will affect his mate and compatriot, Firmino.

To be fair, Klopp identified midfield as a weakness and set his sights on Naby Keita being the answer – his version of N'Golo Kante – but it was not to be.

Now he's looking at Nice's Jean Michael Seri as a cheaper option after Napoli wanted £60m for Lorenzo Insigne. But this is after allowing Juventus to snap up Blaise Matuidi from PSG for a paltry £18m!

Further bad news came when long-time Klopp favourite, Christian Pulisic, announced he had no intentions of leaving Borussia Dortmund. It does seem that Liverpool have trouble in getting deals over the line and the man responsible, football director Michael Edwards, is making Ed Woodward look like Jorge Mendes.

With those three players – Van Dijk, Keita and Coutinho – in the side, Liverpool would look title contenders.

Now it is looking like they'll have none of them. Which is why Reds fans badly need a boost as summer winds down. Alexander-Arnold's strike and overall performance at least keeps them hoping.