Arsenal went from inept field team to near-full strength in Carabao Cup loss to Liverpool
Arsenal’s miraculous mass recovery should be manna from heaven for producers of the energy drink sponsoring this match.
Unable to train a team on Sunday to near full strength on Thursday, offering Carabao a hint of some kind of potion akin to the elixir of life.
Somewhere in north London, Antonio Conte would have raised a wry smile.
Arsenal couldn’t play on Sunday but Mikel Arteta called a strong line-up to play against Liverpool
Andy Robertson, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino (LR) celebrate the second goal
Perhaps Jurgen Klopp did too when his team qualified for next month’s Wembley final against Chelsea.
Mikel Arteta was able to select his first-choice keeper and four back, the foundation on which so much of Arsenal’s impressive development has rested this season.
Up front, captain Alex Lacazette supported by the youthful exuberance of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe, who started his first game since the quarter-final against Sunderland.
Only in midfield were Arsenal exhausted, with Mohamed Elneny as the Africa Cup of Nations international and Granit Xhaka serving the first of his two-match red card suspension at Anfield last week.
The Gunners looked dejected as they had lost their chance of reaching the final
Arteta put Martin Odegaard deeper than usual alongside Sambi Lokonga, while Thomas Partey was named as one of the substitutes after he played for Ghana on Tuesday and landed in London at noon yesterday, less than eight hours before kick-off.
After leaving Cameroon’s equatorial climate behind, Partey sat on the sofa, swaddled in several layers of clothing as the temperature dropped to zero, until he was called up in the closing stages.
His involvement may say something about the spirit that is evolving at Arsenal. Proof that while Arteta has a habit of banning elements of his team, those aboard the project, as he likes to call it, are firmly on board.
These players represent his trusted core, and on their day they can give the best teams a game, but this was not their day.
Jota was the man of the match and the difference maker for Jurgen Klopp’s side
The German has the chance to win more silverware after setting up a cup final at Wembley
After making the mad dash home, Partey picked up two yellow cards in three minutes, was ordered by referee Martin Atkinson and, along with Xhaka, will be banned from Sunday’s game against Burnley.
Arsenal’s hunt for their first League Cup win since 1993 is over for another year.
Liverpool continue in a competition that Klopp sometimes sees as little more than a minor irritation. He hasn’t been close to victory since his first season in English football when his side lost on penalties from City.
This year, with City out of the equation, his intent is clear, and the chance to lift a trophy for a full-house at Wembley in February is a major draw for a team forced to celebrate its title win in 2020 on an empty Anfield.
After their own flirtation with the Covid rules, which caused this semi-final to be delayed by a week and the legs turned. They were in the capital on business and their traveling support propelled them on from the Clock End at the Emirates Stadium.
Like the hosts, they went strong, with Klopp’s Carabao Cup keeper Caoimhin Kelleher in goal. “He always plays in this league,” said the Liverpool boss when asked why he was preferred over Alisson. “It’s his competition.”
Kaide Gordon missed a golden opportunity, but in the end it didn’t matter as Liverpool won
There was a chance for teenage Kaide Gordon to start on the right wing. Gordon, signed to crisis club Derby a year ago, is being tipped for a very bright future. “When I spoke to Wayne Rooney, he beamed at him,” Jamie Redknapp told Skys Sports.
The 17-year-old flicked on the flank. He played a part in Diogo Jota’s opening game, but had a glorious chance to make it 2-0 early in the second half, just as Arsenal were stirring and trying to find their way back into the game.
At that point it felt like it could be a big moment and Klopp tried to contain his fear and applauded encouragingly before offering Gordon another of his bear hugs when he replaced him with Takumi Minamino just after the hour. Actually, it wasn’t important.
Arteta’s side was slow in the first half. Perhaps it was indeed the lingering effects of niggles and bumps and for some, like Smith Rowe, a lack of competitive acuity. It’s such a nice balance.
Whatever it was, Liverpool were worthy of their lead, with more energy and aggression they dominated the center of the pitch where Arsenal had no physical presence.
Once behind, the task was too great for the hosts against an experienced opponent. They survived a disallowed goal and their woodwork rattled, but they couldn’t escape VAR’s control for Jota’s second.
For Arteta, the miracles ended with the team sheet.