Following their 0-2 win over Leicester City in round four, it could be forgiven for Arsenal to enter Thursday night’s match with Liverpool with a sense of apprehension after their 3-1 loss on Monday night to Jürgen Klopp’s champions.
In fact, both Jürgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta are likely sick of the sight each other right now, having played each other four times in the past twelve weeks, with last night thankfully bringing an end to the constant fixture match-up for 2020.
Mikel Arteta made eight changes from the team that was comprehensively beaten on Monday night, with Granit Xhaka being restored as Arsenal captain a full 340 days after his on-pitch meltdown during Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace in the final days of Unai Emery’s reign.
Arsenal started off in much better fashion than they had in their previous meeting, with Arsenal identifying the weak spot in Liverpool’s defence being Neco Williams, which allowed them to exploit Nicolas Pépé’s pace down Liverpool’s right-hand side.
From there, Arsenal began to wreak havoc on the Wales international, but the Gunners failed to take their chances, with Eddie Nketiah coming closest, but a moment’s hesitation from the usually deadly centre-forward led to Adrián recovering quick enough to tighten the angle.
Liverpool had plenty of chances as well, mainly from corners, however, the best chance of the half fell to the home side. Williams’ wonderful ball into the box fell to new signing Diogo Jota, who’s headed effort was acrobatically kept out by Bernd Leno, only for the ball to fall to Takumi Minamino who managed to rattle the crossbar, despite the open goal. It seemed as though the ball had fallen too quickly for the Japanese international to convert.
The second-half told a different story. Liverpool asserted their dominance and forced some spectacular saves from Bernd Leno, who seemed to be the only thing keeping Arsenal in the game. Leno had come under fire in the wake of Emiliano Martínez’s move to Aston Villa, however, the German proved why Mikel Arteta was right to trust in the former Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper.
Soon Arsenal began to venture forward more, with Rob Holding coming the closes to scoring, forcing an impressive save from Adrián. The game was not without controversy however as Arsenal’s claims for a penalty were waved away by Paul Tierney after James Milner’s handball.
Unable to find a winner after 90 minutes, penalties beckoned. James Milner, Alexandre Lacazette, Georginio Wijnaldum, Cédric Soares and Minamino all managed to convert their penalties, before Mohamed Elneny and Divock Origi missed. Further penalties followed before Joe Willock’s penalty crept in under Adrián, a hammer-blow for the goalkeeper who had gotten a hand to the shot and had had an overall impressive game for the homeside. Willock’s effort and Leno’s heroics meant Arsenal progressed to the quarter-finals.
Though the result favours Arsenal, the performance would likely not have impressed Mikel Arteta. Though a second-string team can be forgiven for not dominating possession, sloppy play in midfield led to Liverpool creating far too many chances and were it not for Leno’s heroics, Arsenal would likely have been resoundly beaten.
The performance seemed to be indicative of previous wins against Liverpool; Liverpool dominate and fail to take their chances, Arsenal take theirs and hang on for dear life.
Arsenal won’t be too upset with the result however, as Mikel Arteta extends to an impressive 75% win rate over Liverpool since taking charge in December.
For now, the attention for Arsenal is on their upcoming match against Sheffield United and the remaining three days of the Transfer Window, as a quarter-final tie against Manchester City in December beckons.
Liverpool penalties: ⚽️⚽️⚽️❎⚽️❎
Arsenal penalties: ⚽️⚽️❎⚽️⚽️⚽️
1.) Bernd Leno
17.) Cédric Soares
16.) Rob Holding
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
31.) Sead Kolašinac
34.) Granit Xhaka (c)
28.) Joe Willock
8.) Dani Ceballos (Elneny 68′)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
7.) Bukayo Saka (Maitland-Niles 86′)
30.) Eddie Nketiah (Lacazette 82′)
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
23.) David Luiz
3.) Kieran Tierney
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
25.) Mohamed Elneny
24.) Reiss Nelson
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
76.) Neco Williams
46.) Rhys Williams
4.) Virgil van Dijk (Gomez 61′)
7.) James Milner (c)
16.) Marko Grujić
17.) Curtis Jones
59.) Harry Wilson
20.) Diogo Jota (Wijnaldum 76′)
11.) Mohamed Salah (Origi 61′)
18.) Takumi Minamino
62.) Caoimhín Kelleher
12.) Joe Gomez
26.) Andy Robertson
5.) Georgino Wijnaldum
67.) Harvey Elliott
27.) Divock Origi