After being dumped out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest and a title tilt in the Premier League unlikely, Arsenal’s last remaining bit of silverware open to them this season, was the League Cup. After a narrow draw at Anfield in the first-leg, it was the Gunners’ turn to host the Merseysiders.
After being forced to call off the north London derby on Sunday, Arsenal were scrambling to make sure they had a team that could play on Thursday night. Mercifully, Mikel Arteta had (barring Granit Xhaka) his full-strength team available to him. Another good sign was that Thomas Partey, who had just returned from a disappointing campaign at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) with Ghana was on the bench.
Arsenal started well. They pressed Liverpool in key areas, with Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Ødegaard pulling the strings of the Arsenal attack. Liverpool looked all at sea in the opening 20 minutes, and Arsenal even came close from a free-kick, which was tipped onto the crossbar superbly by Caoimhin Kelleher.
From there, Arsenal seemed to switch off. After such a tremendous start to the first-half, they soon began to slip into the early season form of looking like they didn’t know what to do.
Liverpool capitalised on this by bursting forward with Diogo Jota, who ran rings around Takehiro Tomiyasu, broke through the ranks and rolled his scuffed effort past Aaron Ramsdale and no fewer than 3 Arsenal attempted blocks, to give the visitor’s the lead.
Arsenal seemed utterly devoid of ideas from there and didn’t seem to know how to break Liverpool down.
A hlaf-chance for Gabriel Martinelli was well dealt with by Fabinho, but other than that, Lacazette’s free-kick was the closest Arsenal came.
The 2nd half bread more of the same from the hosts. There was no real effort to press, no clue how to attack or create and a total lack of confidence in whatever plan Mikel Arteta had asked them to carry out.
A slip from Gabriel Martinelli allowed Trent Alexander-Arnold to pick the ball up and play a beautiful pass into the feet of Diogo Jota, who broke the Arsenal ranks again (which was as parted as the red sea) and dinked a cute finish over a grounded Aaron Ramsdale, to put the game to bed. An unnecessary VAR check for offside likely prolonged Arsenal’s misery further for added time.
Yet further misery was to come. Thomas Partey, who had landed at 12:00 the same day and had specifically asked to play. That Partey had not missed a single league game at the AFCON and would be available for Burnley on Sunday, was soon wiped out as he was dismissed for a second bookable offence, leaving the Emirates crowd to file out silently, one-by-one.
It was a very poor display from Arsenal. After fighting like lions in the 1st leg, they went out with so much as a whimper in the 2nd.
There was a definite look of lethargy in the Arsenal side. Against Manchester City, Arsenal had looked like they couldn’t wait to get the ball back – they pressed high and with intent, allowing City barely a second on the ball. Against Liverpool, Arsenal looked downright uninterested. No attempt to win the ball back, hoofed long balls upfield towards a striker unable to win the oncoming aerial duel and plenty more.
Ill-discipline has also started to become an issue now. Arsenal have played 4 games in 2022 and have had a man sent off in 75% of them. Granit Xhaka is unavailable for the trip to Burnley, as is Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhães had only just returned from a suspension himself.
There were bright sparks though. Gabriel Martinelli (who was praised heavily by Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp in his post-match press conference) and Martin Ødegaard both looked very important for the team and showed their qualities. Ødegaard in particular seemed to have the Mesut Özil-esque ability to pick a pass and the vision that set the German apart during his time with the club, while Martinelli hassled the Liverpool defence with a tenacity that bordered on the ferocious.
It will be another season of no silverware for Arsenal, but they can now focus on trying to get back into the top 4 this season. Assuming it isn’t called off, Burnley on Sunday awaits Mikel Arteta’s men, who will need to improve significantly if they are to get anything from it.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
4.) Benjamin White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
8.) Martin Ødegaard
7.) Bukayo Saka
10.) Emile Smith Rowe (Partey 74’ 🔴)
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
9.) Alexandre Lacazette (c) (Nketiah 74’)
49.) Karl Jakob Hein
16.) Rob Holding
37.) Ryan Alebiosu
20.) Nuno Tavares
5.) Thomas Partey
87.) Charlie Patino
65.) Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand
30.) Eddie Nketiah
58.) Mika Bireth
62.) Caoimhin Kelleher
66.) Trent Alexander-Arnold
32.) Jöel Matt (Konaté 45’)
4.) Virgil van Dijk
26.) Andrew Robertson
14.) Jordan Henderson (c) (Milner 75’)
17.) Curtis Jones
49.) Kaide Gordon (Minamino 63’)
20.) Diogo Jota
9.) Roberto Firmino (Williams 84’)
5.) Ibrahima Konaté
12.) Joel Gomez
21.) Konstantinos Tsimikas
76.) Neco Williams
80.) Tyler Morton
7.) James Milner
18.) Takumi Minamino