Liverpool were held to a goalless draw by a resilient Arsenal side that played most of the game with ten men. The Reds failed to take advantage and now have it all to do in the second leg. Here’s a review of last night’s League Cup semi final clash.

You can find player ratings from the match here:

° Lineup. It was as strong an XI as was possible, with Alisson making his first League Cup appearance since joining the club. Trent was straight in too after recovering from Covid. It was a clear sign intent by the manager on just how serious he is taking this competition.

° Steady start. The opening exchanges were very similar to the 4-0 win over Arsenal some weeks back. Both teams were just feeling each other out and looking to force an error where possible. The Reds pressed well and the Gunners started to panick at the back.

With Ramsdale smashing a clearance straight at Henderson and then Gabriel passing the ball straight out for a corner, you could tell the occasion was starting to get to the visitors. This culminated in the sending off, with Xhaka shown a straight red for booting Jota in the mid section to halt a clear goalscoring opportunity.

° Arsenal down to ten men. That red card for Granit Xhaka came after 24 minutes. Arteta reacted by bringing on Holding for Nketiah and switched to a back 5. Their game plan had been simplified; sit deep, defend in numbers and try to get away with minimum damage. Saka’s pace was useful for counters too.

° No changes. With Arsenal going down to ten, we should have reacted. Jürgen doesn’t do early subs but this game could have used one. There was no point still having three midfielders who offer solidity and not creativity. One should have been sacrificed arguably as soon as Arteta brought on Holding, and definitely at halftime.

We didn’t create much all half even with them going down a man. That Jürgen Klopp made no alterations to his personnel was strange. The three midfielders didn’t offer anything going forward. No incisive passes, no shots of note and no third man runs into the box. It took an hour before one was subbed.

Jamie Carragher: “I can’t believe Liverpool came out for that second half with the same XI. They had to make a change at half-time. Arsenal were down to 10 men.”

° Midfield concern. We saw the trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Milner outplayed and dominated by Kanté and Kovacic barely two weeks ago. Last night they started together again and struggled in a different sense. This time, it was their inability to break down a packed defence, offering zero cutting edge.

You can’t help but feel a midfield overhaul is inevitable in the summer. There are lots of midfielders at the club but a few are injury prone, a few lack consistency and a few are no longer at the level required. With Milner, Keita and Ox all have their contracts running down, there’s a good opportunity to remodel the midfield.

° Fullbacks struggle. Trent was shocking last night, possibly still feeling the effects of Covid. He failed to create a single chance before being taken off after 75 minutes. Robertson was slightly better but was also frustrating with his deliveries from set pieces especially. When the fullbacks have an off day, the chances dry up.

° Blunt attack. The front three of Jota , Firmino and Minamino looked toothless. Diogo and Bobby didn’t attempt a single shot. Taki and Diogo didn’t create a single chance. It was a hot mess upfront, not helped by a lack of creativity behind them. This was the first big test in Mané and Salah’s absence and it didn’t look pretty.

Minamino won’t want to look back at that chance

° Curtis Cameo. Jones came on for Milner after an hour and brought urgency to proceedings. He created as many chances (2) and registered as many shots as Fabinho, Henderson and Milner combined. He registered our only shot on target in injury time. Surely he starts on Sunday.

° That Taki miss. Minamino’s Liverpool career has struggled to ignite since his £7.5m arrival from Salzburg. He’s had fleeting moments, none more so than his last minute equaliser in the last round against Leicester. He had a glorious chance for another late intervention here and he blazed it wastefully over.

° Summary. When your primary source of creativity (fullbacks) suffer an off night, and your secondary source of creativity is absent (Salah), and you compound that with 3 midfielders that don’t create much, you’re left with 78% possession, 17 shots attempted, 1 shot on target and 0 goals.

° Advantage spurned. With the postponement of the game last week relinquishing our second leg home advantage, this was a chance to take a lead to the Emirates. To not even take a 1-0 lead into the second leg having played over an hour against ten men is massively disappointing.

° On to the 2nd leg. The tie is by no means over, it is delicately poised. Liverpool have to go to the Emirates and win. A much better performance than what we saw last night will be required. Arsenal will fancy their chances and will have a go, that should make for a better spectacle at least.

° What’s next? Brentford on Sunday where we’ll likely come up against another packed defence. The manager’s midfield selection has to work out well on the pitch. One or two don’t deserve to keep their place after consistent below par performances. Brentford scored 3 times against us earlier this season and will pose a threat.

We will need to turn it up several notches to beat them and keep our faint title hopes alive. It’s just the one win in the last six, with that sole victory coming against League One side Shrewsbury Town who actually took the lead. The Reds are not playing well, they need to get out of this rut sharpish.

It’s all too easy too easy to blame it on the absence of Mané, Salah and Keita, but we’ve seen them also fail to break down Chelsea when they went down to ten men. It’s a larger issue than just who is missing. Hopefully Jürgen and his coaching staff work it out on the training ground.



  1. It’s actually frustrating to see Liverpool play this way, it’s becoming a norm now and we can’t afford that.
    We need sharp reinforcements.

    Liked by 1 person

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