The second helping of Liverpool v Arsenal, this time in the Carabao Cup, will be an entirely separate affair. The teams will likely be completely different and the approach, certainly in Arsenal’s case, will have to be a complete contrast from what was served up last time around in the Premier League fixture between both the teams.
The failure to release the ball upfield was a problem that severely hampered Arsenal and reduced Aubameyang to the role of a bystander. Liverpool’s high line and their constant chasing and pressing kept Arsenal in their half for long periods and Klopp will employ much of the same formula as he did in that encounter.
Having seen what transpired, Ceballos, who made the difference when he came on for Xhaka, will most certainly start alongside either Willock or Xhaka. The Gunners seemed unable to cut through or force a determined Liverpool back and their insistence of playing out from the back rather cost them dearly.
That’s not a criticism of Arsenal as such because Klopp’s side caused the problem but one craved a straight forward boot downfield, which may or may not have caused some mild panic in the opposition’s backline with Aubameyang prowling the flank.
The failure to get any meaningful momentum played into the Merseysider’s hands as they dictated the game and dominated possession. Some decisions didn’t go Arsenal’s way but such was Liverpool’s stranglehold of the game, that only a sending off would have disrupted the Premier League champions.
It was a justified result and one that highlighted the gulf between the sides but as Arteta said himself, Liverpool haven’t instantly become a quality side, it took time and money. Arteta is at the beginning of his journey and this side will continue to improve with investment and changes in personnel.
Anyway, back to the Liverpool v Arsenal Carabao Cup game, a competitive one-off that could well be decided by penalties as so many of these types of games are. Although the Merseysiders beat their previous EFL Cup opponents 7-2, Arsenal comfortably went past a lack-lustre Leicester City 2-0.
Arsenal fans should be excited at the prospect of a Saliba, Gabriel, and Tierney back-three and the return of Saka in place of Maitland-Niles. I’d also give Reiss Nelson an outing upfront on the flank, with Pepe on the other.
The bench will contain more seasoned faces, in case the game heads in a familiar direction and Lacazette may have the chance to make up for his wasteful opportunities in the previous game. With the inclusion of so many youngsters, it will at least add a competitive element to the proceedings as academy players fight for first-team places.
It’s another chance for Joe Willock to answer his critics as the midfielder hasn’t seized his chances and needs to adapt quickly by showing his full repertoire if he gets the nod. I’m not convinced he’s ready but I’m willing to wipe the egg off my face if he excels.
I don’t expect Holding to keep his place because the lad was cut to ribbons by Mane on numerous occasions. He was rarely on terms in that particular battle and although I doubt Mane will feature, Holding has struggled on the left side of three.
There is an argument for Elneny or Xhaka’s inclusion to add some experience, but these games are useful to blood fringe players. Kolasinac is fancied by some in a back three but I think he will suffer against pace, Arteta needs young legs. Maitland-Niles had an uncomfortable night against Liverpool, but he wasn’t on his own and it was hard to find a player in Arsenal colours that took any credit other than for perseverance.
Ceballos probably stood out for his tireless work and because he genuinely made a difference with his invention. The ball he produced for Aubameyang late in the game should have resulted in a goal and it’s frustrating that fans didn’t get to see more of that up and over style to cause more problems than they did. Liverpool will fancy this but Arsenal need to show spirit and fight to make up for the result in the Premier League.
The Preferred side for the Carabao Cup: Runarsson; Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Soares, Willock, Ceballos, Saka; Pepe, Nketiah, Nelson.
The predicted score for the Carabao Cup: Liverpool 2 Arsenal 2 (Decided on penalties).