Klopp’s Arsenal Conundrum: Crafting Liverpool’s Winning FA Cup Starting XI
As the FA Cup reached the third round stage, Liverpool face a formidable challenge as they square off against Arsenal, a key Premier League adversary. This match-up at the Emirates Stadium is not just a repeat of their recent 1-1 league draw at Anfield, but a fresh battlefield with both teams likely to showcase varied line-ups.
Klopp’s Selection Puzzle
One of the significant dilemmas for Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp is finding an effective replacement for Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian maestro, now with his national team for the Africa Cup of Nations, leaves a considerable void. Klopp himself downplayed the notion of a direct replacement, emphasising the need to adapt to the strengths of the available players.
He stated, “Nobody else who plays that wing should play like Mo, it’s not possible. So we just have to find another way and have to use the boys to their skills.”
With a quartet of in-form attackers – Darwin Núñez, Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo, and Luis Díaz – Klopp has options aplenty. The real question is, which three will make the starting line-up? Jota, needing more minutes post-injury, seems a likely choice for the right flank, with Gakpo possibly reserved for a second-half impact. Expect Díaz on the left, Jota on the right, and Nunez leading the line.
The goalkeeping choice for the upcoming Carabao Cup semi-final against Fulham suggests Caoimhin Kelleher might start, following Klopp’s League Cup policy. However, for the FA Cup tie, Alisson Becker is expected to take his place between the posts, ensuring the Brazilian isn’t left game-less for an extended period.
Defensive Pairing Decisions
Centre-back selections pose another significant challenge. Jarell Quansah seems a likely starter, but who will partner him? Ibrahima Konaté shone against Arsenal in their previous league encounter, yet Virgil van Dijk’s presence could signal Liverpool’s serious intent. Given Van Dijk’s injury history around this time last year, his participation remains a crucial decision.
With Wataru Endō absent due to international commitments, Alexis Mac Allister, back from injury, is a natural fit in the No.6 role. The midfield might also feature two from Curtis Jones, Ryan Gravenberch and Harvey Elliott. While Gravenberch and Elliott would be my preference, Jones might still find his way into Klopp’s plans, though with Fulham on the horizon; I’d hold Jones back for that.
Youthful Opportunities and Defensive Adjustments
The FA Cup has historically been a platform for young talents, and this year might see Conor Bradley shining at right-back. With Trent Alexander-Arnold possibly rested, Bradley’s inclusion seems logical. The bench could feature budding stars like James McConnell, Luke Chambers, and Kaide Gordon; though Owen Beck, recently back from a Dundee loan, is unavailable due to suspension.
Joe Gomez will surely remain at left-back, a choice made simple for Klopp as opposed to exposing the likes of Chambers or Calum Scanlon to Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka.
Predicted Starting XI
Alisson, Bradley, Quansah, Van Dijk, Gomez, Mac Allister, Elliott, Gravenberch, Jota, Díaz, Nunez
In selecting his side Klopp faces a major challenge in assembling a Liverpool team that can triumph over Arsenal in the FA Cup. With player fitness, strategic rest and the integration of youthful talent all playing a role, this match promises to be a thrilling encounter in football’s storied competition.