Arsenal 0 – 2 Liverpool – The FA Cup 3rd Round Postmortem
This was a game that could have been largely dismissed by Liverpool’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, given that the reds are playing on Wednesday night, in the EFL Cup semifinal. That two-legged encounter against Fulham sees the first tie undertaken at Anfield, which gives the ideal opportunity to all but secure a pathway into the final. I would imagine the recent and irritating 1-1 draw with Arsenal played into the thinking of the German manager in his Sunday selection, who picked a strong starting eleven, with just a hint of rotation. The absentees to both injury and international tournaments were well known before kick-off, however, an under the weather Virgil van Dijk did not make the trip.
Below is how the team lined up, with match details following.
The Starting Eleven
Trent Alexander Arnold (c)
Alexis Mac Allister
Ryan Gravenberch – Alexis Mac Allister (59 mins)
Diogo Jota – Cody Gakpo (59 mins)
Conor Bradley – Harvey Elliott (75 mins)
Bobby Clark – Curtis Jones (75 mins)
Arsenal 0 – 1 Liverpool
Jakub Kiwior OG (Trent Alexander Arnold) 80 mins
Arsenal 0 – 2 Liverpool
Luis Díaz (Diogo Jota) 90+5 mins
Important Match Stats
Arsenal 53% – 47% Liverpool
Arsenal 17 – 14 Liverpool
Arsenal 3 – 6 Liverpool
Arsenal 5 – 2 Liverpool
The First Half
The opening period of this game saw the home side accelerate out of the north London blocks, with a desire to outwork, outrun, and generally outdo their illustrious visitors. If not for some fine defensive blocks and smart handling by Alisson Becker, then the final score would have been very different. Liverpool, to their credit, did not crumble or break, despite the Gunners raising the intensity levels in that initial 45-minutes. Harvey Elliott was given the first half to show what he could offer on the right wing, as the requirement to replace Mohamed Salah (for a handful of games) became reality. This meant that Cody Gakpo was ushered into a midfield slot, usually marshalled by the Hungarian skipper, Dominik Szoboszlai. Given much of the Liverpool endeavour was that of a defensive output, it made for a fairly one sided contest. Despite some continual knocking on the door, Mikel Arteta’s men always seem slightly blunted in their final pass or shot, as the reds remained comfortable in their shape and counter attacking stance. The half ended as it had begun and you sensed that maybe Arsenal had missed their opportunity.
The Second Half
On resumption of the second half, the scales evened out considerably. Whatever half time instructions were delivered by Liverpool’s infectious manager, had been fully received by his underperforming troops. An invigorated energy and purpose appeared to have been summoned, as an unsure home side started to look somewhat shaky.
After evidently impressing with his interval words, Jürgen Klopp then made the first of two double substitutions. The first set was to relieve two tired assets Alexis and Cody with players that came in hungry and determined to win back a starting shirt. Ryan Gravenberch showed he can indeed increase his efforts, so that his obvious football talents are not solely relied upon. Diogo Jota came into the game with pure venom coursing through his Portuguese veins, as he continued his relentless want to drive forwards and harm the Arsenal.
As the minutes ticked by, the ominous reality of an unwanted replay started to avail itself. In a surprising roll of the Liverpool dice, two young academy products were thrust into the game for a pair of regular first team players Curtis and Harvey. The injection of youth ignited belief in the traveling group, which culminated in the first goal of the evening. It took 80-minutes for either net to finally ripple, despite the one sided first half and end to end battle of the second. A free kick was awarded at the far angle of the 18-yard-box, which the Liverpool captain for the evening, Trent Alexander Arnold, stood over with a determination. A beautifully executed cross was barrelled into the box, before a touch by the opposition left back, Jakub Kiwior, saw the flighted ball deflected into his own net. The reds were in front and the second period showing had them worthy of their lead.
As Mikel Arteta reacted with some attacking substitutions, it left the pitch wide open for some explosive counterattacking play, which Diogo Jota revelled in. A breakaway goal by Liverpool v1.0 was once a thing of breathtaking beauty, whereas the second goal at the Emirates Stadium was equally impressive. As the Gunners struggled to maintain their shape and discipline in search of an equaliser, the purpose of the leaders culminated in a wonderful Luis Díaz strike into the roof of Aaron Ramsay’s goal.
The game ended shortly thereafter and progression to the FA Cup 4th round was secured by the reds.
Liverpool have now won more away games against Arsenal in their last five trips to North London (4) than in their previous 26 combined (3):
◉ W 0-3
◉ W 0-2
◉ W 0-2
◎ L 3-2
◉ W 0-2
And they’ve kept four clean sheets. 👏 pic.twitter.com/oW7SMyF8Nr
— Squawka (@Squawka) January 7, 2024
What Are My Final Thoughts…?
This was a marvellous result that solidified the character of the squad, which was very much in question a year ago. The regeneration has unleashed new entities into the hearts of the adoring fanbase, yet today was about those young starlets that have been itching to get onto the pitch. Jarell Quansah and Curtis Jones were superb once again that evening, as the maturity in their respective displays shone brighter than the London lights above them. Harvey Elliott showed resilience and purpose in a difficult game of differing roles, whereas the introduction of both Conor Bradley and Bobby Clark was a delight to behold.
I am very much one to get ahead of myself, especially when it comes to what may come for Liverpool v2.0. Arsenal is a club you simply love to beat, which was attained with strength and quality. Darwin proved to be the workhouse that ground down a good centre half pairing, before Diogo Jota arrived to pick them apart. Trent Alexander Arnold once again proved why he is one of football’s finest players, whilst Joe Gomez halted any potential Bukayo Saka threat, again. In the Liverpool goal, Alisson Becker was faultless.
If that was not enough, Ibrahima Konaté put in one of the finest defensive performances that the stadium would have seen, as his performance shone above all else. All in all, this was the ideal scenario, one which elevated Liverpool’s momentum even more so.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) January 7, 2024
Arsenal 3 – 2 Liverpool