I know it is not elegant and even less productive to be overconfident right before the event, but as I will not play against Liverpool in the Carabao I may afford the luxury, hoping not to jinx it for the boys. Anyway, I am positive we will proceed to the quarter-finals to the Carabao Cup tonight. Why am I so confident? Because I trust Klopp and Arteta to be genuine gentlemen, and use the opportunity to give minutes to youngsters and fringe players, and our B team is simply stronger than Liverpool’s. A few months ago, we discussed that Arsenal’s backup XI is almost as strong as the A team, and while we had no chance against Liverpool’s prime at Anfield on Monday, this is time to demonstrate through an away win that we are an important factor in any cups. We prevailed 14 times from 17 games in the league cup’s 4th round, so it’s time to make it 15 out of 18.
It will not be an easy game though. Liverpool is strong in attack – but so are we – so I expect a game rich in chances and goals. In fact, Liverpool’s last 3 Carabao Cup matches have seen 24 goals scored (12-12 in both directions) with 90 shots attempted across those games. The most notable – as far as I’m concerned – was the 10-goal thriller against Arsenal, as last year we visited Anfield on the 30th of October, and played a memorable 5:5, eventually losing on penalties by 5:4. If you haven’t seen the game or the highlights, be sure to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB7zwcRxFsE
It was a crazy game with a Mustafi own goal, a soft penalty against Arsenal, 2 Liverpool strikes from outside the 18-yard box, and a defensive calamity (Martinez stood in goal and by conceding 5 again – after the legendary 7:5 win against Reading a few years back – earned an abysmal 3.6 rating from WhoScored). We were not as fortunate as the Reds, but we had our fair share of luck, as Ozil miraculously salvaged a goal for AMN following a sloppy back pass from Milner.
Joe Willock had a memorable night – in fact I think that was his best game ever for Arsenal – with 2 key passes, plenty of defensive contribution, and a long range pile-driver that was a contender for our goal of the season. Martinelli stole the show though scoring a brace after his 2 goals against Nottingham Forest in the previous round and another brace against Standard Liége a few weeks earlier.
I am sure that with our defence improved – from both concentration and individual skills point of view – we will not concede 5 goals, but we won’t score 5 either. My prediction for Thursday night is Liverpool 2:4 Arsenal. And another fine piece of record: this will be the 16th time we face Liverpool in the league cup, making it the most played fixture in the history of the competition.
Let’s see the likely line-ups. Starting with Liverpool:
Assuming they will keep the signature 4-3-3 formation they will probably look like this
Tsimikas is injured and Robertson is resting, so I think they will call up Larouci from the U23. And I guess Matip will stay on the bench to let the youngsters form the defence.
Their attacking trident is dangerous enough on their own merit, but I hope Origi will stay on the bench, as Jota deserves to play, and Shaqiri and Minamino need the minutes more than the Belgian international. Nevertheless if Origi plays as ST we should pay special attention to him, as his MOM display sank Arsenal in the same fixture a year ago. Taking into consideration that Brewster is still with Liverpool (they are looking for a proper club to send him on loan this season) we can see how insanely strong Liverpool’s squad is in attackers.
Let’s see the possible formations for Arsenal. I share 4 options here. Starting with the U23 version:
We don’t have an U23 keeper in the senior team, so the new lad from Iceland should start, to provide competition to Leno, and I seriously hope that we will see Saliba in a competitive game for the first time. We bought him for the future, and he had time to adapt, played in a pre-season friendly, played in the U23, so there are no more excuses. Especially as Rob Holding played all games in the season already – the only player with 450 minutes under his belt.
If Guendouzi is not playing – and Arteta would want to stick to the U23 concept – then he can call up Cottrell from the U23 squad. He is doing great this year so far, even though Bould’s coaching and tactics are less value-adding than I would have liked, but this is way off-topic here…
Here is another alternative, with a lot more experience there, taking into consideration that Xhaka was substituted, so he might have the legs to play again mid-week:
Now let’s see a 4-2-3-1 line-up with no players there that started against Liverpool on Monday. This is a really attack-minded formation, probably even too offensive, like this joke on Liverpool:
St. Peter was manning the Pearly Gates when 40 Liverpool fans showed up. Never having seen anyone from Liverpool at heaven’s door, St. Peter said he would have to check with God. After hearing the news, God instructed him to admit only the 10 most virtuous from the group. A few minutes later, Saint Peter returned to God breathless and said, “They’re gone.” “What? All of the Liverpool fans are gone?” asked God.
“No” replied Saint Peter “The Pearly Gates!”
Finally, let me show a possible XI that I would really like to see. This is not a particularly probable one, but if I would be the manager, that would be my preferred choice – to honor Ozil and Kolasinac, who never got themselves fully over the attack on their car a year ago, and – maybe connected to that – Mesut is more of a ghost player now, and Sead is on his way out, so this could be their swan song:
While the only personal difference here between the 2 last line-ups is the Willock-Ozil swap (and starting Bellerin as Cedric may not be fully fit), this is the good old 3-4-3 formation, including an AM this time, but I think they could deal with Liverpool’s midfield trio. In fact, if Torreira wasn’t leaving he could play behind Ozil to add extra stability and to filter the counter-attacks from the Reds.
Let’s have a great game with eye-catrching attacking football, and a well deserved Arsenal win.
p.s.I.: If you need some inspiration to get into the mood:
p.s.II.: While I am a huge admirer of Klopp, I don’t mind a few jokes at the expense of the Liverpool fans. Here is another one from St. Peter:
A man arrives at the gates of heaven, where St. Peter greets him and says: “Before I can let you enter I must ask you what you have done in your life that was particularly good.”
The man racks his brains for a few minutes and then admits to St Peter that he hasn’t done anything particularly good in his life.
“Well,” says St Peter, “have you done anything particularly brave in your life?”
“Yes, I have,” replies the man proudly, without hesitation.
St Peter asks the man to give an account of his bravery.
So the man explains, “I was refereeing this important match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield. The score was 0-0 and there was only one more minute of play to go in the second half when I awarded a penalty against Liverpool at the Kop end.”
“Yes,” responded St Peter, “I agree that was a real act of bravery. But I can’t see that anywhere in our records. Can you perhaps tell me when this took place?”
“Certainly,” the man replied, “about three minutes ago.”