Welp, that was a madness. Ten goals in regulation time, nine goals in the penalty shootout, and the largest amount of chaotic energy in a match between two English sides in recent memory, the Reds’ win over Arsenal had it all.
Beyond the top-level stuff, though, there were interesting bits and pieces aplenty. Join us as we attempt to parse a few salient points from the mayhem that was this game.
Neutral Fans: Objectively speaking, this was not a particularly well-played match, with spells of quality possession few and far between. On the other hand, it was absolutely top-notch entertainment, as both sets of youngsters threw caution to the wind in search of the next goal, finding it more often than not. Own goals, penalties, and a couple of absolute belters to go with the constant back-and-forth nature of the game ensured that this was the sort of match absolutely anybody could enjoy watching.
VAR: Proponents of the Premier League’s Video Assistant Referee system — a besieged group in recent weeks, as the league attempts to decide which extreme implementation it will swing towards next — will undoubtedly point to this match to justify their position. Andre Marriner, bereft of the assistance he receives at the weekends, missed both a decisive offside and a blatant handball in the first half, decisions that would have had a direct impact on the match result.
It all worked out in the end, because, you know, all of the fun, but in a contest that carries more weight than the Carabao Cup, these sorts of missed calls would be scrutinised to bits in the hours and days following the game.
Baby Mentality Monsters: After taking an early lead, the young Reds went down 2-1, 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4, trailing Arsenal for 55 minutes in total, before managing to force a crucial equaliser in injury time, and going on to win the penalty shootout, pitching a perfect five out of five.
It was the sort of gritty, never-say-die performance the first team have shown themselves capable of in the past two years, and following his assistant manager’s reiteration of the squad ethos “Our identity is intensity” in yesterday’s pre-game pre conference, Jürgen Klopp will have been satisfied with his young charges’ adherence to the maxim.
Clean sheets: Liverpool defenders of any age just can’t seem to keep them. It’s three in 17 for the Reds on the season now, and at some point, this inability to prevent opposition goals is going to be a problem with actual consequences.
Naby Keïta: Having just begun to come into his own in a red shirt, including a dominant performance in Belgium last week, the Guinean was forced off around the hour mark among fears that he had sustained yet another muscle injury. There is no word yet on the 24-year old’s status, but even more time missed would come as a vexing blow to both the team and the player.
Credit to the Opposition
The Arsenal babies did their part in making this the messy classic it was, swarming forward at every opportunity, pressuring the young Reds into mistakes when they could, and contributing a few cracking goals of their own. Already under pressure, Unai Emery would have sorely needed a win here, and his players probably deserved to get something from the game all told, but there are — thankfully — no draws in the ruthless ball pit of the Carabao Cup.
What Happens Next
Only three games to go until the next international break, with the Reds traveling to Birmingham to face Aston Villa on Saturday, hosting Genk at Anfield on Tuesday, before the crucial clash with Manchester City the following Sunday. The range of outcomes is significant, as Liverpool could go into the international break nine points clear of their title rivals and having just about sown up qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League, or find themselves in second place in the league and in a must-win filled dogfight to qualify for the round of 16.