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Digging Deeper Into Liverpool’s Carabao Cup Penalty Defeat to Arsenal

With a penalty defeat to Arsenal in the books, we dig a little deeper into what tonight’s loss means for Liverpool.

Liverpool v Arsenal - Carabao Cup Fourth Round Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Liverpool generally played well against Arsenal on Thursday night in the Carabao Cup, just as they had on Monday night in the Premier League. Unlike in the Premier League, though, they couldn’t turn their generally solid play into goals and so the match went to penalties. And they lost it on penalties. Which means they’re now out of the Carabao Cup, which is rather a bothersome result all things considered.

Talking Statistics

Liverpool’s Case

Liverpool had more of the ball, with 56% possession. They had more shots and more shots on target, 16 and seven to Arsenal’s six and two. They had eight corners to Arsenal’s one. Created three big chances to Arsenal’s none. They hit the woodwork once and forced seven saves out of Bernd Leno to Arsenal forcing two from Adrian.

When everything was said and done, they had 1.82 expected goals to Arsenal’s 0.23 expected goals. Based on the underlying numbers, this was a game that, as it played out, Liverpool would expect to win the vast majority of the time.

Arsenal’s Counterpoint

The only stat that really matters at the end of the day is the scoreline and the Gunners will rightly feel they should have had a chance to win it even before penalties due to a James Milner handball in the penalty area in the 92nd minute that wasn’t spotted by the referee.

Winners and Losers

The Forward Depth

The goals may not have come for them on this night, but Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino were standouts, often the best part of an attacking line with Mohamed Salah in it, and any disappointment over the result shouldn’t obscure the fact that for the first time in memory the Reds have honest to goodness quality attacking options.

The best chance of the first half saw Jota’s contorted, stooping header fizz against Leno’s palms before Minamino slammed the rebound off the underside crossbar. In the second both were again lively, in particular Jota, who ran hard as the game wore on and should have had a goal when he took a long diagonal pass from Curtis Jones on his chest, directing it between two defenders and giving himself a shooting lane, only to see Leno again save well.

The Backup Goalkeeper

Despite having less to do than his Arsenal counterpart, when called upon Liverpool got more strong work from a backup as goalkeeper Adrian made two exceptional saves in regulation—plus a third that was waved offside after he stopped it. He stayed sharp while going long stretches without seeing the ball as the Reds controlled the game and then did his job as well as Alison would have been expected to when things broke down.

He then gave Liverpool another chance to win with a penalty save, but a pair of stopped efforts from some of Liverpool’s players on the transfer fringes saw that chance he had given them slip away. Regardless, it was another reminder Adrian has the quality to be the starting goalkeeper for some sides that will be fighting to finish in the top half of the league this season—and that people who expect a better backup than that, and a better backup than that who would be happy being a backup no less, are ridiculous and misguided.

The Transfer Fringe

Speaking of that transfer fringe, it’s hard to tell if some of them were winners or actually losers here. That might take some time to figure out, but on the evening at least Harry Wilson didn’t look out of his depth filling in at LCM—just as Xherdan Shaqiri had against Lincoln last week. And with word Shaqiri’s absence was due to a potential departure and earlier reports the club would only sell one of the two, it now seems likely Wilson will get a chance to stick around following tonight’s competent showing.

Meanwhile, Marko Grujic also played well—was perhaps even one of Liverpool’s standouts—leading to questions as to whether he actually has a future at Liverpool or if once half the club’s midfielders aren’t out injured will he be relegated to the U23s if he isn’t sold.

Which rather gets to the crux of the issue for both. Namely that chances at playing time were already likely to be limited to the domestic cups—and Liverpool are now out of this one with the FA’s edition not on offer until the new year. The situation seems even more difficult for Divock Origi, who didn’t start, was a non-factor when he eventually did come on, then missed his penalty. Past heroics aside, it’s hard to see where Origi fits at Liverpool circa 2020-21.

What Happens Next

The Carabao Cup quarter-finals are scheduled to take place the week of December 21st. Arsenal will face Manchester City in that round’s headlining match. And the Reds won’t be involved. Which is annoying given they were generally the better side tonight but should at least mean a little less fixture congestion.

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