As ever in the Mickey Mouse Coca Cola League Carabao Cup, wholesale changes were made on both sides, with both Liverpool and Norwich swapping nine starters from their games this weekend, and the latter opting for an entirely new formation as well.
The result was a somewhat chaotic but consistently fun matchup that ultimately saw the Reds run out deserved winners, despite a penalty scare — expertly dealt with by Caomhin Kelleher — at the other end, as they continue their relentless and inevitable march towards every single one of the trophies.
Three-Nil: After seven games, Liverpool have six wins and a draw, have kept five clean sheets, and have won four games by the aforementioned scoreline, all while mixing and matching lineups in order to keep players both match fit and fresh. It’s been a tremendously impressive start to the season, and one that should allow Reds fans to be bullish about their club’s prospects this year.
The Future: Three teenagers made their debuts for the Reds tonight, with Kaide Gordon and Conor Bradley starting, and Tyler Morton coming on for Naby Keïta at the halfway points. For all the hype surrounding 16-year old Gordon — and he did look promising, displaying quickness and game intelligence both on and off the ball — it was actually Morton who put on the most impressive display, settling into the deepest midfield role — allowing a slightly underwhelming Curtis Jones to move into his favoured free eight spot — and making it look easy.
Strong in the tackle, composed on the ball, and always in position to receive it, the lanky youngster helped settle things down after his arrival.
Taki: It’s not been easy for Takumi Minamino to settle on Merseyside, for somewhat perplexing reasons, and after an impressive pre-season, he has again found himself on the outside looking in for the opening matches this year, planted firmly on the bench for all six fixtures.
Truth be told, Taki wasn’t exactly dominant tonight, but he looked sharp on the ball, constantly pushing to make things happen, and popped up in the right spot with two tricky finishes to make the scoreline comfortable, taking his tally to six goals and two assists in just a little over 800 minutes since the start of last season. It’s the sort of production you’d think would let the Japanese attacker force his way into Jürgen Klopp’s plans, and hopefully, the 26-year old can finally make his mark on the team this year.
The Fullbacks: Kostas Tsimikas delivered a very pretty assist and was combative throughout, but misplaced a concerning number of passes into dangerous areas on the night, while Andrew Robertson was dreadful when he came on, combining some horrendous passing with a doubling down on his hatred of straight lines. Both players have proven themselves to be much better than they showed tonight, but this was definitely a game to forget.
On the opposite side, Conor Bradley’s debut was a feel-good story, but the 18-year old did not have a particularly inspired performance, especially on the defensive end, where he was responsible for Norwich’s two biggest opportunities on the night, giving away a penalty with a wild challenge just before half-time, before gifting possession to the opposition just outside his own area at the start of the second.
Hailed by some fans — who likely had not watched him play all that much — as a legitimate backup option to Trent Alexander-Arnold before the season, it should be clear that while Bradley is a very talented footballer, he is also several steps away from having any business taking the pitch in a game that matters against elite opposition.
The Canaries: It seems an obvious statement that the losing side are the losers, but after six losses in seven games to start the season, zero points in the league, and having just been bullied by the away fans chanting the name of one of the club’s historic tormentors, it appears that Norwich could be on the precipice of a disastrous season. The canary has stopped singing, as it were, and a rescue mission probably needs to begin sooner rather than later.
What Happens Next
We’ve reached the mid-way point of this busy three-week stretch, and Liverpool will now have a full three days off before they travel to London to take on the impressive newcomers Brentford on Saturday. Then on Tuesday, the Reds take a trip to Estádio do Dragão, where they will look to continue their tradition of crushing Porto’s Champions League dreams.