There has rarely been a League Cup semi-final as surrounded by off-pitch talking points as this one, but we live in unprecedented times and the game did eventually get played.
After a slow opening to the game, where Arsenal buzzed and pressed their visitors relentlessly, culminating in Alexandre Lacazette hitting the crossbar with a free kick from 18 yards, but the Reds soon got things under control, as the game settled into a contest of who could press better, with little in the way of quality established play.
In the second half though, Liverpool were dominant, and the margin of victory should have been larger and established earlier, as the visitors wasted a number of opportunities following Diogo Jota’s opener.
In the end, they did what they had to do to get the win, and now Wembley beckons.
DIOGOAL JOTA: He’s alright, isn’t he. Notching his 13th and 14th goal of the season, the Portuguese attacker once again proved himself the difference between a draw and a win, as he continues being a real-time advertisement for Liverpool’s recruitment policy.
Since signing from Wolves last season, the 25-year old has racked up 27 goals for the Reds, averaging a goal every 138 minutes he’s been on the pitch, seguing effortlessly into Liverpool’s established front three, taking up whichever spot is vacant at the time. He was the Reds’ best player tonight, and was unlucky not to get an assist, as he glided past £50m centre-back Ben White on his way to the byline and cut the ball back to Kaide Gordon, who couldn’t keep his effort under the bar.
Given two of Liverpool’s best attackers are spending January in Cameroon in search of international glory, the impact of Diogo Jota can not be understated, and any trophies the Reds remain in the hunt for at the end of this month will in no small part be due to his efforts.
Wembley: For the first time since 2012, the Reds are going to a domestic cup final, and Wembley will get the honour of hosting the travelling Kop. The League Cup may not be top of the list of silverware Liverpool fans desire — in fact it’s likely bottom for most — but a trophy is a trophy is a trophy and now that they are in with a chance of winning it, every supporter in Red will be as invested as they’d be in any other final.
One game to go.
Trigger Happy Gunners: Since Mikel Arteta took the reins at the Emirates two and a half years ago, and following Thomas Partey’s 15-minute effort tonight, his team has received 14 red cards. That is twice as many as any other club in the English top flight, quite frankly an impressive haul.
Of course, the boneheaded antics of Granit Xhaka and David Luiz are bound to result in some dismissals, but those two muppets only account for a total of six red cards in that time span, meaning that even without them, the Gunners would have accumulated more dismissals than any other side.
Arsenal have always been a sight dirtier than their reputation has suggested, but in their glory days they had trophies and an aesthetically pleasing playing style to take the attention. At the moment, that isn’t the case, and one wonders when it will dawn on the general footballing public that Mikel Arteta’s men are in fact quite the cynical bunch.
Joël Matip: The 6’5 defender was subbed off at half-time and as of right now, it is unknown whether it was for tactical, performance or health reasons. The Cameroonian wasn’t having a great game, but Jürgen Klopp rarely subs his centre-backs, and never at half-time, so given Matip’s extensive injury history, it appears likely the 30-year old may have hurt something.
What Happens Next
The international break begins on Monday, but before that, the Reds will travel to London to take on Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace as they continue their efforts to keep up with Manchester City at the top of the table. Then it’s two weeks off, at the end of which one hopes the squad is rejuvenated and ready for the season run-in.