Arsenal gained revenge for their League loss a few days ago, by knocking out Liverpool at their home. It took a full game and spot kicks to separate the sides, with Joe Willock squeaking in the winning penalty after Leno had saved two - and keeping the Gunners in the EFL Cup.
Mikel Arteta made changes as we all expected him to, with our squad brimming with players who would have been eager to get some valuable minutes.
In defence, new boy Gabriel came into the side, alongside Holding. Cedric and Kolasinac were on the right and left, with Xhaka, Ceballos and Joe Willock making up our midfield. We were playing a fluid 4-3-3, and the trio up top was the new England kid on the block, Bukayo Saka, with Nicolas Pepe on the right and Eddie Nketiah taking the striker spot.
This game, despite only being three days after our 3-1 loss to the same side in the Premier League, began vastly different to that match. Arsenal looked to have their tactics spot on and we were taking the game to Liverpool. We looked dangerous out wide and there were a few moments were Pepe and Saka were instrumental in creating some positions that we should have at least made Liverpool keeper Adrian work in goal.
One moment in particular stemmed from Saka who played in a running Pepe. The Ivorian cut it back for Willock who hit a shot/pass. This fell straight to Nketiah, who’s decision to take a touch meant Adrian could foil the attack.
It wasn’t just up top where we were more effective than on Monday. Our midfield were covering all avenues and making Liverpool work much harder. They were not running smoothly and it was down to our merits at the back. Leno wasn’t exactly busy in goal and we looked the better team. Could we make our superiority count though?
Liverpool too, had made changes. Impressive youngsters such as Harry Wilson, Curtis Jones and Neco Williams were involved throughout but for both sides, there were some diligent trackers who made clear cut chances a premium.
The last five or so minutes saw the home side begin to take a hold and we were lucky not to concede in the end of the half. A ball into the back post fell to Diogo Jota. The unmarked Portuguese player headed it toward the back post and Leno saved. He could only parry though and Minamino was on hand to hit a first time effort that looked easy to convert. He didn’t though, and his shot smacked off the bar, with the goal gaping.
That was it for the first half and we had done well. Could we pick it up again for the second half?
Early in the second half saw Liverpool start well and a corner for the Reds nearly made a breakthrough. A header back into the mix saw Van Dijk get a flick in the six yard box, bringing a smart stop from Leno when the German had to react quickly.
Jota then had the next chance, with good midfield play leaving the attacker to pull the trigger but it was deflected just wide.
Then Grujic was next to test Leno with a fierce drive that Leno beat out to safety. Liverpool were turning up the heat. A minute later, Jota squeezed into the box and again Leno came to the rescue. We were living dangerously and from the corner, Leno saved a looping header heading for the net
Liverpool made two interesting changes next. Van Dijk and Salah were taken off and it gave us hope that we could weave our way into a weaker backline. We too made changes, with Ceballos coming off for Elneny in midfield.
We then had a great chance. We earned a set-piece and Pepe swung a cross in. Holding found a pocket of space and fired in a header which Adrian parried clear.
As the game climbed toward full time, it seemed both teams could win it and it was on a knife-edge – but Arteta still had choices from the bench, but Klopp had made all of his swaps.
It didn’t matter, and full time came. It was penalties again – just as it was last year in the EFL Cup after a 5-5 draw.
Lacazette and Cedric both converted, but Elneny saw his weak effort saved. But Leno saved the Egyptian by saving from Origi. It was all square and then AMN took a class penalty to keep it level.
Pepe then took it to sudden death with a cool penalty, deep into the corner.
Harry Wilson then stepped up and put it toward the corner, but Leno guessed the right way and saved well. It was all down to Joe Willock to win it for us – and Adrian got contact on it but the ball crept over the line.
Arsenal had done it and avenged Monday’s defeat.
What can we take from the game?
Adaptation is key
We went for a 4-3-3 in this one and our solid midfield and four at the back was well matched with Liverpool. We also had more chances too. The wing-backs worked well previously but this time we showed we can change it up. A good quality to have when injuries bite too.
Gabriel was solid
Still young, still inexperienced in terms of the pace of the game, but Magalhaes was where we needed him to be. The Brazilian was superb.
Willock took his chance.
The midfielder gets a rough ride for being tactically unaware and raw. This game showed that Willock is anything but. He was well led by Xhaka and never looked out of place when in attack or defence. A mature game for the kid.
Mental strength a factor
We came to a tough venue off the back of losing their just three days ago. It was a knockout tie too, so the pressure was there. Our subtle blend of youth and experience stepped up and made it happen. We stood tall under pressure and we also were brave in attack too.
Our next match is against Sheff Utd in the PL this weekend.
Have a go at rating the team here.