Liverpool beat Arsenal at the Emirates on Thursday in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal clash, securing a place in the final at Wembley on February 27th, where they’ll be facing Chelsea. Diogo Jota proved the bane of Arsenal, scoring skillfully twice to put his team through.
Jota: Money well spent
Jota first danced through the Gunners’ defence in the 19th minute and sent a trickling shot which wrongfooted Aaron Ramsdale, and then he made use of a fabulous pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold in the 77th to chip over the onrushing Arsenal goalkeeper. The linesman initially ruled the second goal out for offside, but VAR stepped in and ruled there had been no such infringement.
Liverpool reportedly paid Wolverhampton Wanderers over £40 million to secure the services of the Portuguese attacker in 2020, to add some firepower and provide proper competition for their already formidable front line. Jota has undoubtedly proven to have been the right man for the job.This term, the 25-year-old has 14 goals in 27 matches in all competitions. He may not be the most creative player Liverpool’s ranks with only two assists in 2021-22 so far, but he’s certainly a consistent source of goals.
As for Arsenal, they’ve been feeling the effects of his quality for a while now. Jota has now scored seven goals in 10 matches against the Gunners in all competitions, but the two on Thursday were arguably the most important ones so far.
It was a difficult evening all-round for the home side, and the short time Thomas Partey spent on the pitch only made it more so. Arsenal were already without Granit Xhaka, who earned a straight red card in the first leg, and now the other one of Mikel Arteta’s preferred central midfielders was sent off as well.
Partey arrived back to London from Cameroon quickly after Ghana suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of the Comoros and consequently bowed out of the African Cup of Nations. Going by his own words, he was keen to put the tournament behind him and help his club in their effort to each the cup final, but as it turned out, he only managed to come on in the 74th minute, get booked in the 87th, and then again in the 90th.
In all honesty, Arteta probably shouldn’t have allowed a player who played an international game on Monday, suffered heavy disappointment, and flew thousands of miles afterwards, to be involved in a competitive game so soon. The manager obviously judged he could do with that kind of spirit late on, and in the lack of other reliable options in the middle of the park, made a mistake.
After the match, the 28-year-old issued a statement, addressing the Arsenal fans, via his Instagram account.
Thomas Partey on his Instagram. pic.twitter.com/XpvMVu6li7
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) January 21, 2022
Disrespecting opponents: Bad idea
Arsenal and Liverpool fans may not have always seen eye to eye, especially on social media, but the two clubs, the managers and the players were always respectful towards each other, regardless of which team was better than the other at a specific moment in time.
Therefore, there was no need for Arsenal defender Ben White openly laughing at Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino for wasting a glorious opportunity at the end of the first leg at Anfield; even less for a fan media channel known for deliberately goading supporters into angry reactions towards their own players, to try and glorify the moment of pure disrespect.
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) January 16, 2022
As we clearly saw, the situation can turn quickly; from laughing at his opponents, White went to staring helplessly in dismay twice as Jota sent the ball into the net behind Ramsdale.
— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) January 20, 2022
There was one bright spot on the evening for Arsenal, though. Gabriel Martinelli seemed the most inspired player on the pitch at times, especially in the first quarter of the match. He simply tormented the Liverpool defence coming in off the left side, even Virgil van Dijk, who was frequently forced to cut across to try and cut his goalward path but wasn’t able to help Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip much against the Brazilian.
At the age of just 20, Martinelli seems to have established himself fully as the starting left winger under Arteta, ahead of Emile Smith Rowe who has been shifted to the more central, No.10 position to compete with Martin Odegaard.
Speaking after the match, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp couldn’t help heaping praise on Martinelli.
“Martinelli by the way… Everybody should remember that name. Outstanding player,” he said.
Bukayo Saka, on the other hand, was rather quiet in this match, but there’s no doubt that the Gunners have two extremely talented, exciting wingers on their hands. It’s up to the club, the manager and the team now to show ambition to win trophies in the near future and keep them happy.
Liverpool have rarely shown much ambition to win this competition since Klopp took the reigns in October 2015, barring the first season with the German in charge when they were narrowly beaten in the final by Manchester City. However, having won the Champions League and the Premier League since, and with the Premier League currently looking out of their reach, there can be no doubt that they’ll go with everything they’ve got to beat Chelsea at Wembley and win this trophy for the ninth time in their history.
The Reds will be hoping to have the full squad at their disposal for the final. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will be back from the ongoing tournament in Africa, Thiago Alcantara and Harvey Elliott will be back from injuries currently keeping them out, as will Divock Origi.
Liverpool and Chelsea have already met twice in the Premier League this season, and both matches ended with a share of the spoils. In September at Anfield, Kai Havertz scored for the Blues and Mo Salah equalized from the spot, with Reece James picking up a red card. Earlier this month at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool took a two-goal lead through Mane and Salah, only to see it cancelled out by Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic, all before halftime.
It’ll certainly be a tough task for both teams again Klopp meets his old friend, successor at both Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund, and now fierce rival in the Premier League, Thomas Tuchel.
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