Liverpool 0-0 Arsenal (4-5 on pens)
League Cup Fourth Round, Anfield
October 1, 2020
Adrian – 7 (out of 10)
The stand-in goalkeeper had his socks pulled right up like it was more ‘baltic out there’ than Baltic Triangle, but thankfully wasn’t frozen to the spot as he was required to make a clever save to thwart Eddie Nketiah in the six-yard box early on.
He appeared to struggle with his concentration as a lethargic game chugged on, but was there to keep out a towering header from Rob Holding midway through the second half as Arsenal rallied.
In the shootout he made a confident save to keep out Mohamed Elneny, but was not strong enough as Joe Willock’s decider squirmed under him as Liverpool exited the cup.
Neco Williams – 7
Pep Lijnders came to the aid of Williams in his pre-match press conference, and the Welshman did not look affected by the social media abuse as he made another start at right-back, in fact almost setting up an opener with a fine cross for Diogo Jota.
He was often ganged up on as Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe looked to exploit the left flank, but he kept scrapping and winning little duels as he rebuilds his confidence, including a brilliant recovery tackle on Saka in the box.
Williams still has a lot to learn, particularly with his ‘hit and hope’ style of crossing with his head down, but there is a reason why Jurgen Klopp has not given up on him.
Rhys Williams – 7
Perhaps the biggest compliment for the 19-year-old, as a centre-back, was that he was largely unnoticeable.
Virgil van Dijk – 7
Van Dijk is so good he was almost on autopilot throughout his hour at Anfield, with Arsenal doing little to trouble him at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
He did, however, organise the back line well, and his influence on Williams cannot be understated.
James Milner – 6
Milner must have thought his left-back days were over when Kostas Tsimikas signed in August, but there he was, wearing the captain’s armband in his least-favourite position once again.
It was, basically, business as usual for the veteran, and he at least did his part in the shootout too.
Marko Grujic – 8 (Man of the Match)
Grujic brought his usual brand of heavy-handed physicality to the No. 6 role, and was needed with a vital sliding challenge on Pepe when Arsenal looked to have broken through with a bounce.
In possession, he was calm and expansive with his passing, and his ability in the air gave Liverpool an outlet they often lack in games like this, while he almost added to his season’s tally in front of goal with his powerful low effort on the hour.
Though it may be his last appearance for Liverpool, the consistency and quality Grujic showed could prompt second thoughts for Klopp.
Curtis Jones – 5
Before the game, Jones gave an interview with the club’s official website, explaining that he was “laidback and confident” and “likes to try to take the game by the scruff of the neck.”
There is no denying the No. 17 is the identikit academy product for Liverpool, as if he was built and nurtured in a lab at the heart of Kirkby, but at times on Thursday night his desire to stand out got the better of him.
Harry Wilson – 5
After the third-longest wait between competitive outings in Liverpool’s history, Wilson was given a big opportunity in the ‘Shaq role’ in midfield, with his presence suggesting a move may not be in the offing.
The 23-year-old was nowhere near as effective as Xherdan Shaqiri was at Lincoln, though it was encouraging how he kept nipping at the heels of the Arsenal midfielders following question marks over his work rate on loan at Bournemouth.
Mohamed Salah – 5
But the Egyptian did little the substitute duo couldn’t in his hour-long outing, and the whole exercise seems futile in hindsight.
Diogo Jota – 6
A pressing monster. Lithe, strong and unflappable on and off the ball, Jota looks immediately ready for Liverpool having now made his first start since his £45 million move.
He stung the palms of Bernd Leno with a rasping volley, and will have been disappointed not to end another bright showing with a goal, having been withdrawn with 15 minutes to play as he works up his fitness.
Takumi Minamino – 6
Another outing in his ideal No. 9 role saw Minamino continue to put himself about after discovering the weights room at Melwood, and if he had been able to get his body over the ball with an instinctive effort before the break he would have struck with perfect timing.
Liverpool struggled to get the ball into his feet on a consistent basis, though, largely due to Arsenal crowding the central areas, and that made it difficult for Minamino to make his mark.
There is no lack of confidence in his game now, however, as his top-bins penalty proved.
Divock Origi (on for Salah, 61′) – 6
May as well have started the game, and when he was brought on, Origi did give Liverpool an edge with the variety and persistence of his runs. Terrible technique for his saved penalty.
Joe Gomez (on for Van Dijk, 61′) – 6
A planned substitute to ensure Van Dijk isn’t overworked, Gomez took over and was just as comfortable.
Gini Wijnaldum (on for Jota, 75′) – 6
It was a shame not to see Elliott brought on, but the introduction of Wijnaldum did give the Reds an urgency they were previously lacking in midfield.
Subs not used: Kelleher, Robertson, Fabinho, Elliott
Jurgen Klopp – 6
Kudos to Klopp for rewarding the likes of Williams (the taller one) and Grujic, but his approach to the League Cup was strange given the added intensity of the fixture list this season.
A night on the bench for Elliott, when the wantaway Wilson was given a full 90 minutes, could spark a debate over whether the 17-year-old would profit from a loan before October 15.
Overall, this defeat will not damage Liverpool significantly, but it could have an impact on the decisions made within the club ahead of the upcoming transfer deadlines.