Liverpool are into the League Cup final after seeing off Arsenal with ease, but how much would glory at Wembley next month mean?
The Reds were excellent at the Emirates on Thursday night, winning 2-0 thanks to Diogo Jota‘s ruthless double.
It was a professional performance by Liverpool, who silenced an Arsenal crowd desperate to create a hostile atmosphere, ensuring it went flat early on.
The win saw Jurgen Klopp‘s men reach their first League Cup final since 2016, with a big day at Wembley to look forward to against Chelsea on February 27.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by Dan Clubbe (@dan_clubbe) and Liam Togher (@liamtogher88) to discuss the victory, a couple of key performers and the final.
How much has Jota exceeded your expectations?
DAN: Massively. It’s hard to fathom now, but I’ll admit to being rather non-plussed when the deal was done.
Although it was clear we’d signed a player with talent and Liverpool’s recruitment always allows room for a pleasant surprise, in no way did I expect what has happened since.
Jota has seemingly gone from an exciting winger who chips in with the occasional goal, to a ruthless finisher who only needs a sniff of an opportunity to strike.
Perhaps the greatest compliment anyone can pay him is that he has managed to not only ruffle feathers in what was previously an impenetrable front three, but he is now a must-starter in any big game.
LIAM: Much like Dan, very much so.
If you’d told me in the summer of 2020 that Liverpool would be signing an attacker from Wolves, I’d have firmly believed it would be Adama Traore after the sensational season that he’d had.
I did baulk at the fee we had paid for Jota, but having seen how the likes of Salah and Mane flourished under Klopp, I was quietly confident that we had got it right again.
I never expected a return of 27 goals in 57 matches, though.
There have been a couple of ineffective displays lately, but by and large, he has again been superb this season, coming good last night when it was very much needed in the absence of some illustrious colleagues.
It is beyond dispute that his signing has proven to be yet another masterstroke from Michael Edwards.
HENRY: Much like the other lads, I never saw this level of brilliance coming from Jota.
I was quite happy when he arrived – he had always looked lively for Wolves – but I didn’t expect such ruthless levels of brilliance week in, week out.
There’s actually an argument to say that he is our best finisher – I know that sounds ludicrous with Salah around – and he reminds me of the kind of annoying attackers the likes of Man United and Arsenal would have back in the 1990s and 2000s.
They would pop up in key moments having been quiet, turning games on their head in the process. Javier Hernandez springs to mind.
There’s a bit of snide about him, too, which is the icing on the cake.
Has Jones proved something to Klopp?
DAN: As much as he needed to, yes.
Often for me, Jones has flattered to deceive, and although it’s clear that there is supreme talent there, converting that into consistent performances has been an issue.
Since returning from injury he has gone up a couple of levels and whatever was said in that chat with Klopp has definitely had its desired effect.
Although it may have lacked the standout moments of a derby goal or Brentford stunner, this latest performance was amongst his best all-round for me in terms of making things happen.
Having been overshadowed in the early season by Harvey Elliott, it would appear he is more determined than ever to stake his own claim in the first team.
LIAM: Complaints about Liverpool’s midfield have understandably been plentiful in recent weeks, but the Anfield academy product has gone some way to allaying dissatisfaction on that front.
In Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner, we have plenty of lads for the hard graft, but while Jones is not averse to putting in the hard yards off the ball, the flair that he offers is a most-welcome trait for the Reds in the middle of the park.
Thiago would be an undisputed starter when fit, but with various absences affecting him all too often, Jones put his hand up with another tremendous all-round performance at the Emirates to show that he is well worth calling upon when we need someone in midfield to help unpick opposition defences.
HENRY: I think it’s so easy to forget that Jones is still only 20 – trust me, Steven Gerrard wasn’t great every week at that age.
He was excellent on the whole against Arsenal, providing the creative spark that is needed without Thiago around, as Liam mentioned.
Is Jones perfect? No. And nor should he be.
He is guilty of taking too many touches when he could get rid of it earlier – I screamed at a lad for doing the same at seven-a-side earlier in the evening! – and his general decision-making needs to be more consistent.
Jones isn’t yet a fixture in our ‘best’ XI, but over time I have no doubt that he will mature into one of the most important midfielders at the club.
Be patient with him!
How significant would a win in the final feel?
DAN: I think getting over the line against Chelsea would be as big as what we are currently doing to them in the Premier League.
Whilst the individual games against them didn’t go to plan, it’s important to maintain superiority over them domestically if we are going to stake a claim to win the title again.
More crucially, this is a trophy that Klopp is yet to win and it’s been a decade since the Reds lifted the League Cup.
That’s far too long.
LIAM: Whatever happens in the League Cup final is not going to define our season – winning it in 2012 couldn’t gloss over what a calamity that campaign under Sir Kenny had been.
But I implore you to find one Liverpool fan who, when February 27 rolls around, tells you that they don’t really care what happens at Wembley.
For all the great times we’ve had under Klopp, we’ve still won just four trophies, and some might scoff at me counting the UEFA Super Cup among that quartet.
Winning the League Cup would at least give us something tangible to show for the season, given that the Premier League is all but beyond us and there is still a long road to travel in the FA Cup and Champions League.
As Dan alludes, it could also provide a tremendous psychological boost to land a blow on a direct domestic rival, which could be significant if both teams are trying to keep on Man City‘s coattails or break clear of the increasingly competitive hunt for a top-four finish.
HENRY: I’ve been open about my thoughts on the League Cup in the past – it’s a competition I don’t care for much.
That being said, it is still a chance of silverware and when you get to a final it suddenly becomes a really big deal.
It will be a special occasion at Wembley, with half of the stadium littered with red, and seeing Henderson lift the trophy would be a great sight.
As the others have correctly said, this team deserves more silverware than it has won so far – Klopp has shown the domestic cups little interest, which hasn’t helped – and this era should be looked back on as trophy-laden.
While the title race is done for this season, in my opinion, there’s no reason why Liverpool can’t repeat their 2000/01 heroics and be cup specialists, winning everything in front of them.