Liverpool were buoyed by plenty of exciting talent from the academy in the 4-1 win over Shrewsbury, leaving plenty for Reds to relish on the way to the fourth round.
It was a week that was dominated by Covid, and in the end plenty of false positives as Jurgen Klopp later revealed, but the fixture offered seven youngsters an invaluable opportunity.
The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Andy Robertson provided the experience as Max Woltman and Elijah Dixon-Bonner made their first starts for Liverpool in an XI that had an average age of 22 years and 187 days.
Kaide Gordon, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino would make sure it was a memorable outing in more ways than one after going behind early, leaving a common feeling of pride in the aftermath.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Lewis Bower (@LewisBower2021) and Elli Lechtman (@LFCZA) to delve into the win and look ahead to another cup tie.
Which youngster was the pick of the bunch in your eye?
LEWIS: All of the boys did themselves proud; each with different obstacles and challenges to overcome – some for the very first time.
An experience that can be carefully recollected for years to come while using it moving forward to improve. But It’s hard to ignore Kaide Gordon.
He plays assertively and decides on his actions early which helps to fit the desired identity of intensity. The trust the senior players put in Gordon speaks volumes.
A touch of class when he’s the ball, the body feint before caressing the ball into the net was straight from the top draw of the AXA locker room. Exciting, brave and fearless. We should temper expectations but it’s hard not to be excited about Kaide Gordon.
JOANNA: First off, I just want to say how watching these young lads play really makes me realise how much older I am than most of the squad these days!
And that of course applies to Gordon, who I too thought was brilliant. Definitely agree with you Lewis in regards to managing expectations, but he’s certainly given us plenty to be excited about.
For me, the composure and poise for his goal stood out as he just made it look all too easy and as though he had all the time in the world. A mature head on his shoulders, as Klopp says.
ELLI: It was Gordon and Tyler Morton who stood out for me, but the former in particular like both Lewis and Joanna.
I thought he looked composed up front was able to showcase his skills. Scoring in front of the Kop end as your first goal for Liverpool is certainly a great achievement! And Tyler looked composed together with Fabinho in midfield.
JOANNA: Also want to mention Elijah Dixon-Bonner, who looked comfortable in midfield in his first start – we won’t mention the shot that should’ve ended in a goal!
Jones on the left-wing, will we see more of it?
ELLI: In my view, Jones seemed to slow play a bit on that side and didn’t really have much creativity on the wing. I think he’s more suited to playing down the middle.
LEWIS: I can see where you are coming from Elli.
Jones had a lot of responsibility against Shrewsbury as perhaps the senior focal point in possession, surrounded by academy players.
There were occasions he dithered too long with a touch too many. But this was Jones’ first significant football outing since October, with only a single minute against Chelsea to his name in between.
Playing with him on the left-wing, for me, would depend on the striker as his profile massively affects the functioning of the front three.
You are not going to get the relentless penetration of Sadio Mane running in behind, into the small gaps which perhaps makes a Roberto Firmino in the false-nine role a little more redundant.
Although, I’m sure small tweaks could be made to ensure that things work. It is Jones or Takumi Minamino in the line-up for me.
JOANNA: He was always bound to be a little rusty considering his minimal game time of late and we all know the left-wing wouldn’t be his first choice.
I actually thought he did reasonably well, on the whole. He doesn’t have the pace in the position and so he has to use more of the ball at his feet, and that is where he tripped up from time to time.
Options will be rather limited in the coming weeks and so I don’t think it’ll be the last time we see him there, but it could say more about Minamino than Jones in the end.
Let’s assume no new Covid cases, who makes your Arsenal first-leg XI?
LEWIS: I’m doing this on the proviso Trent misses out after Covid. And does Neco Williams‘ exclusion against Shrewsbury suggest a transfer might be imminent? Or just rested/in isolation.
If he was planned on being used against Arsenal, some minutes would’ve been vital.
My XI, therefore: Kelleher; Bradley, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Fabinho, Jones, Henderson; Jota, Firmino, Gordon
A strong team with the inclusion of Gordon over Minamino. With Roberto Firmino in the false nine, we have seen Gordon used as an outlet in behind before. It would be a big call, I understand, and Minamino is a seasoned pro, it could go either way.
JOANNA: Even though the Brentford game swiftly follows, I’m thinking this has to be a strong XI, which seems possible following the false-positive results.
It’s a priority game and we’re at Anfield, and apologies to Kelleher!
My XI: Alisson; Trent, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Minamino, Jota, Firmino
ELLI: I too would go strong against Arsenal as Klopp needs to start winning domestic trophies and being in the semi-final of the League Cup means he can have a good go at it.
So in saying that, my team would be: Alisson (assuming he’s fit); Neco at right-back (if Trent is unavailable after Covid), Matip and Van Dijk, Tsimikas (who is having a better season than Robbo if you ask me!); Fabinho, Henderson, Jones; Minamino, Firmino, Jota.