Liverpool 5-1 West Ham
Carabao Cup Quarter-Final, Anfield
December 20, 2023
Goals: Szoboszlai 28′, Jones 56′ 85′, Gakpo 71′, Salah 82′; Bowen 77′
Gomez offers Trent option
This has involved the introduction of Joe Gomez at right-back in those games, to fill the space in the back four.
Gomez’s performances off the bench have been good, and he was solid enough against West Ham in this cup game, doing some good defending against Said Benrahma.
All of this makes a strong case for Klopp to go start Gomez at right-back and use Trent in midfield from the start.
Why wait until you are chasing the game to make such a positive switch when you can start games like that?
Gakpo wasn’t too involved in the buildup play, not as much as Roberto Firmino might have been, but the idea seemed similar to that old diamond formation that would be formed as the Brazilian dropped deep.
The Dutchman was more involved in the second half and eventually got his goal, and this return to something like the old system, even if not identical, worked well.
It’s good to have options to freshen things up, and Liverpool certainly do.
Desire for trophies
There were no youth players in the Liverpool lineup that started this game against West Ham.
Caoimhin Kelleher is now very much a senior backup keeper, and though Elliott is only 20, he very much part of the first team.
There were youngsters on the bench, but the starting lineup was strong and senior.
It’s perhaps no surprise given what assistant Pep Lijnders had said during the week about this competition and the team’s renewed desire to reach finals.
“If you want to build a team who really can compete, you need to play in finals,” Lijnders said.
“That’s why this Carabao Cup is so important — because you can already be playing a semi-final in January.
“The most important thing is, the boys – our players, Virgil, Dominik, Trent, Robbo, Mo – these guys have the ambition to win, they want more trophies.”
Of these players, Virgil van Dijk and Szoboszlai started the game, with Alexander-Arnold and Salah on the bench.
There was rotation, as might be expected for any midweek game, but this was a serious side.
And even when 2-0 up, Alexander-Arnold, Salah and Ibrahima Konate came off the bench on the hour mark, rather than any of the young group.
Quansah shows no new centre-back is needed
It was another performance for Jarell Quansah that shows Liverpool don’t need to sign another centre-back.
Quansah has been key to this, as his rise to being comfortable in the first team has been somewhat unexpected.
Even to those who recognised his quality at youth level, stepping up to the first team in the Premier League, Europe and in the domestic cups is not an easy task.
Especially not as a defender, and especially not in Liverpool’s system.
But Quansah has stepped up, and you could even say he is now fighting for a starting spot alongside Van Dijk. That’s no easy task given how good Konate is, but he’s asking the question of Klopp.
At the very least he offers a more than solid option in the position, and with Gomez also able to play there, Liverpool’s recruitment can focus their eyes on other positions.
Quality in multiple roles
Adaptability can be a key asset for a team competing on multiple fronts.
Not a desperate shoehorning of players into multiple roles, but players being able to play more than one position in a system to a high level of familiarity.
With Salah exiting for the Africa Cup of Nations next month, Elliott’s ability to play on the right wing as well as in midfield will be handy.
Gomez filled in at left-back later on in this game against West Ham and can play all across the back four, while Alexander-Arnold’s usefulness has been widely covered.
Gakpo has played as an attacking No. 8 as well as a centre-forward, and Quansah has now covered well on either side of central defence.