Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool
FA Cup Third Round; Emirates Stadium
January 7, 2024
Goals: Kiwior (OG) 80′, Luis Diaz 90+5′
Liverpool indebted to Klopp genius
While Mikel Arteta will have been disappointed with Arsenal‘s string of missed first-half chances, he would no doubt have told his players that more of the same in the second period would see them win the game.
But, unfortunately for the Spaniard, the reality is that letting Liverpool off the hook in that fashion simply allowed the genius of Jurgen Klopp to completely shape the second half.
First, the German recognised that getting Cody Gakpo out of midfield was a necessary half-time change, shifting the balance of the game slightly back towards the visitors.
Then he ensured the Reds kept getting better and better as the 90 minutes wore on thanks to two brilliant double subs that saw Diogo Jota, Ryan Gravenberch, Bobby Clark and Conor Bradley enter the fray.
The introduction of the young duo of Clark and Bradley was particularly brave and bold, showing huge trust and faith, while that change also saw Alexander-Arnold move into midfield and prove influential in the result.
Each of the changes improved Liverpool’s fortunes in some way, ensuring they came out on top of a cup tie that only seemed to be going in one direction in the first 45 minutes.
That is a testament to Klopp’s brilliance, and perhaps also to the fact that Arteta cannot compare.
No Van Dijk? No problem
With Liverpool missing their defensive talisman Virgil van Dijk for this one, it was vital that someone else stepped up in the heart of defence.
Enter Ibrahima Konate, who underlined that he is entirely worthy of playing alongside the Reds captain with a dominant showing that secured a deserved clean sheet.
Two blocks, two clearances, two interceptions, four recoveries – the Frenchman did it all.
He could also be seen reminding his teammates to keep their heads after the excitement of going a goal ahead with 10 minutes of normal time remaining.
The fact is, the only concern with Konate is his patchy fitness record, and if he can steer clear of any issues on that front over the remainder of the season, then Liverpool have plenty to look forward to.
Alexander-Arnold in form of his life
Adidas are perhaps missing a trick in not making more of the fact that, since starting to wear their Predator boots, Trent Alexander-Arnold has come into the form of his life.
It may just be coincidence, but the young Scouser has six goal contributions in the nine games since donning the famous footwear, and that doesn’t even include the free-kick that forced Jakub Kiwior to put through his own goal here.
But, while Alexander-Arnold won’t chalk up an assist for that moment, it cannot take away from what was a remarkable overall showing.
Two chances created, 15 passes into the final third, three clearances, nine recoveries, and six duels won are figures that underline the completeness of his performance.
Whether the boots deserve credit or not, Alexander-Arnold is playing out of his skin.
Reds planning to take FA Cup seriously
In the build-up to this game, much was made of the fact that a draw resulting in a replay would be the worst possible outcome.
But too many took that to mean that Klopp would simply throw in the towel, naming a team guaranteed to suffer a defeat that would remove the FA Cup from his list of concerns for the season.
The German did, of course, make some changes, but he still put out a team capable of – and, judging by their performance, hellbent on – securing passage to the next round.
That should put to bed any notion that Liverpool won’t be giving everything to keep making their way to the latter stages of this competition, even with fixtures piling up.
With that in mind, Reds supporters should prepare themselves for another four-fronted tilt for honours and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it.
Are we in for another 63 game season…?
Elliott’s Salah audition not decisive
Less than influential in the first half, the youngster was returned to his more traditional midfield position as soon as the half-time break arrived, seemingly evidencing a lack of faith from Klopp.
However, the truth is that this positional switch owed more to Gakpo’s struggles in the centre of the park, which were in fact restricting Elliott’s opportunities to get the ball and make an impact.
It is also worth noting that there are few tougher fixtures in which to try and take on Salah’s mantle than against a fired-up Arsenal looking to turn things around.
As such, Elliott’s performance here should not be used as a measure of whether he can fulfil this role in the weeks ahead, and he surely deserves another shot against Fulham.
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Quansah, Gomez; Mac Allister (Gravenberch), Gakpo (Jota), Jones (Clark); Elliott (Bradley), Diaz, Nunez