Liverpool ready for latest round of battle against Arsenal in League Cup
Clash comes days after Reds' 3-1 Premier League win over the Gunners and a year after a thrilling penalty shootout victory in same cup compeition
For the second time in four days, it is Liverpool versus Arsenal. For the second in as many seasons in the League Cup fourth round, it is Liverpool against Arsenal. At Anfield, they can savour the prospect of two action replays.
Monday’s 3-1 win is fresh in the memory, but already has a place in Pep Lijnders’ heart.
“It is one of my favourite games since I was here,” said Liverpool’s assistant manager. “Coming back from 1-0, playing how we played: with no ego, constant team play, being dominant in each moment for 95 minutes with very good pressing and counter pressing.”
And yet the more pertinent precedent came last October. Liverpool against Arsenal is the highest-scoring fixture in Premier League history, but they shared 10 goals in the Carabao Cup, a 5-5 draw being decided by Curtis Jones’ nerveless penalty in the shootout.
It was a sign of things to come from Jones, the precocious local with a fondness for the spotlight.
He scored a five-minute brace in last week’s 7-2 demolition of Lincoln. It was a demonstration of Liverpool’s strength in depth and it underlined the quality they have in reserve.
Jones, Xherdan Shaqiri, Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino could make a formidable B-team on Thursday.
“Curtis has so much bravery, so much courage and so much self-confidence,” Lijnders said. “He is probably the most offensive midfielder we have. He is the first one who makes the surprise move in the box from midfield, the first one who shoots.”
Shaqiri’s inch-perfect free kick at Sincil Bank was Klopp’s favourite of the seven goals. It came on his first start of 2020 and in a deeper role. “He had a superb game against Lincoln in a different position,” Lijnders said. “That makes it even more great. If we expect one thing from Shaq is that he searches for attacking solutions.”
Shaqiri was displaced from the forward line in part because of the weight of options. Jota has added to them and, after his scoring cameo on Monday, could make his first start.
Lijnders suggested the signing from Wolves has the talent to challenge Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah for their places.
“He is at the same level technically as our front three,” he said. “The one thing I found difficult [to coach] is the intuition to score in the box and he in 10 minutes was three or four times in the position to score so that is really something good.”
Gallery: Lincoln 2 Liverpool 7
Roberto Firmino’s competition comes principally from Minamino. The January signing was another to strike twice at Lincoln and while Liverpool have struggled to find anyone who can replicate Firmino’s contribution. Minamino may be the closest thing to an equivalent.
“What a desire,” Lijnders said. “He is somebody who turns our game collective the same as Roberto does. His personality on and off the pitch is outstanding. He is that player who always gives everything and if you are already good then it becomes interesting if you can keep it up.”
There will be no Kostas Tsimikas in defence, a thigh problem delaying his second Liverpool appearance. Neco Williams is set to return after receiving social-media abuse for an error at Lincoln. Lijnders offered the young right-back his support.
“Neco is a doer,” he said. “A doer makes mistakes. We don’t want safe play. We don’t want a player who doesn’t take risks. Our game is based on everyone taking initiative from every position.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold does that and Williams has to imitate him. Lijnders also expects Arsenal’s understudies to emulate their regulars. “All good teams have a clear identity, which Mikel Arteta has installed at Arsenal, so with changing players, it stays the same.”
Updated: October 1, 2020 07:20 AM