Revenge is a dish best served cold. Or something. Arsenal advance to the Carabao Cup Quarterfinals with a penalty win over Liverpool, helped by two saved spot kicks from Bernd Leno. Reminder: Liverpool knocked Arsenal out last year at this same stage, also on penalties.
It wasn’t the best played match, as you’d expect from two heavily rotated sides. I thought Arsenal may have been slightly the better side in the first half. Liverpool were pretty clearly the better side in the second. Liverpool had far more clear-cut scoring chances on the day, and it took a Bernd Leno masterclass to get Arsenal to penalties. And he topped it off by saving two of them. Absolutely magnificent stuff from the German goalkeeper today and a great reminder of the form he was in before getting hurt during the restart.
Arsenal probably should have had a shot to win it at the death on a penalty, but somehow, James Milner falling arm and hand directly onto the ball in the penalty area was emphatically waved off by Kevin Friend. Does anybody, referees included, understand the handball rule?
I thought Gabriel Magalhaes and Rob Holding were both strong on the night. Arsenal have got a real one in Gabriel, and Rob Holding has played every match for the Gunners this season without making many glaring errors. You probably don’t want Holding as a permanent starter, but as a depth centerback, Arsenal could do much, much worse. Granit Xhaka had a good game and was once again taking up positions further forward when Arsenal were out of possession.
The Gunners, once again, mustered a distressingly low number of shots on the evening. Part of that can be chalked up to a reluctance to pull the trigger from the attackers and not shooting when they maybe could have. But part of it is structural and tactical. Arsenal don’t offer all that much going forward.
It will be interesting to see what adjustments Mikel Arteta makes to try to create more offense now that the structure and system look to be firmly in place. He had to shore up the defense and get Arsenal conceding fewer goals, which he seems to have done. Now, the task is to get them scoring more.
For now, Arsenal are through to the next round of the Carabao Cup and will face Manchester City at the Emirates, but the match won’t take place until just before the Christmas period.
Winning is good, even if it’s in matches I’d be fine if Arsenal lost.