Arsenal looked and played like a side that was not fully fit or ready for a Carabao Cup semifinal. It was not a well played match from either team, and there weren’t many chances to go around. Liverpool got a lucky goal against the run of play in the first half and converted one of their two chances in the second. Arsenal only mustered two or three half chances.
The worst part of the evening was Thomas Partey making a cameo appearance (he came on in the 74th minute) and getting himself sent off in the 90th minute with his second yellow card in three minutes. He’ll now miss the Burnley match at the weekend. The first card was Downy soft. The second could have been a straight red.
Why he’s putting in either of those challenges down 2-0 in the dying embers of the game, I don’t know. I also don’t know why he’s playing in a match after getting back into the country from an international tournament, but the Arsenal staff and Partey know whether he’s fit enough and ready to play. I’d be wary of Monday morning quarterbacking that one because it’s very easy to say “well of course he shouldn’t have, look what happened!”
Emile Smith Rowe, Takehiro Tomiyasu and even Bukayo Saka to a lesser extent played like guys coming off injuries. They were rusty and not at full speed. Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Ødegaard, on the other hand, were fantastic on the evening. They were the best Arsenal players by far.
Aaron Ramsdale was a bit shaky on both Liverpool goals, a slight wobble in what has been an otherwise outstanding season for the keeper. On the first, he might have been screened and the combination of anticipating Jota going one way and leaning for it with Jota utterly scuffing his shot might have got Ramsdale. I’d chalk the first goal up to bad luck more than anything else — Tomiyasu had also slipped just a bit as Jota tried to go around him. The second one, Ramsdale was a bit slow off the line. And ironically, Liverpool had gotten the ball back and transitioned because Gabriel Martinelli had slipped after beating two defenders. Slipping was an unfortunate theme on the evening (for both sides). And for the record, I’m not concerned about Ramsdale in the slightest.
The match also laid bare (once again) Arsenal’s need for a striker and for central midfield reinforcement. Alexandre Lacazette works hard, but he just ain’t it. Sambi Lokonga was mostly fine on the evening — he did some good stuff and made some mistakes. But he’s more of a player for down the road, and Arsenal need help now. The top four is still within reach if Mikel Arteta and Edu can bring in some reinforcements before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
Partey’s potentially damaging suspension aside, this game didn’t much matter. It’s always nice to have a shot at silverware, but Arsenal’s focus was always (or at least should always have been) on the Premier League. Hopefully the runouts for the guys coming back from injury and game time for those who hadn’t played a competitive match in a while will help come Sunday. Arsenal cannot afford to drop points at home to Burnley.