Liverpool lost to Arsenal on penalties in the League Cup on Thursday at Anfield. Here are five things we learned on a fairly quiet night.
The Tsimikas solution
James Milner isn’t a natural left-back, of course. His limitations from the position do hurt Liverpool, too, given how much they rely on width and creativity in the full-back roles.
But Milner frequently needs to cut back and slow play down, rather than hitting the byline. There’s a huge difference between Liverpool with Andy Robertson and Liverpool without him, then.
Fortunately, Kostas Tsimikas is here. He missed the game through injury but he will be the quick fix for games where Robertson isn’t around. The Arsenal match simply showed how key he could be.
Right player, wrong time
Marko Grujic is undoubtedly a Liverpool player. He’s energetic, he’s versatile and he’s very talented. In any other era, he’d have a place as a midfielder in Liverpool’s squad.
In any other era. Unfortunately, Grujic is around in this one and this is an era where Liverpool have many great midfielders. There just isn’t room for him, when there would have been a few years ago.
It’s a huge shame, in all honesty, Grujic has always looked like a talent but the timing just isn’t right.
All-in on False 9
Takumi Minamino started the game in the centre-forward role, despite Mohamed Salah playing. It would have been easy to play the team’s best goalscorer, and one with a great record centrally, down the middle. Instead, Minamino took up the space.
Even when Divock Origi came on – a player who is certainly best as a striker – Minamino stayed there. It’s telling and suggests that Liverpool may use a False 9 for a long time to come.
Minamino effectively played the Roberto Firmino role – dropping back, creating space, and pressing high. It seems this is the absolute preference now, even with recognised strikers on the pitch.
Credit to Adrian. The goalkeeper didn’t cover himself in glory last season with his showing against Atletico Madrid but he reminded everyone of his quality here.
His fingertip touch to deny Eddie Nketiah in the first half was a great one, while his save from Rob Holding’s header was also excellent. Then, of course, his penalty save in the shoot-out.
No, Adrian isn’t perfect. He’s also nowhere near Alisson’s level. But he’s a very good backup option for Liverpool and he offered a solid reminder to take Arsenal to penalties.
Neco Williams deserves plenty of praise for this one after a difficult week. The teenager received abuse online for some of his recent performances, enough that Virgil van Dijk apparently helped him out with it.
So to step into a starting role and perform well is fantastic stuff from an inexperienced kid. He didn’t steal the show or anything, but this was a solid display.
It was even better when you consider he effectively defending the right on his own. Mohamed Salah is very attacking, after all, while Curtis Jones is, too, and they were the duo on his side. Not only that, but an even more inexperienced player was alongside him in defence in Rhys Williams.
Add in what he was up against – Bukayo Saka, now in the England squad, and £72m Nicolas Pepe – and you’ve got to give the kid all the credit in the world.