Arsenal has produced a superb defensive display to hold Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield in the first-leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final tie.
The Gunners were without Martin Odegaard, who tested positive for COVID, while Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu were also unavailable with injury problems, leaving Mikel Arteta’s side down to the bare bones.
From the outset, Arsenal was put under heavy pressure from the home side and for the first 20 minutes, the Gunners were in survival mode with only a minor threat on the counter.
Unfortunately, as has been the case on many occasions when Arsenal are getting into the game, a moment of madness costs them, and this was no different. One-on-one with Diogo Jota, Granit Xhaka made a reckless challenge that brought down the Portuguese forward.
Liverpool 0-0 Arsenal: 4 talking points from defensive masterclass in Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield as Xhaka is sent off
Michael Oliver rightly gave Xhaka his marching orders just as Arsenal was getting a foothold in the game. Two red cards in three games in 2022.
For the rest of the half, Liverpool dominated possession and put Arteta’s team under heavy pressure. However, despite having a man advantage, the home side failed to carve out any real clear-cut chances as the Arsenal rear-guard stood firm to go into the tunnel 0-0 at half-time.
The second half followed similar lines with Liverpool dominating possession. Yet, the visitors continued to look threatening on the counter, particularly with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. For all of Liverpool’s possession and pressure, it took until the 92nd minute to register a shot on target and Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to truly test Arsenal until the closing stages of the game.
A 0-0 result means it is all to play for in the second league in just seven days’ time, with the small matter of a Premier League away trip to Tottenham up next.
1. Enough is Enough, Granit Xhaka
Get the part that we don’t want to talk about out of the way first.
Once again the Swiss international will be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. After Arsenal were relatively sound defensively in the opening of the game, the visitors then began getting a foothold in the tie. Arsenal finally looked like settling. That was until Xhaka’s moment of madness that we have become all too accustomed to.
A long ball was played in the direction of Xhaka who was one-on-one with Jota, and he produced a brain fade when he didn’t need to. A high challenge on the Liverpool winger’s chest brought him down and Xhaka was shown his marching orders in something that is a disturbing theme. Could Ramsdale have come out to head the ball? It still doesn’t excuse the Swiss’ actions.
For months, Arsenal fans have been venting their frustration at Xhaka’s recklessness. The red card against Manchester City and now tonight’s card, surely enough is enough from the 29-year-old. He has been a liability for Arteta and his Arsenal side and it is time to make a change, irrespective of how important he can be to this team.
Whether that happens this season or not remains to be seen but it can no longer continue as so often Arsenal have been in games, only for Xhaka’s idiocy to prove fatal. Luckily for him, it did not cost Arsenal tonight. On another day it might have.
Enough is enough.
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