A lot is said about the League Cup these days, most of it negative. But a cup is still a cup (just ask that lot from Middlesex) and going out of one is always disappointing. There’s nothing embarrassing about losing to Liverpool across two legs and there was nothing embarrassing about last nights performance. It just felt, flat. Very flat in fact.
I was worried about our midfield even before I saw the team last night and in the end we got overrun. We actually started brightly, hitting the bar in the opening 15 but it soon became very apparent that we were lacking presence in the middle. And crucially lacking fitness. Tomiyasu has been a blinding success this season, absolutely no doubt but last night he was a shadow of his usual self. He got caught on the ball multiple times and should’ve done better to stop Jota ghosting past him. White had a tough night too, trying to control the Liverpool forward.
Further up the pitch Lokonga looked very isolated but fought hard, creating our best chance that was blazed over the bar by Lacazette. I like Lokonga but its clear that he’s at his best with a more assured partner in the midfield. Partey came on and promptly got sent off. He stepped off a plane from Cameroon hours before and although I questioned Arteta’s decision to bring him on, it seems he was desperate to try and help. Ultimately it backfired as he was promptly sent off but you can’t question his desire. The first yellow was ridiculous for me but his second tackle was bordering on a straight red. Ultimately he can have no complaints.
Lacazette has been at times, excellent this season, his work rate is second to none and when he’s on it he can score some brilliant goals. But he is also the wrong side of 30 and last night spurred our best chance at 1-0 to draw it level. If anyone was flat last night it was definitely him and has only highlighted why we desperately need a new striker in this window. Along with another center mid.
However it was not all bad news. I thought Martinelli looked really up for it and it is clear that opposition defenders struggle with him when he runs at them with the ball. It’s worth noting that Liverpool defended excellently last night but they still couldn’t quite get a grip on Martinelli. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him add to his tally of 4 Premier League goals this season in the coming weeks if he carries on playing like that.
Martin Odegaard is fast becoming one of the most valuable members of the team. His vision and passing is, at times, scary. He just seems to know where all of his team mates are, all of the time. Add to that his ability over a dead ball and he’s definitely filling a creative void. Hopefully with a couple of January additions he can start putting all of his ability into even more effective use.
The bottom line
So what did we learn from last night? Well we learned that we need reinforcements this month and we need them badly. Having let a number of players go we need bodies. Especially in the midfield. The need for a striker has been there all season and is still there. We can only hope that the powers that be know what they’re doing. Otherwise there’s a long, hard battle to come. And that starts with Burnley this weekend. I’ll see you all there.