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  1. Work-rate. Incisiveness. Nous. I don't ask for much. This is how it's gonna be. Build from the ground up. A chance to cement our place at the summit, and give Arsenal a mountain to climb if they are to get back into the title race. The gap is currently 5 points and while there is still over a third of the season left to play, extending that gap to 8 points makes any chase very tricky. I'm not sure how much can be read into the result of the cup tie last month, but more of that will be very welcome. Last season's fixture was a defensive horror show masked a bit by a refereeing disaster-class. Arsenal came flying out of the traps and could have led inside the first 20 seconds, and it wasn't long before they took the lead through Martinelli. Saka wide on the right was offside in the build-up but the VAR team didn't have a camera angle that showed where Saka was when the ball was played to him. We didn't shut down the space or the runners regardless. The ref and VAR decided that Gabriel could handle the ball in the area and declined to give us a penalty. Nevertheless, the equaliser came when Lucho ran onto a long clearance and squared for Darwin to slide in from 8 yards. We hadn't been great, and things got worse when Lucho had to come off after sustaining a knee injury following a hefty challenge, and that injury proved to be long-term ligament damage. He had probably been our brightest attacking player in the early weeks of the season, and would be a huge miss. Bobby came on for him and we maybe looked to get to half time on level terms and regroup. That didn't happen as Saka was left unmarked at the far post following a quick Arsenal break. Trent was hooked at half time, and we managed to grab another equaliser when Bobby fired home from an angle after a lovely through-ball. Arsenal grabbed the lead for a third time when Thiago clipped Jesus in the area. The Brazilian made a meal of it. Saka buried his kick for his second of the game. Another shit result in that shit oil spill kit. Not sure who Arsenal have missing but we have a reasonable idea of how they want to play. The are capable of decent football but love a bit of shithouse diving antics and cry-arsing to the ref at any given opportunity. Timber has been out for them for a while. Probably just as well, as Darwin would undoubtedly ended up hitting him when trying to shoot! For us, Baj, Thiago and Mo will be absent, though Thiago was apparently back in training this week. Endo is still at the Asian Cup. Other than that, I think we have a full compliment. The youngsters have really impressed in recent weeks, but I don't know if Jurgen will opt for experience for this one. I'd imagine there are low odds for Darwin hitting the woodwork again. He'd be boss at the crossbar challenge! At some point he will become extremely clinical, but he does need to find more composure when presented with an opportunity to shoot at goal. Maximum motivation, concentration, attitude and application from first minute to last. We have the ability to grab a great result, and need to show it. 3 points please. Get it done!
  2. Our second visit to the Emirates in 2022 sees us take on Arsenal, either with an opportunity to close the gap at the top of the league to 3 points once more, or even go top. Arteta has put more faith in youth, and Arsenal have looked much better for it. Still inconsistent of course, but it’s better to be inconsistent with younger players who can get better, rather than older players on massive contracts. Still, it’s a game where we can show them they still have a long long way to go before they can dine at the top table. What do we need? Accuracy. Ruthlessness. Tactical nous. Energy. Toughness. Ambition. Movement. Organisation. Nerve. Effervescence. Yer ma. I don’t ask for much. Last April in this fixture saw Liverpool dominate and eventually dismantle Arsenal’s resistance with 3 second half goals. Diogo powered in a header from Trent’s brilliant cross for the opener. Mo ran beyond the Arsenal back line and rode a challenge before placing the ball into the net through Leno’s legs to double our lead. By this point, it was a case of how many more we were prepared to push for. In the end, just the one more as Jota slammed home a ball across the box from Mo that had been slightly behind Sadio’s run. Diogo had anticipated though and got his just reward. We were starting to pick up points and climb the table to inch back into the Champions League places after a terrible January and February, and results like this one showed that while we had relinquished our throne as league champions already, we were still a force to be reckoned with. There were fewer doubts about the team in September 1983. Joe Fagan had taken over as manager from the great Sir Bob Paisley the previous summer but otherwise it was business as usual. We’d continued to dominate in the league and maintain our stranglehold on the League Cup, and would also go on to claim our fourth Big Ears in Rome. The quality shone through at Highbury as Skippy and Kenny saw off Terry Neill’s Gunners side for whom a young Charlie Nicholas was the talisman. Skippy’s goal is a bit of opportunism as he reacted first to the rebound after Robinson had seen his shot saved. Kenny’s goal though is a thing of beauty, perfectly encapsulating what we were about. Pass and Move is the Liverpool groove. Rushie switched the play from left to right to Wee Sammy. He played a one-two with Kenny on the edge of the area before picking out Robinson’s run in the inside right channel. Robinson back-heeled it to Kenny who, instead of hitting the ball first time or carrying it forward with his right, dummied over the ball, got it onto his left, found a better angle for a shot, and curled it majestically into the far top corner. The Arsenal players were all left to stand and watch the sheer quality. All in that nice yellow with red pinstripe away kit that Umbro gave us in the early 80s. Motson, back when he wasn’t a hysterical screeching harpy, got the commentary just right. He’s absolutely spot on with his description of the goal and the team. Here’s a good highlights vid of that game. The popular box office hit in September 1983 was Michael Keaton’s debut in a lead role, Mr. Mom. Written by John Hughes (he of various 1980s films that all had Molly Ringwald in them), it’s about a husband who loses his job working at Ford Motor Company, and decides to be a stay-at-home dad while his wife (played by Teri Garr, whom I am more familiar with as the actress who played Phoebe’s real mother in Friends), who’d raised their kids up to now, rejoins the rat race as an ad exec. I’ve heard of this film but never seen it, but I imagine the premise depicts loads of clichés about dads trying to look after kids and having a hard time of it in many, many comedic ways. I’d expect it with Keaton because his career is filled with fairly comedic roles, at times brilliantly so. America evidently loves stuff like this because so many other successful films have used the basic idea, as have TV sitcoms. I put it to you lot though. Is Mr. Mom any good? This is our last league fixture before the international break. We have an FA Cup tie at the weekend, but the Arsenal game presents an opportunity to continue putting the squeeze on City. Arsenal have improved in recent months, being slightly less inconsistent than the others around them. We still have the tools to do to them what we’ve been doing to them in the Klopp era. As ever, it’s about the right level of motivation and application. We can, therefore we shall.
  3. The second leg of the semi final will now take place (unless another postponement is in the offing. You never know!) before the first leg, as Arsenal visit Anfield in this competition for the third year in a row. Unlike those games, this one cannot go to penalties. It’s a chance to give ourselves a platform for the return leg in London a week later. Moxie. Intelligence. Luck. Know-how. I don’t ask for much. Last year’s game saw the Gunners ride their luck a little, holding out for a goalless draw and winning in the shoot-out. The year before that saw a right ding-dong battle and Liverpool with the more youthful and inexperienced line-up of the two sides, though Milner balanced things out a bit! Five goals apiece, a couple of humdingers from Ox and Willock, last minute heroics from Div, a penalty save from Queef and Curtis burying the winning penalty. But I’m casting back to a more mundane fixture between the two sides in the quarter final of the 1994/95 competition in January 1995. Manager Roy Evans had the experience of the likes of Rush and Barnes in the line-up but he was building a team around the youthfulness and energy of Fowler up front, McManaman floating behind the forwards in a free role, and Redknapp spraying the ball around in midfield. He’d also begun a revamp of the back line by discarding Grobbelaar and going with James in goal, and with big-money summer signings Scales and Babb alongside Ruddock in a back three. Jones and Bjornebye were the wing backs. Defensively, the team were much improved from the Souness era (if not exactly brilliant considering the expenditure), and the attacking style of play gave a new lease of life to the veterans. Arsenal were going through a troubled season in 1994/95. Paul Merson had been in rehab for alcohol and gambling addiction, taking away much of the attacking midfield thrust manager George Graham relied on to feed Ian Wright up front. Graham would soon find himself bang in trouble when it emerged he’d taken bribes from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge as part of signing Scandinavian players John Jensen and Pal Lydersen in 1992. It wasn’t an insignificant sum of money either. £425,000. Graham was sacked by the club weeks later with Stewart Houston taking over. The team would go on to reach the Cup-Winners’ Cup final in Paris against Zaragoza, but couldn’t retain the trophy after a late goal from miles out by ex-Spurs man Nayim. It wasn’t from the halfway line, despite what so many people keep saying. It was a good 10-15 yards inside the Arsenal half, but out wide near the right touchline. Anyway, the League Cup quarter final was a scrappy affair, but the Reds came out on top after a well-worked free kick saw Rush find space behind the Arsenal wall following a free kick. He rolled the ball into the net, and Liverpool were through to a semi final against Palace. A 1-0 win in both legs of the semi thanks to goals from Fowler saw Liverpool through to Wembley for the first time in 3 years. Thanks to McManaman's brace of cracking goals, they would overcome Bolton in the final and win the first (and only) trophy of Roy Evans’ reign. For a couple of years, it at least looked like we were returning from the wilderness, but a lack of professionalism from certain members of the squad effectively put paid to that. You can see Rush's goal just before the 32-minute mark in this video. The big box office hit in mid-Jan 1995 was Legends of the Fall, directed by Edward Zwick (director of hits like Glory, Courage Under Fire, The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond, amongst others) and starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. Pitt was beginning to make a name for himself around this time, and had deliberately chosen more low-key projects to big budget fare to paint himself as a serious actor and not just a pretty boy (Johnny Depp followed this path too). Legends of the Fall is based on the eponymous novel by Jim Harrison and is about three brothers and their father living in rural Montana against the backdrop of historical events like the First World War and the Prohibition Era. It’s one of those films where you see it and will watch it as it is pretty good, but at the same time it’s not memorable enough to recall clearly years later, or want to watch again. Looking at Edward Zwick’s back catalogue, you could say the same about pretty much everything he’s done. Visually, the film makes great use of its wilderness setting, with much of it looking like a Bob Ross painting. The semi final first leg gives the players a chance to set the groundwork to complete the job in the second leg, and reach the final for the first time since Klopp’s debut season at the club. We’ve used the competition to give young players and squad players experience and minutes since then, and our record as a result is nothing to write home about. Man City have used the competition to give their huge squads game time, and often favourable draws have seen them reach (and win) final after final in recent years. I think they are only about a couple behind our record of League Cup wins. That’s not the only reason to want to win it again. I want us to go for it because winning breeds winning. I don’t know how strong Klopp will go for this one as Covid positive cases are still an issue for both players and staff, and could become an issue for those who have been unaffected up to now. Add in that we are 3 players light thanks to AFCON, and a few others out injured anyway, and we might go stronger than Klopp would ideally have liked simply because we are short of options. Whatever he does, the attitude and application should be spot on from the off. Arsenal are still a flaky side, but it’s up to us to show why that is. Get the job done.
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