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  1. 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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