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  1. I'm trying my best with these but maybe something in the mid-section needs tweaking, just like the team! It’s been a while since we’ve made the latter stages of a domestic cup competition. Indeed the last time we got this far was in Klopp’s first season back in 2015/16. That year we made the final. Since then, the competition has been used to give squad players a run-out while taking a look at the Academy. Hell, one game had absolutely nobody involved with the first team at all! It’s questionable whether staging it as a 2-legged affair is a sensible decision given how many games have been called off recently as the Omicron variant runs amok. The manager’s mentality is to manage whatever the situation brings. He won’t get carried away when things are going smoothly, and he won’t shit his pants when things appear to be bleak. He certainly won’t wave the white flag. Availability. Ruthlessness. Strength. Effort. Bravery. Incision. Stamina. Control. Urgency. Intelligence. Tenacity. Scoring. I don’t ask for much. We’ve been alright against the Gunners at Anfield in this competition generally but our record away from home against them has been patchy. We’ve never beaten them at their place, either Highbury or the Emirates. In November of the 1988/89 season, the two sides met at Anfield in the 3rd round. Arsenal had beaten us in the 1987 final (the first time Rushie had scored for Liverpool and finished on the losing side, an astonishing record) and were losing finalists in 1988, after Luton had overcome them. Barnesy got our goal in a 1-1 draw, and it finished 0-0 in the replay in London. The tie required another replay as there were no penalty shoot-outs in the competition at the time. That replay took place at Villa Park, and the Reds would be without Brucie, Big Jan and Barnesy. After Beardo had found the side netting from a narrow angle after getting in behind as the game’s first real chance, Arsenal found themselves in front when Merson turned in the area and found the far corner across Hooper. We turned the screw in the second half and began to dominate. On the hour, McMahon hammered a 25-yarder past Lukic on his old stomping ground. With extra time looming, Houghton turned inside the area and found space to prod the ball across the six yard box. Aldo got on the end of it and his looping header wrong-footed Lukic and hit the back of the net, to the jubilation of the fans behind the goal. We were through, but a week after this game came the next round, which ended in a 4-1 defeat against West Ham at Upton Park. The big box office hit starred Bill Murray in a modern take on Charles Dickens’ classic tale about the grumpy miser Ebeneezer Scrooge. Scrooged was directed by Richard Donner of Superman and Lethal Weapon renown. It’s fun, and Murray is on top form playing the withered cynic who is actually a good guy behind the persona. He doesn’t play Scrooge himself, but a character that is heading the same way and requires a little supernatural guidance to put him back on the straight and narrow. I haven’t seen this film in absolutely ages but I remember enjoying it as a kid. Youthful nostalgia perhaps, but Christmas did not seem to be a cynical cash-in back in the 80s. It still had an aura that made you look forward to the holidays. We’ve again used this competition to give run-outs to the first team fringe plus the youngsters, and I’d imagine that was the plan for the semi finals. However, with the boss and a number of players isolating following positive Covid tests, plus a few fringe players out injured, and 3 players away at the AFCON, who knows what sort of line-up we’ll go with for this one. Between now and then, we don’t know of more Covid issues will arise, both for ourselves and Arsenal. Arteta is currently isolating after another positive test, and London is a real Omicron hotbed right now. In this instance, I have no idea what we will do. I’d expect the players will work their bollocks off (that isn’t something that we’ve really been able to throw at them as lacking over the past 3 years), but it’s whether there will be enough cohesion and experience to make it count. Staying in the tie might be the order of the day, in the hope of being stronger a week later for the second leg. Try and get the job done, Pep Lijnders and co.
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