Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff City
FA Cup fourth round, Anfield
Sunday 6 February, 2022
Goals: Jota 53′, Minamino 67′, Elliott 75′; Colwill 79′
Strong side, slow start
This was a much more first-team-looking line-up picked by Jurgen Klopp than has habitually been the case in the FA Cup: Virgil, Hendo, Trent and most of those in action prior to the international break such as Jones and Jota.
Part of the reason for that was of course the international break – Liverpool need to be back to full pelt for the Premier League game in midweek, not with a majority of players coming in cold after nearly three weeks.
As such, this was a good call from Klopp to get a collection of seniors with a run-out early on – particularly in light of how they actually performed.
It was all too slow, too safe, too predictable and ultimately ineffective in the first half, with just one or two neat moments really showing the team’s superior quality.
Liverpool looked like a team who had spent most of the past fortnight on holiday… and with an unusually early kick off!
Second half, different matter – probably after a stern word or two at the break!
Elliott and Diaz double deal
With 57’ on the clock, the English teen was on for Naby Keita, straight back into his right-sided No8 role, while Diaz replaced Jones to go left wing, Firmino interestingly dropping into the left-8.
Both entrants got massive cheers and receptions from the Anfield crowd, a real positive boost ahead of the all-important long run-in.
We didn’t have long to wait for a first goalmouth impact either – Diaz won the ball by the touchline, took on the last defender and rolled it back for Taki to smash in the second.
They almost combined for a great opening between them too – before Elliott lifted the roof off Anfield with his first goal for the club, a beautiful strike on the turn for a deserved comeback present.
Squad looking STACKED
As mentioned, lots of first-teamers started. But in a game we made five subs in, at no point did Klopp weaken the side – and four massive names had no part.
Kostas and Taki got over an hour in, Konate played the entirety, Keita got almost an hour. Firmino, who missed a fair bit before the break, also played the full match. All these players are not quite first XI names right a this moment, yet can be starters or vital options on any given gameweek.
Robbo, Thiago and Elliott were all starters at beginning of the campaign; all came on here for minutes in the legs. So too did our latest new face, all [potentially] £50m of him.
Klopp has more options at this point of the season than he has done all year with maybe the only exception of the opening three weeks – though even then the likes of Jones, Thiago and one or two others were still missing at that point.
And along with our AFCON pair, Brazil’s midweek duo Fab and Ali weren’t even a consideration.
Every reason to be extremely confident about what lies ahead.
FA Cup run overdue
Ok so, we know the FA Cup isn’t highest on the list of priorities. But one win in over 20 years in that competition just isn’t enough, not for a team who feasts on silverware like Liverpool do.
Squad depth and fighting for other objectives has been a limiting factor in the pursuit of domestic cups for a while, but this year it isn’t the case.
We’re already in the League Cup final, so of course we want to finish the job and make it count.
But there’s also real reason to go all-in for the FA Cup and try to make it a domestic cup double. The squad, as noted, is looking nicely full right now. Competition for places should be fierce and the schedule relentless.
We’ve only been to the quarter-finals once in nine years – for Liverpool, better is expected.
Next up…and Norwich
As mentioned above, there’s no scope for missteps and slow restarts once the Premier League returns in midweek.
We owe Leicester one for starters, after a dismal defeat against them earlier in the campaign. From this point, if the title is still the objective then it’s all about the relentlessness we’ve shown in previous seasons.
Rhythm and confidence come with goals and wins, and the Reds usually look a lot better playing every three or four days rather than waiting a week between games – which will be the case now for a while.
A welcome return to action for the Reds after what felt like an eternity – and we’ve still got Mo and Sadio to come back too!