This was a game when the goal came at the wrong moment for Arsenal, who started brightly and on the front foot.
The performance level dipped. Liverpool gained control over the midfield – and it was as if a damp rag had been put over Arsenal’s forward momentum.
Around six of the squad had not even trained before the game due to injury or Covid, and the first goal represented a step too far.
As if to illustrate the stretched resources the Arsenal bench had five academy players – Alebiousu, Hein, Biereth, Oulad M’hand and Patino.
But in a way that is no excuse. A statistic prior to the match said that Arsenal had spent £100m net more on players than Liverpool since Klopp’s arrival – so somewhat a management issue.
Tomiyasu was back – but clearly not match fit – and it was emphasised as he was up against the fleet footed Jota on the left. Odeegard played deeper with Lokonga.
Liverpool put in three non-regulars Kelleher, Jones, and Gordon.
At the start, Martinelli, cut in from the left and forced two corners. And an Arsenal free kick saw Lacazette’s curler was tipped onto the bar by Kelleher.
Arsenal players exhibited some nerves given it was a semi-final.
And on 19, Alexander Arnold in the centre circle and set Jota away down the left nutmegging Tomiyasu, with the aid of a tug on his shirt and cutting in drove through the Arsenal defence and wrong-footing Ramsdale who was anticipating the ball going to his left, not right.
Liverpool controlled the rest of the half.
At the start of the second Arsenal summoned the energy to make a fight of it. Lakonga found Lacazette with a ball cutting out several Liverpool defenders who had a good chance in front of goal – but he hit it over. It shone a light on Arsenal’s looming striker crisis. As Arteta said if you want to beat the top six sides, you have to take your chances.
Smith Rowe had a half-volley chance but skied it. He was surprisingly substituted by Partey, who was playing in the Afcon on Tuesday. And Martinelli’s cross-shot on the left had Kelleher scrambling.
But with quarter of an hour left, Jota finished the contest, with the slick efficiency of a matador. Martinelli slipped, Alexander Arnold sent a long diagonal ball for Jota who positioned his body to beat White, chest it down and lob it over the advancing Ramsdale.
Partey came in with a late jet-lag challenge and was yellow carded, followed by a lunge on Fabinho on 90, making it the 14th red card under Arteta’s stewardship.
That tells a tale about the high energy hyper-activity of his underlying approach. Still, the board don’t seem to mind and are offering him a two-year extension to his contract.
Jurgen Klopp said: “The mood in the dressing room is good. We played quality football and quietened the crowd.”
Mikel Arteta said: “We are disappointed not to be in the final. In the big moments you have to score. The first time they broke through our press, they score. It was a bit of luck.
“We had chances. We had good situations but have to score if you want to beat Liverpool.
On the Partey red card: “14 red cards is a problem.”
He concluded: “I am very proud of the boys – some didn’t have a training session.”
Carabao Cup semi-final: Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2
Arsenal: 32Ramsdale, 18Tomiyasu (Booked at 56mins), 4White, 6Gabriel, 3Tierney, 23Sambi Lokonga, 7Saka, 8Ødegaard, 10Smith Rowe (Substituted for Partey at 74’minutes, Booked at 90mins), 35Martinelli, 9Lacazette (Booked at 44mins, Substituted for Nketiah at 74’minutes)
Liverpool: 62Kelleher, 66Alexander-Arnold, 32Matip (Substituted for Konaté at 45’minute, Booked at 63mins), 4van Dijk, 26Robertson, 14Henderson (Substituted for Milner at 75’minutes), 3Fabinho, 17Jones (Booked at 82mins), 49Gordon (Substituted for Minamino at 63’minutes, Booked at 90mins), 9Firmino (Substituted for N Williams at 84’minutes), 20Jota