Liverpool will face Arsenal in the rearranged first-leg of their League Cup semifinal on Thursday night. This is a great opportunity for them to experience domestic cup success.
Football is a game of first impressions. Jurgen Klopp’s has been unable to change his mind.
It is well-known, even by the man himself that the German was overwhelmed at the relentless schedule he faced starting from October 2015 when he arrived at Liverpool. Christmas fixtures and the Christmas programme were especially demanding.
Klopp was used to seeing it from afar. In Germany, however, they refer any week in which a team has three games – weekend, midweek, then weekend again – as an ‘English Week’. However, being in the middle of it made Klopp feel somewhat disoriented.
He arrived at the club less than three months ago and saw his team win 1-0 against Sunderland on December 30th, lose 2-0 at West Ham on Jan 2, and then move all the the way down to Exeter on January 8th with a shadow side in a League Cup semifinal. He was memorably interviewed in the second fixture by St James Park’s tea ladies.
Although the fact that the Exeter and Stoke games required second matches to settle them seemed to puzzle the Liverpool manager, he clearly values the right of a small man to take on the big guys, something he did back in Mainz.
Liverpool was victorious on both occasions, but Manchester City lost on penalties in the League Cup final. West Ham won the FA Cup fourth round replay. Next came another run to semi-finals of League Cup, this time against Southampton.
Then there’s the problem.
Klopp’s outspoken views regarding winter fixture congestion are now well known, but they are also shared widely by almost all top-flight chiefs, even if some views get less attention.
Liverpool boss is adamant that he will not allow fixture pile-ups or disruption to his team by disrespecting the domestic cups.
The somewhat unique scenario of the Shrewsbury Town fourth-round tie in 2020 was taken out of the equation, a game Liverpool lost, so that theory doesn’t really hold water.
This is because, except for the FA Cup fourth-round home loss to Wolves in 2017 and then a loss against West Brom in 2018, the Liverpool defeats in domestic cup competitions are not surprising given the nature and rotation of each team.
In 2017-18, Leicester was away in League Cup. Then in 2018-19, Premier League Wolves were away in FA Cup and Chelsea in League Cup.
Next season, it was Chelsea in the older competition and Villa away at the League Cup, when the first-team were not available. Then, last season Liverpool were eliminated from the competitions by Arsenal, Manchester United. Not a very giant-killer.
The Reds are seeing positive signs this season, with some of the most kind draws they have ever received.
En route to the League Cup semi finals, Leicester, Preston, and Norwich were defeated. Shrewsbury was victorious in the FA Cup, and Cardiff will host a fourth round match.
On Thursday, Arsenal will host Arsenal in the first leg League Cup semis. With selection problems seemingly increasing for Mikel Arteta and decreasing for Klopp, the Reds could look to exploit the Anfield atmosphere for a switched around tie, which could give them an unassailable edge. A Wembley final could be in sight for the first-time in six years.
The Premier League title is looking increasingly unlikely, with a Champions League due to start next month, it’s becoming clear that Liverpool sees the cups as as important as ever under Klopp and Fenway Sports Group.
Both are aware of the importance of adding trophies as a reminder of the incredible strides they have made.