Mikel Arteta hailed his side’s brilliant performance, as the Gunners recovered from Monday’s defeat to knock Liverpool out of the Carabao Cup.
Both managers rotated heavily and it was quite clear from early on that tonight’s encounter would be a much tighter affair than a few days ago when the Reds ran out convincing 2-0 winners at Anfield.
That being said, Mikel Arteta had stopper Bernd Leno to thank for keeping the tie level, the German international producing a string of saves to deny the home side, including an excellent save from Virgil Van Dijk early in the second half. In a game of few chances, it was Takumi Minamino who had the best of the lot, the Liverpool forward somehow hitting the crossbar from close range just before half-time.
With the two sides evenly matched at full-time the game went to penalties, the Gunners once again reliant on Leno to save the day, the former Bayer Leverkusen man saving from Divock Origi and Harry Wilson to put his side in charge in the shootout, although Gunners midfielder Mohamed Elneny also failed to convert his spot-kick.
In the end, it was young Joe Willock who was the matchwinner, the Englishman seeing his effort squirm under Adrian to send Arsenal into the next round and set up a meeting with Arteta’s former employers Manchester City. Despite not necessarily being at their free-flowing best in attack, the Spaniard described his side’s performance as ‘superb’ and was particularly impressed by the raised levels of aggression after Monday’s loss, as well as the ‘top individual performance’ of ‘keeper Leno.
“I am really happy with the performance. I think the boys were exceptional. We corrected a few things from Monday and it was superb,” Arteta told Sky Sports.
Nice one, @Bernd_Leno 😊
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 1, 2020
“We competed much better, the level of aggression we had, the way we pressed them really high was exceptional.
“Bernd Leno was really good. When we needed him we had him. You need a top individual performance to win at Anfield and that is what we had tonight.
“I really have belief in Bernd. I know him really well and what he can give us. We didn’t want Emiliano Martínez to go but it was probably the right thing for both parties to do.
“To come here and play with the determination and courage is a big step forward for the team. They are on the right path.
“The gap towards Liverpool is still big. We will keep improving to try and reach their level.”
Arsenal are up against Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United at the Emirates on Sunday.