Let’s Use This As A Springboard For The Rest Of The Season

Liverpool are much better than Chelsea this season. If you’re not sure whether that is true or not, I’d encourage a quick look at the Premier League table, where you’ll see that the Reds are ten points better off than the London club, albeit that they’ve got a game-in-hand. Whether it is because of their own distractions in the Club World Cup and other competitions that come about as a benefit of winning the Champions League or for some other reason, the West Londonders aren’t at the same level as us and Manchester City. In a one-off game, though, anything is possible. We had played them twice already this season and drawn both times, so it is possible to argue that there is a cigarette paper between us, should you be so inclined. In reality, though, the Reds are better, which reflected in the stats from Wembley. More possession, more shots, more shots on target; the idea that we were somehow fortunate to win is laughable when you look at the facts.

And, indeed, we did win. Joel Matip’s goal was ruled out for an obstruction from Virgil van Dijk, who was in an offside position at the time and was therefore considered to be ‘interfering with play’. My big issue with that was that the match referee, Stuart Attwell, had let things go constantly during the ninety minutes. At one point, Ngolo Kante literally wrestled Andy Robertson to the floor and Atwell waved play-on, with Gary Neville inexplicably (or entirely predictably) praising the man in the middle for ‘letting the game flow’. He decided to let all sorts of things pass without interference, but decided that the slightest movement of an arm from our Dutch centre-back was enough to disallow a goal. Given the manner in which the Video Assistant Referee appears to be being used to disallow goals whenever possible, it is little wonder that it is criticised by so many people. In the end, it didn’t matter. The Reds won on penalties and can now use this as a springboard for the season.

Winning Begets Winning

It is common for supporters of clubs that aren’t in the League Cup final to dismiss it as a ‘Mickey Mouse’ trophy. It is laughed at and belittled by fans of the likes of Everton, who would give their right arm to win a trophy of any kind but decide that this one is small-time. In reality, winning any competition is a good thing and you could see by how much the Liverpool players celebrated that they wanted it. Even ignoring the fact that it allowed them to share the experience with supporters, which they were unable to do when we won the league, it is silverware and a medal in their person trophy cabinets. It will have given them a taste for success that they’ll want to repeat as often as possible, with more options available to them before the season is over. This is a generationally talented Liverpool squad, so it would be tragic for this campaign to end with only one piece of silverware to show for it. They can use this win as a catalyst for the other competitions.

That is exactly why so many managers before took the League Cup so serious. For all that we might hate José Mourinho and he is very much yesterday’s man now, he was a serial winner for a time and his Chelsea side always took this competition seriously. Pep Guardiola is a chequebook manager, but he also knows how key getting a piece of silverware in the cabinet is in terms of inspiring his team to success. There’s a reason they won the competition four times in succession, drawing level with us on eight wins. Now we’ve reclaimed our crown from them, re-affirming our place as the best British team ever to play the game, but they will be back strongly next year because the Spaniard is aware that winning the League Cup can lead to more wins later in the season. Even if it doesn’t, it keeps the silverware ticking over, which ensures that players are primed to take on the bigger trophies when it gets to the business-end of the campaign.

A Generational Liverpool Squad

There is a big reason why I want the Reds to win as many trophies, aside from the obvious one of being a supporter. This is the best Liverpool squad I have ever known, no question. Though Rafa Benitez will always hold a place in my heart, the Spaniard was hamstrung in terms of the quality of the squad available to him. What he would have given for a Michael Edwards figure, wheeling and dealing to strengthen the squad in all areas. Jürgen Klopp has him and will almost certainly be excited about working with Julian Ward, if what he’s done with the Luis Diaz transfer is anything to go by. The squad is exceptional, as demonstrated by the performance of Coaimhin Kelleher in goal yesterday. The Irishman was brilliant in normal time and was unlucky not to save any of Chelsea’s penalties, but his own was struck with such precision and vigour that Kepa Arrizabalaga had no chance of keeping it out. It was a win not only for the goalkeeping department, but for the squad as a whole.

Having just missed out on the signing of Fabio Carvalho from Fulham in the January transfer window, Liverpool will almost certainly go back in for him sometime soon. What sort of negotiating advantage will the Carabou Cup win give to the team responsible for persuading the player to join us? Not only did so many players get chances throughout the qualifying period, but Harvey Elliott came on in the final and Kelleher played throughout. Unlike Thomas Tuchel, Jürgen Klopp trusted his goalkeeper in the penalty shoot-out and it was a trust that paid off handsomely. These players deserve many more days like yesterday and hopefully they get them, if not this season then over the next few. Of course, there are some for whom time is running out. There are aspects of the squad that are older than we’d like, so it would be great to see them lift at least one more trophy by May. There are three still to play for, so why not go for them all?

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