Ciaran Vance recaps a tumultuous evening of midweek Carabao Cup action between Liverpool and Arsenal. Reflecting on the absence of leadership in the Gunners’ dressing room, he argues that Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerín can fill the void.
After a gruelling 90 minutes that saw both teams score five goals, the fate of an unforgettable night in the Carabao Cup would be decided by penalties.
Liverpool took an early lead. Arsenal replied by scoring three before half-time. By 54 minutes it was 4-2 to Arsenal. Eight minutes later it was 4-4. Arsenal regained the lead at 70 minutes before a 94th minute Divock Origi goal took the game to penalties.
Penalty shoot-outs can be cruel. Thoroughly experienced players can crumble under the pressure; some managers can barely watch. Add to this the fact that both teams were filled predominantly by either youth players or those on the fringes of the first team, and it is understandable that emotions were running high.
Arsenal took to the spot first, converted, and scored their next two. Liverpool also scored their first three. Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos missed the fourth, which proved to be decisive after Liverpool scored their next two. Five penalties to four. Arsenal were out.
As Liverpool’s Curtis Jones ran off to celebrate his winning penalty, two Arsenal players, Mattéo Guendouzi and Ceballos, began to walk off the pitch. Footage shows that Kieran Tierney, who has only been at the club for two months and has barely played, turns and appears to shout and gesture to the players to come back. The players then went over to thank the fans for their support.
Tierney joined Arsenal from Celtic on the last day of the summer transfer window. Celtic fans were distraught to see such a player leave — someone who they thought was a certainty to be a future captain. He came to Arsenal from a team that knows how important the fans are, and how important it is to show them your appreciation, regardless of results.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery recently revealed that he had selected five captains. Granit Xhaka is the first, and should he be absent, the order is Pierre-Emerick Abameyang, Héctor Bellerín, Alexandre Lacazette, and Mesut Özil.
It would be ludicrous to appoint as captain a player who has barely played for the club. Yet the idea of having five different players to choose from is not exactly a normal concept — especially considering the sporadic appearances of Özil, and the recent incident surrounding Xhaka’s abuse both from and for Arsenal fans.
Bellerín was the captain last night and has clear leadership qualities. In the aftermath of the Crystal Palace game, which saw Xhaka tell Arsenal fans to “f**k off”, Bellerín was the player to break the media silence, pleading with fans to stick with the team. He added that the club “only win when we are together.”
The Spaniard and Tierney make up the FBU, Arsenal’s full-back union, and the club’s long-term plans will surely involve these two as mainstays of the team. Both players have the potential to be the club’s future captain.
Bellerín has been a Gunner for years and is not afraid to go against the norm as a modern footballer. He speaks up for what he believes in and is passionate about: whether that be environmental issues or fashion modelling.
Tierney has captained both Celtic and Scotland in the past, and would have picked up plenty of admirable qualities from Celtic’s Scott Brown. There is no doubt that had he stayed at the club, Tierney would have been appointed the club’s captain when Brown retired.
Arsenal and Emery are searching for stability. Providing they both stay fit, Bellerín and Tierney are the solid foundations the Gunners need.
Follow Ciaran on Twitter at @ciaranmvance