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Is the FA Cup a priority? Jurgen Klopp has big rotation call to make vs. Arsenal

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Liverpool’s FA Cup journey this season starts at Arsenal on Sunday, a tough draw that leaves many questioning how Jurgen Klopp ought to approach the tie with a semi-final looming.

The Reds face a Premier League side in the third round of this competition for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.

The luck of the draw has not been to Klopp’s advantage and with injuries and absences to consider, in addition to the looming first leg of the League Cup semi-final, the approach to the clash has proved an interesting debate.

Should the Reds rotate en-masse or go as strong as possible vs. Arsenal? To discuss just that are Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_), David Lynch (@dmlynch) and Sam Millne (@sam_millne).

 

How much of a priority is the FA Cup for you this season?

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp lifted the FA Cup (Nick Potts/PA)

DAVID: I think at this point, with an unexpected title charge ongoing, a place in the semi-finals of the League Cup secured, and the knockouts of the Europa League to come, it’s probably down to fourth in the priority list.

That said, no club has the luxury of deciding which competitions they might try and win so I suspect the manager won’t be taking this lightly at all, even if his hands might be slightly tied in some aspects of the selection.

JOANNA: You never want to simply discount a competition, especially not the FA Cup, but I can understand the arguments for it be low on the priority list considering the timing and opposition.

There is a cup final already within reach, and I would hate to see a player we rely on heavily get injured in this match and miss the important ones to come.

I’d agree with you David and say it’s probably fourth at this stage, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a game to throw.

SAM: At the beginning of the campaign, it would have been right up there with the Europa League. However, now it does feel like there is potential for a Premier League charge.

That, coupled with a two-legged League Cup semi-final that will be missed by Mo Salah, Wataru Endo and more, have put this game down the list. A nice, home draw against a lower league team would have been nice!

 

The League Cup semi-final is 3 days after this tie, should the likes of Konate & Van Dijk be kept well away from the team?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, captain Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: It really is a balancing act, isn’t it. We have options, and good ones at that, to rotate into the side, but at the same time, we’re limited as well.

I don’t really want to see either Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk or Trent Alexander-Arnold start, this paves the way for two young full-backs to take their place, but then you’d argue they need the right support in the middle.

A needless injury here is the last thing we want, but I do think Alexis Mac Allister, Diogo Jota and Ryan Gravenberch are three that can safely start after recent absences and only coming off the bench against Newcastle.

SAM: Like Jo says, it would be ideal if we could rest Alexander-Arnold and other key figures, but the lack of options at full-back means that one of Van Dijk or Ibrahima Konate will likely have to play.

DAVID: I think Klopp may well be forced to use one of Van Dijk or Konate; perhaps the latter given his minutes were managed over Christmas and Van Dijk was a surprise selection in the League Cup against West Ham.

My belief that one of that pair will have to start is also down to the fact that Gomez surely can’t be used at centre-back in this one. As the only fit senior left-back, he’s too important to risk in this one.

 

Arsenal don’t play again until Jan 20 and will field a strong side, should that influence how Liverpool approach the tie?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 23, 2023: Liverpool's Curtis Jones during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAVID: I also feel Arsenal will be influenced to name a strong lineup by the fact they need to get a good win under their belts after a poor recent run, but Liverpool’s main priority is to look after themselves.

And even with heavy rotation, they’re capable of naming a pretty strong starting XI. It’s only those injuries to Tsimikas and Robertson (and Gomez’s subsequent inability to fill in at either right or left-back) that will cause a clear weakening of the team on paper as far as I see it.

JOANNA: It’s an interesting one to consider. Arsenal have the freedom of not needing to think about the next game and for Klopp this could play into which youngsters he selects.

It will not do the confidence of any young player good if they’re given a torrid time against a first-string Gunners side, and you sense this will be felt more in who Klopp looks to select in defence.

It is why I expect Van Dijk to start – wish he didn’t have to – with a change to come in the second half.

Why did it have to be Arsenal and not a team in a lower division?

SAM: As mentioned, the fact Arsenal have their winter break without League Cup semi-finals will mean they field their strongest XI.

This should force Liverpool to do similar, or play at least close to our current strongest side, as we could do without Arsenal beating us comfortably.

A heavy loss may put doubt in the Liverpool youngsters’ minds, and would give the Gunners confidence moving forward. They’ll be out to prove themselves, too, after recent defeats.

I also want to win the competition!

 

Finally, give us the XI you would select vs. Arsenal!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, November 30, 2023: Liverpool's Conor Bradley after the UEFA Europa League Group E match day 5 game between Liverpool FC and LASK at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SAM: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Quansah, Van Dijk, Beck; Mac Allister, Gravenberch, Jones; Elliott, Jota, Diaz

DAVID: Alisson; Bradley, Quansah, Konate, Beck; Mac Allister, Gravenberch, Jones; Elliott, Diaz, Gakpo

JOANNA: Alisson; Bradley, Quansah, Van Dijk, Beck; Mac Allister, Gravenberch, Jones; Elliott, Jota, Gakpo