Ever since the Wenger days, Arsenal have loved a red card, but rarely have they produced a performance as gritty, organised, and full of character as this goalless draw at Anfield with only 10 men.
Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool have scored 43 goals against Arsenal sides since he took over on Merseyside — more than against any other club — and yet they didn’t manage a single shot on target against Mikel Arteta’s depleted side in this Carabao Cup semi-final first leg. That says an awful lot about the display and attitude of the visitors.
Of course, you could say that Arsenal have had more practice with 10 men than any other team in the Premier League (they are the only club to have reached 100 dismissals since the league’s formation) but even so, this was a highly positive night for the Gunners, against all odds, and leaves them still dreaming of reaching the final at Wembley.
Xhaka’s dismissal this time, for a crazy waist-high challenge on Diego Jota, was the 12th red card since Arteta took command and also the fifth of the Swiss midfielder’s career, so it came as no shock to anyone who knows their Arsenal history.
However, Arsenal’s ill discipline didn’t begin with Arteta’s reign and it hasn’t always spelled disaster.
Arsene Wenger’s legendary side, which featured greats such as Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira, suffered 23 red cards in his first three seasons in charge and continued to bother referees for the rest of his time in north London.
There were 11 red cards in Arsenal’s title-winning campaign in 2001/02 and 10 for the champions of 1998/99. There were even five in 2003/04 when the Invincibles won the title without losing a single game.
Maybe we should stop worrying about Arsenal’s poor discipline, because you have to say Arteta’s team responded brilliantly and heroically at Anfield, with a focused and organised performance that frustrated Liverpool and irritated the home crowd — exactly what you want to do when you are playing in front of the Kop.