If you’ve been on social media since Arsenal’s League Cup elimination by Liverpool, you’ve probably seen someone claim the Gunners ‘lost to kids’.
Liverpool named a reserve side against Arsenal at Anfield, containing a number of teenagers. As a result, the fact they still managed to come out on top through a penalty shootout has been the source of much amusement for their fans.
The idea that there was a huge age disparity between the two teams is a myth though. The age gap between the average age of each starting lineup was just 224 days, well under a year. The two teams both had an overall average between 23 and 24 years old.
Not only that, but Arsenal also fielded a reserve side – just like Liverpool. They made a full 11 changes to the team that played their last Premier League game, with not one of the first-choice players keeping their place.
The ridiculousness of the ‘only one side fielded young players’ concept is highlighted still further when you look at the goalscorers.
Excluding Shkodran Mustafi’s own goal, Liverpool scored through Divock Origi (24), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (26) and James Milner (33).
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s goals came from Gabriel Martinelli (18), Lucas Torreira (23), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (22) and Joe Willock (20). Every single one of them younger than Liverpool’s youngest goalscorer on the night.
Arsenal certainly had the more experienced young players of the two sides, and arguably they should have won the match. The expected goals total was 4.3-2.0 in favour of Unai Emery’s side, so they can count themselves unlucky.
It’s worth remembering the final score was 5-5 though. It wasn’t a big win for Liverpool at home, it was a rather fortunately-timed (and expertly taken) volley from Origi to level things in the dying moments followed by a penalty shootout.
On another day, Martinelli puts away one or two more of his gilt-edged chances, whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain and Origi don’t find every shot they take flies into the net. Then the headlines are about the Arsenal 18-year-old who ran riot, as Martinelli did on the night.
Sadly, that’s not how it turned out, but an exciting contest between Arsenal and Liverpool’s young players shouldn’t be misleadingly framed as anything else.