Carabao Cup talking points: Manchester United labour again but Liverpool's youth shines
From Manchester United's under-performing senior players to Manuel Pellegrini's selection mistake, we round-up the talking points from the Carabao Cup third-round games
Last Updated: 26/09/19 1:52pm
Manchester United labour again
Manchester United are into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. That, though, was the only positive of an evening which bordered on embarrassing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players as they were taken to a penalty shootout by League One Rochdale, a side recently beaten 2-0 by Manchester City's U21s.
- Man United 1-1 Rochdale (5-3 on pens) - Match report and highlights
- Carabao Cup fourth round draw
- Watch Carabao Cup highlights
Solskjaer did not field his first-choice team, but that is not much of an excuse when your central midfielders have a combined cost of £141m. It is a damning indictment of senior players such as Paul Pogba and Fred that United were again reliant on the 17-year-old Mason Greenwood to make the breakthrough.
Amazingly, his opening goal was cancelled out by a player even younger than him. Rochdale, and their goalscorer Luke Matheson, deserve immense credit for their performance. But is it any surprise that they fancied their chances against this United side? They might have even won it in normal time had it not been for Aaron Wan-Bissaka's goalline clearance.
Solskjaer could be seen sharing a joke with the Rochdale coaching staff at the final whistle, but this performance did nothing to ease the serious concern surrounding United's form. Since the 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in March, they have only won five games out of 20 and lost 10.
They avoided another loss against Rochdale, at least, but it will not be registered as a victory either. It certainly didn't feel like one to the fans who could be seen streaming out of the stadium before the penalty shootout was even over.
Liverpool's young guns signal bright future
Jurgen Klopp put his faith in five players under the age of 21 in his starting line-up against MK Dons, and none of them let him down during a highly-professional Liverpool performance which hinted at a bright future for the club.
Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher overcame an anxious moment in the opening period when he was fortunate not to be penalised for handling just outside his penalty area, but he later ensured Liverpool avoided a nervous final 10 minutes by superbly keeping out Jordan Bowery from close range to preserve their 2-0 lead.
Ki-Jana Hoever had already announced himself to the senior side with his ability to turn defence into attack when he was thrown into Liverpool's FA Cup tie at Wolves earlier this year, and he showed even greater maturity as he met James Milner's cross to cap a disciplined performance with a goal.
Curtis Jones was the pick of the bunch with his direct running and willingness to provide a constant outlet down the left on only his second appearance for the club. And while Jones was named man of the match, Harvey Elliott was similarly impressive.
The former Fulham academy player might have done better with the close-range effort which hit the bar in the first half, but his head never dropped and he showcased his confidence in stoppage-time as he cut onto his weaker foot to send another shot against the woodwork.
There was also a start for the highly-rated Rhian Brewster, and while he was closely shackled by the Dons' defence, he showed glimmers of real promise, coming close to scoring when he narrowly failed to connect with one Milner cross.
Youth pathway at Lampard's Chelsea, too
It seems now is as good a time as any in recent years to be a talented young player at Chelsea. Suddenly, it would appear there's a visible pathway from the academy to the first team.
At the club's Cobham training base in Surrey, a road separates the first team building with all its high tech facilities from the academy block. It's only a short walk between the two buildings, but crossing that road has been fraught with difficulty over recent years, with managers apparently reluctant to give first team opportunities to young players. One or two might have played in a domestic cup match.
It would appear things have changed since Frank Lampard took charge this summer.
At full time as Chelsea completed a 7-1 victory over Grimsby, there were six academy graduates on the pitch. Teenagers Billy Gilmour (18), Reece James (19) and Marc Guehi (19) had made full debuts. Tino Anjorin (17) and Ian Maatsen (17) both came on as substitutes midway through the second half, while Callum Hudson-Odoi (18) returned from injury.
Chelsea didn't need to call on Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, young players who have become first team starters this season. All three stayed on the bench, unused substitutes.
Gilmour impressed in midfield, "He ran the game", said Lampard afterwards, adding "Guehi was solid."
Those young players (Reece James too - more on him later) can look at Abraham, Mount and Tomori, knowing the route to the first team is clearer now than it has been for a very long time.
Ian Bolton, Sky Sports News
Have Spurs reached the end of a cycle?
Tottenham's alarming slide hit what must surely be the nadir as they were beaten on penalties by a side ranked 71 places below them in the football pyramid. The dismal performance at Colchester, in which they only mustered four shots on target, added to the growing sense that all is not right at Spurs.
It is only a few months since this side was contesting a Champions League final, of course. But that historic European run can't mask problems which date back to the second half of last season. Since beating Borussia Dortmund in February, Spurs have only won eight games out of 22. They have not won a Premier League away game since January.
They are no longer playing with the physical intensity or attacking incision which became hallmarks of their progress under Mauricio Pochettino. The squad is older, certain players are disillusioned, and the fact that the manager is already eyeing a January overhaul suggests he knows they have reached the end of a cycle.
Arsenal strengthened by defensive trio
Arsenal's young players ran riot against Nottingham Forest, with Gabriel Martinelli, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson among the scorers. But the 5-0 victory was just as notable for the contributions of summer-signing Kieran Tierney, who was making his debut, and returning duo Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin.
Tierney, although rarely tested in a defensive sense, proved what an impressive attacking talent he is, regularly beating his man down Arsenal's left before putting in brilliant cross after brilliant cross, creating fine chances for Willock and Emile Smith Rowe during the first half.
Holding, meanwhile, provided an assured presence at the back on his first appearance since December and showed his aerial prowess with his well-taken header for Arsenal's second goal. Then, there was the return of Bellerin, who came on for Tierney and immediately assisted the third.
There will be far sterner challenges ahead, starting with their Monday Night Football clash against Manchester United, but there is little doubt that Arsenal look a more formidable outfit with these three at the back.
Will Ings solve Saints' striking issues?
Danny Ings provided a reminder of his goalscoring threat with a clinical double in Southampton's 4-0 win over south-coast rivals Portsmouth.
The 27-year-old made an excellent start to life at St Mary's last season, scoring eight goals in his first 14 appearances for Saints following his arrival from Liverpool, but injuries impacted his form in the second half of the campaign, and while he did find the net against his former club in August, he has found himself behind £15m summer signing Che Adams in Ralph Hasenhuttl's pecking order recently.
With Adams still waiting for his first goal, however, that could soon change. Southampton are about to embark on a testing run of Premier League games against Tottenham, Chelsea, Wolves, Leicester and Manchester City. They will need a striker in goalscoring form to help them through it.
James stakes his claim in Chelsea rout
Cesar Azpilicueta will be looking over his shoulder after Reece James' excellent display in Chelsea's 7-1 demolition. On his senior debut for the Blues, the young right-back scored one and set up two more, showing off his technique and engine following his return from injury and earning praise from manager Frank Lampard.
"I think he is going to be a big player for this club," said Lampard. "He has a great person to look up to in his position in Azpilicueta. He worked hard and showed his real qualities on the ball. It is just the start for him here."
On this evidence, James is ready to step into the first-team right away.
Respite for Silva and Everton
The Carabao Cup provided no respite for Pochettino but for Marco Silva, another Premier League manager under pressure, there was some welcome relief. The hope now is that the 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, secured by Dominic Calvert-Lewin's early double, can help Everton put the recent defeats to Sheffield United and Bournemouth behind them.
Calvert-Lewin will hope to have put himself in the frame for more regular starting opportunities in the Premier League and he is not the only one. Alex Iwobi provided an assist having been benched for the defeat at Sheffield United and so too did fellow summer signing Djibril Sidibe, the French World Cup-winner who is still waiting for his Premier League debut.
The competition for places is good news for Silva, who preached togetherness after the game. Everton will need plenty of that, no matter who gets the nod, when they face Manchester City on Saturday.
Pellegrini's rotation backfires in Oxford humiliation
Manuel Pellegrini was made to pay for his decision to field a second-string team for West Ham's trip to Oxford United. The Chilean made nine changes to his starting line-up following the impressive 2-0 win over Manchester United, but the Hammers were duly thumped 4-0 at the Kassam Stadium, ending their hopes of Carabao Cup silverware in humiliating fashion.
All four of the goals came in a chaotic second half during which League One Oxford ran riot. It was a dismal evening for some of West Ham's fringe players, who emphatically failed to put themselves in the frame for more regular involvement, but it was worse still for Pellegrini.
West Ham sit fifth after an excellent start to the Premier League season, but it will take time for their fans, who have not celebrated a trophy win since 1980, to forgive this misjudgement.
Jones on the brink at Stoke
Stoke carried their dismal league form into the Carabao Cup, losing to League Two Crawley Town on penalties to crank up the pressure on Nathan Jones. The 42-year-old was viewed as a shrewd appointment when Stoke poached him from Luton Town in January, but they have only won four of his 32 games in charge and sit second-bottom in the Championship.
Jones pulled no punches on his players after their latest defeat. "That's as bad a performance as I've had since I've been a manager and I include all my time at Luton Town and all my time since I've been here," he said. "I know one or two haven't played as much recently but we were nowhere near in terms of desire, work-rate and our reading of the game was very poor."
But it is Jones - not the players - who could pay the price. The club do not plan to sack him before Friday's game against Nottingham Forest, according to Sky sources, but another poor result could spell the end.