For a neutral, Plymouth Argyle’s 0-0 draw at Anfield was entertaining to watch. Unfortunately for Liverpool and their fans, it is proof that there are never easy matches in the FA Cup.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 8, 2017
Plymouth Argyle, a fourth division side, played their hearts out and rightfully earned a replay at their place on the 17th.
Plymouth’s performance highlights the beauty of the world’s oldest club cup competition. Yesterday, AFC Wimbledon visited the home Sutton united, a non-league side, where the fan owned club (AFC Wimbledon) played its first ever game back in 2002. Of course, Wimbledon have had some better fortunes and now play in England’s third division while Sutton is still playing non-league football, but the game was historic nonetheless.
Today, over 8,000 Plymouth Argyle fans made the 5-6 hour journey to Liverpool and sung their hearts out as their side frustrated one of the world’s most historic clubs on their home soil.
The full-time celebrations said it all. While it is only a 0-0 draw to most, it represents so much more than just a replay to Plymouth. Their fans will once again get to enjoy a quality match of football against Liverpool, but this time in their home stadium, where Liverpool will have to grind out a result if they are to advance to the 4th round.
— Football League (@footyleaguepoll) January 8, 2017
Financially, this result means a great deal to the club as well. The club will receive a second check for TV coverage and regardless of the result, will make a bit more money from fan attendance and FA Cup cash prizes (earning a replay will ensure the club is paid a bit more than those that failed to win or draw for a replay).
And that is the beauty of the FA Cup. As opposed to the EFL Cup, which is still a respectable competition, every professional division, and even a few non-league sides battle each other out with heart and passion. Fourth division teams have a chance to show their skills against Premier League sides and non-league sides get a chance to earn some prize money that could be the difference in earning promotion to the English professional leagues.
For Liverpool, though, this result is much harder to accept than it is for Plymouth, who are fighting for promotion to the third division as well. They will have no choice but to play an additional match in what is already a busy January period.
There are no excuses for the result. While Klopp did put forth a team fully loaded with youngsters and reserve players, they failed to capitalize on their possession and plethora of chances. Liverpool had 18 corners and 28 shots, but failed to even test Plymouth’s goalkeeper, Luke McCormick.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 8, 2017
The only real positives Liverpool could take away from the match is the fact that Joe Gomez, who has had a horrible run with injuries since Klopp took over, played the full 90 and looked decent in the Klopp’s backline. Apart from that, at least they are still technically in the FA Cup.
This coming week, Liverpool will head to Southampton on Wednesday for the EFL Cup semifinal first leg and then play Manchester United on Sunday. Two days later, they will head back down to Plymouth to play the replay, face Swansea City on the weekend, followed by the second leg of the EFL semifinal again in the midweek.
Klopp and his men will have very limited time to rest, and Klopp will have no choice but to play strong sides for both legs of the EFL Cup matches as well as their fierce rivalry against Manchester United. Defeat in either would seriously dent Liverpool’s season, especially the cup as Liverpool are desperately chasing silverware.
In all honesty, Plymouth may have given themselves a big chance to progress in the FA Cup if they can produce a similar performance in 10 days time. Klopp may have no choice but to play his youngsters and reserve players to let his first teamers rest and focus on their matches of vital importance to their Premier League title chase and EFL Cup semifinal.
Regardless of the result, though, Klopp will surely help his team forget this result and pour everything they have into preparation for a gargantuan week of football.
It is important to note that Liverpool are without European football this season, so while this upcoming fixture list is hectic, Klopp’s men should be more than prepared to take it on.