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Football News: Liverpool v Manchester City - A Liverpool Perspective

Liverpool v Manchester City - A Liverpool Perspective
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Liverpool v Manchester City A Liverpool Perspective

 

Well, what can you say about that? A comprehensive and demoralising victory over the reigning champions. Though, it must be said, they are not a patch on the team of the last two seasons. Pep Guardiola and City's arrogance has become their downfall. City because they refused to pay the price asked for a centre back, arrogantly trying to force teams to sell at the price they wanted to pay. Pep's because he decided he could manage without one anyway.

Now their arrogance has become folly, despite Pep's best efforts to put pressure on the officials going into the game with accusations that could have just as easily been levelled at his own players. They simply are weak at the back and it has been exposed repeatedly this season, their inability to defend is undoing all the good work they do going forward. Added to that, Pep's arrogance will not allow him to see the issues and fix them by playing an actual defender in the backline, rather than a converted box-to-box midfielder and Stones, who is weak defensively and no better on the ball than a toddler getting his first kick.

Tactically Pep seems to have no idea how to deal with Klopp's teams, which is beginning to get to him it is clear. With the pressure he is under, Pep is showing signs of cracking, as his antics on the sidelines, and blatant attempts to find anything to blame other than his own mistakes, highlights. In the past he has been able to walk away before the pressure got to this level, but this time he has stayed and it will be interesting to see how he deals with it.

In terms of tactics, Pep did nothing out of the ordinary, maybe due to the injuries he has to deal with, it was business as usual for City, other than one slight change. De Bruyne was asked to play much further forward than usual as a replacement for David Silva linking the play. It did not suit De Bruyne at all and he was not even close to his best, he was clearly not comfortable operating from there. It does seem an odd choice when the other Silva, Bernardo, is very well versed in that role and they had Mahrez sat on the bench who could have played on the right.

That turned out to be a big mistake as the centre of midfield lacked quality without De Bruyne's distribution in there and his workrate and mobility was just as big a loss. While Gundogan tries, he is simply not on the same level or even close to it. He is a weak link in the side, lacking mobility in particular. Gundogan is also far too similar in style to Rodri alongside him, it makes little sense to use both together. If anything, it would have been better to push Gundogan forward rather than De Bruyne.

On the other hand Klopp's tactical tweaks had a good effect on the game, though he wanted a bit more from them and kept trying to tweak it further. Klopp started off with Henderson tasked with filling in on the right as a central midfielder tasked with getting out there when needed, all to allow Salah to hold his position further up and keep City from pinning Liverpool back. Then he changed it to bring Mane over to the right while Milner went to the left. Then it was changed again as Klopp sought to stop Angelino's forward runs.

What was particularly pleasing is how well Alexander-Arnold dealt with Sterling, he gave him little time or space to operate and it was notable how much better Trent is becoming at defending. Added to some of the incredible quality he showed on the ball, he is becoming truly top class in his position, with a range of passing that the likes of Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard previously showed.

The difference in this game was the defending, Liverpool always had players putting themselves in the way of shots and crosses, they closed down and harried every attempt to attack by City. Even the good chances created were under pressure and that was why they failed to score. City, on the other hand, were all over the place in the defensive third and Liverpool's chances were taken under much less pressure.

Fabinho had the ball handed to him on a plate, had the time and space to pick his spot, though it was a top quality striker. Then Salah was able to get on the end of a cross completely unmarked as Angelino was nowhere to be seen and neither Stones nor Fernandinho had spotted him until too late. Again Mane was able to take his header unchallenged. That was not happening at the other end. There was someone making City players rush or pressuring them physically so they could not get the same clean connection.

At the end of the day, that was the main difference between the two. That desire and ability to defend in open play, rather than just fill in spaces as City players did. They clearly lack defensive nous, without Fernandinho in to cut out breaks with fouls, their midfield is wide open. With Fernandinho in the backline, the back four are unsure and Stones lack of positional sense is really shown up with no one there to carry him.

Just to pick out a few players who particularly deserve praise, I will start with Lovren, who is much maligned as a defender. Against City he showed he does have quality, he is comfortable on the ball and is mostly well positioned. Far from perfect, but he is a very good back up to have.

Robertson is always willing, but he was right at it from the start and in their faces getting them wound up. He also managed to dominate his flank and Silva offered very little. Put in some good deliveries as well.

Wijnaldum was exceptional, popping up at both ends of the pitch to get involved. He was winning the ball back, protecting it when he needed to and using it well too. One of the best performances he has produced in a Liverpool shirt. So different from the dreadlocked attacking midfielder I remember as a youngster, but he is finally living up to his promise.

To be fair, every Liverpool player played well, there was not one passenger in the team and all of them will have needed a rest after that!

Oh and for the 'penalty'? I do not understand the controversy, Bernardo Silva clearly punched the ball forward, so no goal could have been scored and it should have been stopped then. If one was a handball, they both were and the first offence is the one that matters. However that does not give the media an excuse to whine on about or controversy to endlessly and pointlessly dissect.

Written by Tris Burke November 11 2019 14:58:23

 

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