Liverpool against Manchester City is not usually a game that results in a lack of goals. In just four games last season, a total of eighteen goals were scored.
So the “Challengers versus Champions” (Sky TM) match would appear to be a damp squib after all the weeks of hype. Feeling like 0-0 from a long way out, it was far from the most interesting game I’ve ever seen. Long spells of it were actually outright dull but as a fan of the tactical battle, I thought there were a lot of fascinating points to consider.
It was akin to a chess match, which is a very overused term but very apt in this instance. In a game of chess, one bad mistake can allow your opponent to box you in for several moves. On Anfield’s lush green turf, one bad pass allowed either Liverpool or Manchester City a couple of energy sapping minutes of possession.
Riyad Mahrez’s penalty (sponsored by NASA) aside, there were very few sights of checkmate for either team. I don’t play much chess but I do know that both managers did a very fine job of keeping their King well protected.
Off the field, there is an element of nastiness and pettiness creeping in between Liverpool and Manchester City, which is sad given they are two sets of fans who have historically got along relatively well. But on the field, there is a huge amount of respect for each other from the two managers.
Jürgen Klopp has this week been described as Pep Guardiola’s kryptonite – his Achilles heel.
I can understand that argument as the German has caused a great deal of trouble for the Spaniard down the years. Guardiola has just overseen a 100 point season at the Etihad, so I doubt he spends too much of his time losing sleep over the issue. But he definitely made tactical changes to his approach at Anfield and it was definitely with last season in mind.
Aside from the 5-0 shellacking at the Etihad, we ran riot whenever we came up against Manchester City. Our trident of terror upfront overloaded City’s usually composed back four and goalkeeper. But that’s no surprise – City crush teams psychologically. Teams turn up against them looking to avoid a thrashing and this is something that Liverpool are trying to do too. But it means that the City defence is not tested too often. When it does, it can crumble as we have been able to demonstrate so spectacularly.
It’s no coincidence that Hurricane Liverpool has made Guardiola think twice about adopting the same approach this term.
Manchester City are heavily reliant upon their fast, attacking fullbacks. Benjamin Mendy, cheerleader extraordinaire, and Kyle Walker are a huge part of the way they play. Their ability to get to the byline allows City to have a better chance of breaking down the litany of bus parkers that suck the fun out of the league.
However, they were hardly in the game against the Reds. Their rare attacking forays did cause problems but the amount of respect shown to Liverpool was very telling of just how much concern we cause other teams. We made changes ourselves of course, but we didn’t go all out to win the game like we would have done against other teams.
Salah, Mane and Firmino each to score 15 or more PL goals 18/19 – 3.50*
Daniel Sturridge was a late replacement for Roberto Firmino, but it was very much a like for like change as opposed to a supplementary one. If we were truly chasing the game, we could have thrown Sturridge into the mix as well as Firmino, Salah and Mané.
Had that been more or less any other team, we would have gone for the three points without question. But a draw against Manchester City is a good result from my point of view.
And of course, you take a result of any kind when you’re staring down the barrel of an 85thminute penalty.
I just hope that my next aeroplane journey is not inconvenienced by Riyad Mahrez’s ICBM returning to earth orbit.
All joking aside, that was a good defensive display even if we were blunted in attack. We showed high levels of concentration for the long spells where we didn’t have the ball – not something we are used to.
We now get an international break to reconvene and get ready for a key run of games against opposition we’d hope to beat.
*all odds are subject to change
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