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Liverpool v Manchester City A Liverpool Perspective
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If you just looked at the score in isolation, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a battering at the hands of a rampant City, but the reality was very different. It was a game that City knew they did not have to win and so they did not really attack with the gusto they normally approach games with. That left Liverpool trying to force it. With a midfield that looked shattered and a defence that consisted of the rest of the midfield, it was always going to be a big ask for an out of sorts Liverpool to beat an in-form City.
The first 20 minutes or so, City were in the ascendancy, but they were not creating chances despite bossing it. It was more that their press was working well and forced Liverpool to give up possession very easily. It is surprising that City were unable to create many clear cut chances as there were problems with communication at the back during this period. That led to Alexander-Arnold not getting a shout. Liverpool were also slow to break, bodies were not flying forward the way we have come to expect when the Reds get a chance to counter.
City were particularly diligent around Thiago, they were able to catch him on the ball by not giving him any time and space at all, smothering him early on. As the half wore on, Liverpool got better and took more control over the game, City’s press had dropped off and Liverpool began to create half chances and a good chance or two. Right up until a run, which was pretty much all City had to offer in this period, from Sterling broke into the box slipped past Alexander-Arnold easily and then past Fabinho who fouled him to give away a penalty. Soft but a definite pen.
The rest of the half Liverpool were very much the better team. The second half was not long under way before Foden finally got a bit of time and space and his shot fell to Gundogan to slot home. The defending was worryingly bad from Liverpool. Liverpool’s penalty was then even softer than City’s. Strange how in the first half Salah had the ball on the half way line and played it back with Zinchenko tugging him back desperately and then kicking him on the ankles as soon as he played the ball, but that was not a foul. But when Salah gets the slightest pull back and throws himself to the ground the ref immediately gives the decision. Until the officials stop being influenced by players falling to the floor and give the actual fouls rather than the dives, diving is only going to get worse.
It all looked set for the two teams to play out the second half for a draw until Alisson went through a nightmare patch. Such a shame for a man who was such a big part of the team’s successes. After the amount of times he has saved the team points, I think he can be forgiven for a bad though. After all, no matter how bad things are, you’ll never walk alone Alisson.
City were not as good as the result would suggest but it is clear to see why they are where they are, their confidence is sky high and they are clinical with the chances they do get. I am surprised that Foden picked up so much attention from this game, he was anonymous for most of the game and only showed a couple of flashes. I am not convinced that makes him the world class player he is being described as. He is clearly extremely talented, but he needs to get much more involved in games, rather than just flitting around the periphery.
Sterling, on the other hand, has finally performed at Anfield in a blue shirt. Without the crowd on his back he had a really good game and was able to torment the defence. I think that is the biggest single indicator of the difference a crowd can make in a match. There has not been a single occasion that Sterling has been able to play well with the crowd on his back. Without it, he looked like the player we all know he can be.
Klopp – while I do understand his thinking behind playing Fabinho and Henderson as the defensive pair over the options, in the circumstances it was clearly not the right choice. A high on confidence Liverpool team would have been a different matter, but this team is slumping and so you need to err on the side of caution and play players in their correct position. Added to that, Phillips has deserved his place at the back far more than Fabinho and Liverpool desperately miss Fabinho in midfield. It would have been a much more sensible decision to play Fabinho in his proper place and stick with Henderson and Phillips.
More to the point, putting Fabinho in midfield would have allowed Wijnaldum to be either dropped or moved out of the deep-lying position, where he has been truly abysmal. Certainly for me that was the big mistake from this game, bringing back Fabinho in place of Phillips. I really do not understand why Phillips was dropped, when he has looked a much more solid option there than Fabinho.
Alisson – even the best have bad days and this was possibly his worst. Giving away the ball repeatedly for the second and third goal was bad enough but he then compounded it with another terrible piece of keeping on the final goal for Foden. Why he dropped to his knees is beyond me. In a one-on-one position, the best chance of keeping the ball out is to stay big and cover as much of the goal as possible. Instead he dropped and allowed the ball to be fired over him. Hopefully that will stick in his mind in the future and he will not make that mistake again.
Alexander-Arnold – allowed Sterling to skip past him too easily a couple of times, but had a very good game in the main. Most of the time he defended well and was very good on the ball, playing some lovely balls which should have resulted in much more. His petulance at the end worried me, there was no need to get caught up in bickering with Ederson, it just wasted what little time there was.
Fabinho – had a stinker, not just the lazy leg for the penalty, but the fact he repeatedly let players just run past him. His timing was awful when he did attempt to challenge. Fell asleep completely at the first goal, standing in no man’s land ball watching while Foden just moved into space. He needs to be in midfield to get the most from him and the team.
Henderson – played some nice passes out from the back but it was not his best game in defence as he did not work well with Fabinho this time out. There was a real lack of communication and they were often not close enough to each other.
Robertson – he kept Mahrez from really getting involved and still managed to get forward, but he looks jaded and in need of a rest.
Thiago – they did their best to give him no time on the ball to pick a pass, clearly Guardiola had a plan to deal with him and did not want him having any space. He needs help there, more movement in front and a midfield that is working together better to give him options.
Jones – had a good game, tracked back well to break up attacks, got forward well and created some chances. He needed his shooting boots on though. I would have liked to see him try a few more shots, rather than look for the pass around the edge of the box, but that usually requires more confidence than the team has right now.
Wijnaldum – the only reason I can see for him not being the first player to get the hook is that Klopp must have forgotten he was on the pitch. I fail to see what he offers in the deep-lying position at all. A good defensive midfielder spots Fabinho is out of position before the first goal and fills the gap. Wijnaldum stands watching it all unfold doing nothing. He just does not have the defensive intelligence to play the position, he is constantly too far forward when defending and too far back when the team attacks.
Firmino – still producing some good moments but he is nowhere near the level of last season. His workrate is still there, the team press is not working as well though and that is leaving him often dropping off instead of playing to his best. He needs more movement to work with, but the midfield are not making the runs and the forwards are often static.
Salah – the only player that looks anywhere near his best. He is the bright spot of the season. It is a reminder of just how great a player he is after a couple of seasons where people have constantly suggested he should be sold.
Mane – his finishing was terrible. He just looked a bit rusty after his lay-off.
Shaqiri – replaced Thiago in the 67th minute. Never did enough. His workrate has dipped over the last few games and it is leaving gaps for the opposition to run into.
Milner – came on in place of Jones in the 68th minute. What can you say? Gives his all and never stops trying no matter the score but he can only do so much on his own.
Tsimikas – was brought on in place of Robertson in the 85th minute. Struggled to get into the game and looked extremely out of sorts when the ball went his way.
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Written by Tris Burke February 10 2021 16:03:28