Eight things I might have learned from watching Manchester City versus Liverpool
One. Manchester City probably are that good. It is hardly a mind-blowing, groundbreaking assessment to suggest the Premier League is probably between Manchester City and Chelsea, but I think City really have the edge. Chelsea can, and will, grind out results and will probably set off a few fireworks along the way. But Manchester City look capable of pulling apart each and every team in the league. There have strength and pace in equal measure, genuine squad depth, and a confidence that could soon lead to the sort of aura their near-neighbours United had for years.
Two. That was probably the hardest league fixture Liverpool will have all season. Not many teams get something from the Etihad. Liverpool did well to dominate a lot of the first half, and did well to avoid a complete rout in the second. Their faults were certainly magnified last night, but I think they also showed the sort of potential to suggest they will make quick work of a lot of other teams in the Premier League.
Three. Individual mistakes are rarely individual mistakes. It is easy to write off Alberto Moreno’s error for the first goal as the new boy misjudging the pace of the Premier League. However, I think it showed the more fundamental problem within the Liverpool defence – that they seem incapable of communicating to each other properly. The replays showed Joe Allen yelling from midfield, but Moreno’s defensive colleagues should have made the danger clearer to him sooner, and anticipated the problem by moving into a better position to cover him.
Four. Liverpool still seem capable of falling apart defensively, throughout the team. See goals two and three for City. The midfield aren’t consistently tracking runs. There doesn’t seem to be the will or organisation to break up play, especially when caught on the break. Skrtel and Johnson looked a little lost at times. Lovren looks like he is trying to cover for everyone, which while admirable, probably isn’t the best defensive policy.
Five. City can contain a team brilliantly. Liverpool had much of the possession in the first half, yet City were able to restrict their chances. They sat on the edge of the 18 yard box and challenged the Liverpool attack to play through them. They allowed Liverpool time on the ball, but generally in areas where they couldn’t threaten.
Six. Liverpool needed to stop playing through the middle sooner. See point five above. They got a lot more joy when the full-backs pushed forward and when Markovic came on and operated as a pretty much out-and-out winger. If they had used the width of the pitch earlier on, then they might have opened the game up a little, as it would have made it much harder for City to rely on their containment tactics.
Seven. This is a kind of obvious and trite point, but I’ll say it anyway. It is all about taking your chances. City were ruthless in front of goal. Liverpool weren’t. A Liverpool goal in the first half would have set up a very different second period. If Rickie Lambert had been more decisive and incisive at the end, Liverpool would have had five or so minutes to push for an equaliser.
Eight. This game wasn’t a crystal ball for predicting the rest of the season, but it did give City and Liverpool’s upcoming opponents some important clues. City may allow you some time with the ball. They will give away free-kicks in dangerous areas. You might get a chance to nick a goal. But if you aren’t organised, they will tear you apart. Liverpool can be contained, if you plan properly. But there are also some signs that they have bought well, and if the new squad gels they could yet again be a handful this season. And I didn’t even mention that Mario bloke.