A spectacle of a game came to a conclusion with Liverpool finally ending Manchester City’s unbeaten season. Here’s five things we learned.
A Tactical Affair
Since Pep Guardiola was appointed Manchester City manager he has gradually been moulding his team in to his footballing philosophy. At times he has been somewhat stubborn in this approach but this season he has seen it pay off with City sprinting towards the title.
Occasionally City have been guilty of failing to adapt though and that was the case in this match. Liverpool’s high press was clearly causing City more problems than what they were gaining by playing out from the back. Despite Manchester City being one of the best teams in the world at playing out from the back Liverpool tried to take advantage of City’s playing style.
To try and capitalise Liverpool changed their formation from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3. Instead of having two holding midfielders in Can and Wijnaldum they went with just one (Can). That left Salah, Firmino, Mané, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum free to press which is ultimately why Liverpool came out on top in the end.
‘Keeper Calamities Continue
Liverpool’s long-running goalkeeper problem resurfaced itself once again. With Simon Mignolet out of form Loris Karius has been given a chance to prove himself in a Liverpool shirt. Jürgen Klopp stated before the match that if Karius can put in a good performance then he can make the number one spot his own. However, Karius looked far from comfortable all game.
Consistently the Liverpool defence seemed unsure what decision their ‘keeper was about to make. Not only that but the Liverpool fans muttered nervously whenever he had the ball as well. To compound that nervousness Karius made a woeful attempt to save Sané’s blistering near-post strike and conceded the equaliser.
Karius may have been thrown in to a difficult situation but he did nothing to ease the worry that Liverpool have in goal. Surprisingly, Manchester City also had their own goalkeeping issues. Ederson is one of the most assured ‘keepers on the ball in the world, however he uncharacteristically allowed Salah to score a long-range strike after a poor clearance.
City Dominance on the Brink
Liverpool were the team to finally put an end to Manchester City’s unbeaten season. Whilst it may seem that this was one standout result it has been in the pipeline for a few weeks now.
Despite the frequent large score-lines, Manchester City are not at the level they were earlier in the season. Even though City are still comfortably the best team in the league their unbeaten season has looked to be in jeopardy for a while.
In fact, City were lucky not to be beaten on New Year’s Eve by Crystal Palace after the Eagles missed a late penalty. That was the warning sign for City that a stronger team than Crystal Palace would have a decent chance of beating them.
Now that City’s incredible run is over questions have to be asked about where they go from here. Despite having the most technically talented squad in the Premier League football is as much a mental sport. It will be interesting to see how the players respond to this setback and whether they can get their absolute dominance back on track. Still, you’d have to be brave to bet against City winning the league.
A Team Game
Team success usually comes down to the quality of the individuals involved and that was the case in this game. Both teams were in strong positions to win at some point in the match and that is the result of individual quality.
Nearly every single player on the pitch had an excellent game which is very rare to see. Aside from one goalkeeping error a piece and a couple of centre-back mistakes each it was a very high-quality game.
The result of this is two very evenly matched teams where the result could have gone either way. In the end though, Liverpool came out on top because of an exceptional 10 to 15 minute period and marginally better tactical preparation.
Injuries make a Spectacle
Liverpool and Manchester City are known for putting the offensive part of the game before the defensive. However, some key players missing could be the reason this turned in to a seven-goal thriller.
Liverpool were without record signing Virgil van Dijk, Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno through injury. Meanwhile, Manchester City were missing Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy (Delph also limped off shortly in to the match).
With so many defenders missing, the match could have been a completely different game had they played. However, we will never find that out but what we do know is that the lack of quality defending made this in to a spectacle. This seven-goal thriller will likely go down as one of the best games of the season.