After a wonderful run of 20 games unbeaten, Manchester City became the first side to inflict a league defeat on Liverpool. The Champions showed their true colours last Thursday night as they showcased a top class performance to over power their title rivals.
Liverpool were off the pace from the outset and struggled to really click into gear. They were unlucky in the first half, when Mane’s effort hit the post and rebounded off John Stones to almost trickle over the line.
However, the current league leaders will be disappointed with their efforts on the whole.
They were exposed by City’s incredible pressing and work rate which isolated their front three. Liverpool’s passing became rushed and sloppy as they squandered a handful of decent chances to counter with Man City left higher up the pitch.
Klopp cut an agitated figure as he watched his opponents get a grip on proceedings. The German will know all too well that his side has just handed a huge psychological boost to their rivals. The work he does now, in Liverpool’s forthcoming run of games, will be critical. The real test of his team’s title credentials has just begun.
After such an excellent run of form, which saw most things run in their favour, Liverpool have been brought back down to Earth with a jolt. They looked dazed and shaken by City’s aggressive play and Klopp should be concerned that his players went into such a massive game in such a timid way.
His team must now recover quickly if they are to continue to be the outriders in this title race. How they respond to this defeat is as much a test of their credentials as last night’s final festive fixture.
Liverpool’s focus must now be on rediscovering that ice cold control of games. They had shown real maturity in December, as teams beneath them floundered. Away at Wolves and at home to Newcastle and Arsenal, Liverpool really showed their continued improvement under Klopp as they coolly kept their opponents at arm’s length.
They must show similar mental granite if they are to bounce back from the City result. If they let this result bore away them too much, it could be fatal to their lofty ambitions this season.
Klopp boldly declared his faith in his players during his post match press conference. In front of clicking cameras and scribbling journalists, the Liverpool manager cut a confident, defiant figure as he looked to drum confidence into his players, after a deflating result.
He’s got good reason to have such cast iron faith. His players are still four points clear at the top and have won seventeen of twenty-one games. No other Liverpool manager has been able to call on such a quality squad in the Premier League era, Klopp will not be blind to that.
There were clearly issues with some of his players last night though, which will give him something to think about. Alexander-Arnold and Lovren were poor, while James Milner was clearly nowhere near full fitness for a game of this magnitude.
Panic and wholesale changes should not rear their heads though. There are plenty of options in the squad for Klopp, as well as an open transfer window, if necessary. He has the tools to tweak things and keep his side’s momentum from wobbling after a first defeat of the league campaign.
Liverpool’s progress has been outstanding this season. It’s now Klopp’s job to ensure this defeat doesn’t harm his good work. A defeat was always a very real prospect at The Etihad, as it is for any side regardless of form, so Liverpool must not let their confidence go in to a tailspin after this result.
Mentality and experience will play a huge part in the title run in from now on. Liverpool must show their true credentials and hardened nature as they look to hold off a resurgent Manchester City in the second half of the season.