The game that was billed as the Champions vs The Runners Up turned out to be just that. The Champions ran out deserving victors, which left Liverpool ruing costly defensive mistakes.
There were a lot of similarities between this game, and last season’s title race between two of England’s best teams.
Very similar to how Liverpool had a brilliant stretch during last seasons title run and seemed to have everything under control, Liverpool bossed the first 40 minutes of this game and seemed to have everything under control.
Then suddenly, a slip at the most inopportune time ended up costing Liverpool the title last year; suddenly a lapse in concentration in defense cost Liverpool their control in this game.
The Citizens proved last season and today that it is all about how you finish. Again, Liverpool probably looked the better side for the first 40 minutes, but Manchester City displayed their ruthlessness in attack and pounced on the first mistake Liverpool made right before the half. They never looked back from that moment on.
Right from the first whistle, Liverpool’s style of play was much different from last year. Last year the team was set up to attack attack attack, pounding opponents in a blitzkrieg of nutmegs and intricate passing.
This Liverpool team was set up to control the game, playing a very structured 433 and control they did.
For the first half hour of the game City were struggling to break down Liverpool’s stubborn defense and did not get in behind Liverpool at all.
However, Liverpool’s control style of play looked very foreboding. You could just tell that Manchester City were patiently probing, just trying to find that weak part in Liverpool’s defense which they ultimately found on Liverpool’s left side.
Before everyone gets too critical of Alberto Moreno, he did show some flashes that he is going to be a good player. He got into some really good positions in attack, won some free kicks in dangerous postions, and overall linked up nicely with Coutinho down the left side
However, he left much to be desired in defense.
All 3 Manchester City goals originated down Moreno’s side, with him being at direct fault for the first by not being aggressive enough in clearing the ball after Dejan Lovern’s headed clearance fell to him in the box. The second caught him very much out of position, with 2 Manchester City occupying the space he should have been in.
The third, he probably shared fault with Simon Mingolet, but all in all it was not a debut to remember for the young Spanish left back. Given, Manchester City away for your first game in the English Premier League is a tough ask and he should not be written off just yet.
Liverpool made defensive errors that led to the goals, but give Manchester City credit for pouncing on those mistakes and making the most of them.
There is an old adage in football, that the mark of a good team is when you win when you’re not at your best. To take that one further, the mark of a Champion is to win against rival teams when not at your best.
For Manchester City, it is another 3 points. The way they played today is very promising moving forward. They did not play their best football, but it is still early in the season and all that matters to them is the 3 points against a title rival.
What is very scary for other teams is that their play will get only get better as the season goes on. A mid-season Manchester City will be a very frightening team.
Liverpool, however, must find their preferred formation, as well as a first choice 11. They have a lot of good players this year after a successful transfer window, which is different from years past for Branden Rodgers.
Rodgers is used to having a team where the first 11 basically picks itself.
If you look at his Premier League teams, he did not have that many options with his Swansea team and with his Liverpool team in years past. The only change he had to make last year was to play Coutinho or Sterling in the number 10 role and go from there.
This year he is going to have a much bigger task.
He has to find his first choice 11 for those big games, while also finding formations and team selections that can get a job done in the other “lesser” games. It seems he still has not found either, with Liverpool playing 433, 4231, and 442 diamond already so far this season.
He must find a way to get the best out of each of his players like he did so brilliantly last season. That will come in time as gets more familiar with his new recruits.
With the Champions League draw on Thursday, and Tottenham next up who just battered albeit a poor QPR side, Liverpool still have a lot of work to do.
However, what is promising for Liverpool is that it is still early goings. No team loses the title the second game of the season. They still have a lot of work to do in order to reach the heights they reached last season, but they have a lot of time to figure it out.
Overall, Manchester City looked very much like the champions, while Liverpool still have some things to figure out.