A Few Thoughts from the Match: City 5 Liverpool 0
1. The most significant take-away from the match was that for 37 minutes of two teams playing with a full complement of players Liverpool looked the better side. Even at 1-0 down the feeling was that it was just a matter of time before the attacking superiority would pay dividends and the deficit would be scrubbed out. Just as with last season, this Liverpool team can forcefully impose itself upon their direct rivals in big games.
2. The reason that matters is because the events after the sending off do not scrub that from the minds of the players. The idea that this was a humiliation that will be a blow to the team and a boon to other teams just doesn’t wash with me. The next big game these lads play they will be thinking about that first 37 minutes and still be buying into this approach as one that few teams can live with.
3. The sending off is a sending off. If Mane pulls his boot away at the last minute and doesn’t end up studding a lad in the face and ending his game with a stretcher ride then we can have a debate about if it was a yellow or not. He doesn’t; so all of the possible wriggle room that he isn’t endangering an opponent sort of goes out of the window. That said, it’s also fractions of a second away from a red card for Ederson if it’s toed past him. These are the fine margins of top level sport.
4. The game is done as a contest at 2-0. Liverpool are very poorly equipped for what remains of the fixture. Changing the two wider midfielders and the forward made complete sense as they were now going to be doing shuttles all day and there are games coming up that were still winnable. That’s not to say the lads on the pitch couldn’t have made a better fist of things, particularly…
5. The Centre-backs. They all seemed to be reacting to things instead of reading them and being swept about by events rather than managing them. I’m of the opinion that Joel Matip was a pretty shrewd bit of business. I’m also coming to the opinion that he is very much the grey man of the defence, and that his performance levels seem to quite closely mirror his centre-back partner. He will play well in a defence playing well, he will play poorly in one playing poorly, he will almost never stand out as over-performing in a poor display or under-performing in a good one.
6. So, if this is true, and is going to continue, can we have Virgil Van Dijk in January please?
7. Not only are City a terrible team to try and get the ball off with one less man but they also love a cross. They’ve brought in Walker to get to the byline and Mendy to ping in crosses from all angles. I’d have swapped you for two of Pulis’ boys at half time if offered. Dawson and Evans fare better in that second half than our lads. More geared up for it. More used to it. Getting in better positions earlier.
8. With better, more clinical, decision making and execution from Salah in the first half the post-match analysis almost certainly tears Mendy apart for leaving Otamendi so isolated so often. Sweeping narratives and glowing MOTD analysis segments come out of those fine margins we talked about.
9. Alexander-Arnold showed he still has a lot of work to do, and may have given some supporters a bit of a reminder as to the benefits of having Clyne doing the boring, mundane defensive work in these big clashes. Progress is not linear, there will be ups and downs and Trent is an undoubtedly talented prospect, but news of the death of Nathaniel Clyne may well have been greatly exaggerated in some quarters.
10. In two big moments of the match the game intelligence and game management of The Reds let them down. As sky blue shirts swamp the referee for the sending off there are no Liverpool players arriving on the scene. That’s not acceptable and these things turn games. Shortly after that Mo Salah is running at Otamendi on a booking; he absolutely has to force him into a challenge. That’s an opportunity to turn a very long afternoon into a football match again and he has to do everything he can to force the issue. He doesn’t. It is indeed a rather lengthy afternoon of doing doggies from that point onwards.