Talking Points: Manchester City 2 Liverpool 1

Manchester City inflicted Liverpool’s first league defeat of the season to close the Reds’ lead at the top of the table down to four points. Roberto Firmino levelled proceedings after Sergio Aguero’s opener, but Leroy Sane struck to see City run out winners. 

Another Dejan disaster…

Dejan Lovren is not a terrible footballer, in fact he is quite like a bag of Revels or something similar – most of the time you will get something good but eventually you will get something terrible. As is the case with every Lovren cycle, the defender has played well in recent weeks and formed a solid partnership alongside Virgil Van Dijk, but the match against City saw Lovren produce another horror show. His early yellow card only foreshadowed what was to come, and the Croatian was certainly at fault for the first goal where he allowed Aguero to nip in in front of him and failed to block the striker’s finish into the roof of the net. You can also make a strong case for Lovren being at fault for the second goal as well, with his decision to step out of the defensive line to tackle Sterling forcing Trent Alexander-Arnold in narrower and consequently giving Sane the room to run into and score. There were at least two other moments where a Lovren mistake nearly resulted in a goal, and while he wasn’t the only poor performer in a red shirt, he was certainly the worst. The solution? Sign another good centre-back that forces Lovren down to fourth in the pecking order. Joe Gomez’s return can’t come soon enough.

Klopp’s safe midfield selection backfires once again…

So much was made of what midfield Jürgen Klopp would select against City, and rightly so as it proved to be the decisive area in which the game was won and lost. Klopp went with the workhorse trio of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner and as feared, it failed miserably. The fear was that, as had been seen in the previous big away matches where it had been deployed, it wouldn’t offer enough quality on or running with the ball or any incisive or creative passing. All this came to pass as City’s midfield trio of quality simply dismantled the Reds’ feeble attempts to press. Liverpool stood no chance of changing the game until a change was made, and surprise surprise, once Fabinho was introduced and the formation changed to a 4-2-3-1, Liverpool got a foothold and an equaliser. Lessons have to be learned from defeats, and it was said after the Champions League defeats and it will be said again now – the trio of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Milner can never be on the same football pitch together ever again. Klopp invested in the midfield in the summer for a reason, and it is about time he realised that the quality Fabinho, Keita and Shaqiri can offer needs to be out on the pitch every game, not on the bench.

Liverpool unlucky as opponents cash-in any due fortune…

If City fans had any belief that Liverpool had benefitted from more lucky moments this season, then that doubt can be put to rest after Pep Guardiola’s side cashed in their ‘luck in the bank’ contract. City fans can no longer complain about Riyad Mahrez’s missed penalty or Jordan Pickford’s howler, as on Thursday evening the chips undoubtedly fell in their favour. It started with Sadio Mane’s effort hitting the post and bouncing out, before John Stones’ clearances failed to fully cross the line and hit Mohamed Salah by a matter of millimetres. Then came referee Anthony Taylor deeming Vincent Kompany’s out-of-control and shin-high studs-up lunge on Salah worthy of only a yellow card. As the match progressed the Reds had further efforts cleared off the line before Sane’s shot hit the post, and of course, went in. You could argue that the performance of the midfield didn’t warrant getting anything from the game, but getting so many things go against you is never nice. It just wasn’t meant to be Liverpool’s day, and City’s good fortune has certainly blown the title race wide open once more.

Next to falter will go long way to deciding title…

With the gap now decreased to four points, City will be hopeful of catching Liverpool with so many games still left to play. As will Spurs who still cannot be discounted just yet given the strength of their first 11. Guardiola’s side faltered three times in four matches to allow Liverpool to build up the seven-point lead, and the next out of the pair to falter could go a long way to deciding the title. City’s next five games are, on paper, more challenging than the Reds, and sees them host Arsenal and Chelsea. If Liverpool can extend the gap back up to six or seven points then there will be strong optimism once more, but if City close it to one or two points then it would be very likely that they would go on and win the title. Momentum is key now, as is getting back to winning ways for Klopp’s side when they visit Wolves in the FA Cup on Monday and particularly against Brighton next Saturday. City managed to shrug off losing their unbeaten streak last season and went on to win the title. Liverpool must now do the same.

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