Jamie Carragher explains how Man City exploited Liverpool approach to defending set pieces

John Stones scored off a clever corner routine to catch out the Reds at Anfield

Karl Matchett
Monday 11 March 2024 19:39 GMT

Liverpool and Manchester City fought out an entertaining draw at the top of the Premier League table on Sunday, a result which ensured the title fight would continue heading into the final months of the 2023/24 campaign.

While the Reds thought they should have had a second penalty in the last minute of the match for a perceived foul on Alexis Mac Allister, the Argentine did earn a point by scoring the earlier spot-kick awarded for a foul on Darwin Nunez.

It was the game’s opening goal, though, which took centre stage on Monday Night Football as Jamie Carragher and Ian Wright dissected Kevin de Bruyne’s corner, turned in by John Stones.

The former Reds centre-back described the positional play of Jurgen Klopp’s team when facing set pieces, how he would approach them in his own playing days - and where Pep Guardiola may have spotted the opportunity to take advantage of the smallest gap.

“I want to show people why you would defend differently on an outswinging corner to an inswinger,” Carragher said ahead of the Chelsea vs Newcastle match.

“Liverpool are zonal marking; under Rafa Benitez doing that we’d set up along the six-yard box. On an outswinger we’d take a step up because the ball is coming out here [a yard further away from goal].

“As soon as [Liverpool players] see it’s a right-footed player [taking the corner from the right, an outswinger] they are stepping out. So from six players defending the six-yard box [on an inswinger] there’s nobody, maybe only Andy Robertson.”

Carragher showed clips from Liverpool defending an outswinging corner against Brentford recently and suggested that was where City had identified the possibility to score from.

“Look at the space, this is what Guardiola’s looked at. There’s nobody in the six-yard box and that might be the one [he’s seen]. When you go to the Manchester City one, look at Virgil van Dijk. De Bruyne goes to take it and [Van Dijk] starts to step up. [Joe] Gomez steps up. [Jarell] Quansah steps up.”

Alongside Carragher, Wright highlighted the apparent disinterest of the Man City attackers in the box, even though they clearly knew what was about to unfold, with Nathan Ake fending off the near-post defender and Stones running in unmarked to score.

“What you’ve seen, Ake and Stones walk in as if they are not interested,” Wright said. “Then Stones knows and look at the massive space - the acting was fantastic. Ake’s like he’s just lost his keys but Stones knows. Nunez is not close enough and De Bruyne’s so accurate.”

The Belgian’s delivery was praised by Carragher, suggesting “the quality is amazing” on the corner and asserting that all clubs would soon employ specific personnel to identify this kind of opportunity in future.

“It had to be absolutely precise. In the next two-three years, everybody is going to have a set-piece coach and that goal could be the difference between winning the title,” he finished.

Liverpool remain one point ahead of Man City, with Arsenal top on goal difference with ten matches left to play.

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