Why Liverpool missed the chance to make a statement against Manchester City despite their late reprieve

So much momentum had been built up around Liverpool in the early weeks of this season that they could have done with perpetuating that and proclaiming themselves by beating the champions

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Monday 08 October 2018 07:13
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Liverpool 2018/19 Premier League profile

It was a match that changed nothing about the title race in terms of the table, other than involving Chelsea and Arsenal a little more than they were before, but the wonder from Anfield is whether it will change the tone of that race; the mentality.

That was one consequence of a 0-0 draw where so little happened, other than one single big incident. Who will feel happier after it? Who most benefits?

Manchester City did at least end what had been an increasingly concerning run of defeats to Liverpool while getting a point away in a title-race match – a good place-holding result – and yet they could have had so much more.

That awful Riyad Mahrez penalty simultaneously meant this will feel like a reprieve for Liverpool and like the burden to win this game was on them; that they needed the statement, that they needed to propel themselves.

It feels as if some of the early oomph from Liverpool’s challenge is gone, that some of the aura that had been developing has evaporated.

Then again, Liverpool’s entire recent form can be read either way, too: on the one hand, a side that are supposed to have designs on winning the league haven’t actually won any games in four; on the other, they have only suffered two defeats in their last seven, none in the league, and that after coming through what will probably be their most testing run of fixtures in the entire season: Tottenham Hotspur away, Paris-Saint Germain at home, Southampton at home, Chelsea home and away, Napoli away and Manchester City at home.

To strive through that and still finish level on points with two of those sides at the top of the table is impressive, and Jurgen Klopp was certainly enthused. “If somebody had told me after eight games, 20 points I would say ‘yes’ but with this fixture list, I would buy it.”

There is also the compliment that Pep Guardiola again compromised his approach against Liverpool. While he didn’t come anywhere close to ‘parking the bus’, he did insist on driving around in circles a bit more. City were using their possession to control the pace of the game as much as attack Liverpool with it.

Mohamed Salah had limited impact against Manchester City

“If you play so quick they are much better than us,” Guardiola explained. “We want to create but they wait for you to make a mistake. It’s not easy. If it is an open game at Anfield, you don’t even have one chance, not even one per cent of a chance. We control it through Riyad, Bernardo [Silva], the guys to give the extra pass. It’s important to give that pace because up and down, they are I’m pretty sure the best team in the world in these transitions, offensive, defensive. There is no team better in the world because it is built for that. It is created for that. It is what Jurgen feels. In that situation, they are much better than us.”

It’s a little harsh to criticise Liverpool when one of the best sides in Europe so uniquely changes up, and changes their use of the ball like this.

But this is also why it feels like this draw was more of a ‘win’ for City. Guardiola could afford to keep them at arms length, because they can afford a bigger squad. The argument about the two is that Liverpool’s best XI might temporarily be capable of higher levels, but they are not as capable of sustaining such a title-winning level for as long as City. And this is why they needed to win this, why they needed to use the advantage of their recent record to sustain it. It feels like Liverpool are going to have to push everything to the maximum to win this title, because City will always have something in reserve; something more if they need to go there.

It was also why the missed penalty was probably better for the title race – but still a slightly underwhelming statement from Liverpool. So much momentum had been built up around the club that they could have done with perpetuating that and proclaiming themselves.

It was by no means a bad result. It’s just that if they are to win this title rather than just suggest they can challenge, it could have done with a better statement.

“And now you’re going to believe us,” comes the refrain when sides feel on the brink of a title win. Not just yet.

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