Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City lost for the first time in this season’s EPL on Sunday to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
The whole game could be described by a moment in the 73rd minute. Andrew Robertson, who played at left back for the Reds, singularly harried Nicolas Otamendi, Ederson, and John Stones until the ball went out for a throw-in. Klopp’s team was full of running and invention when needed. But they gave no quarter to the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Fernandinho to set any offensive tempo though City had 64 per cent possession.
It is not the first time that Klopp has masterminded a win over Pep Guardiola, and on the evidence of Sunday’s showing at fevered Anfield, it will not be the last.
The German probably possesses the footballing philosophy to combat Guardiola’s many-varied systems. Based on high energy and continuous movement, the ‘Gengenpressing’ [pressing against] worked a treat again to hand City their first league defeat of the 2017/18 EPL season.
The tactic, though simple in its overview, needs players to have bought in to make it come off. The downside of this strategy is that the players might not be able to keep up the intensity throughout a nine-month league season.
Georginio Wijnaldum, Emre Can, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino [the most important subset of the strategy] and Mohamed Salah, harassed the City back four incessantly. Can was on Fernandinho’s case until his energy sapped as Mane and Salah broke on both flanks.
Wijnaldum and Can sometimes do not get the accolades they deserve but Klopp definitely knows their worth. They were constantly on Fernandinho’s case and disrupted City’s rhythm by upsetting the Brazilian. Guardiola’s midfield Rolls Royce was disabled and almost rendered ineffective as he could not connect with De Bruyne. City were dispossessed 24 times – against Chelsea, they were only dispossessed 12 times; against Tottenham 12 times and against Manchester United 15 times. At Anfield, it was the total disruption.
Oxlade Chamberlain transition
There were raised highbrows when former Arsenal winger, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, was preferred to a fit-again Adam Lallana. But he showed with the first goal why he was chosen. After the ball broke in midfield, Fernandinho, the closest to Chamberlain, thought the situation was fine but Chamberlain’s acceleration into the gap and quick shot surprised all the defenders and the goalkeeper.
Systems work and seem well tuned when all conditions are predictable. Mane is anything but predictable as he showed with the third goal. His running, dribbling, and shooting can sometimes confuse but what is constant is he being a threat to any defender. The velocity and accuracy of his strike for Liverpool’s third goal were unerring. Even if Ederson could duplicate himself in goal – it would have been hard to stop.
Even though Klopp’s team almost contrived to give City a point, it was a barnstorming performance, which showed that wins over Guardiola in the Bundesliga were not flukes.
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