Mizgan Ahmed on 22nd November, 2015
Liverpool produced another herculean performance in another big away game, brushing aside Manchester City 4-1 at the Etihad.
Jurgen Klopp opted to play the same side and with the same formation that conquered at Chelsea barring Lovren, who replaced injured Sakho. It meant no start for either of Benteke and returning Daniel Sturridge, a 4-3-3 with Firmino upfront.
Liverpool’s general formation and movements against Manchester City
Now let’s analyze the game half by half:-
First half :-
The Reds took the lead just seven minutes into the game as Sagna was caught sleeping in possession by Coutinho who slid in the pass to Firmino, the latter’s cutback was inadvertently poked in by Mangala as he couldn’t sought his feet facing his own goal. City looked very shrugged and were easily getting caught in possession. Liverpool looked threatening on the break – and on 19 minutes, a well-worked move opened up City, only for James Milner to drive over the crossbar against his former club. Soon after though, the second goal came, Firmino won the ball from Demichelis and cuts across Mangala, then centered the ball for Coutinho who made it 2-0. The Reds just kept coming at City and the Citizens were looking like they are not realizing that this is going away from them very quickly. At the half an hour mark, the third goal came, this time a wonderful backpass from Can squared up City’s defense and Coutinho just helped it onto the feet of Firmino who tapped home his first Liverpool goal, another one ‘made from Brazil’ as they say. However, just before halftime, Liverpool switched off for a moment and Aguero seized onto the ball and curled in a fabulous 25 yarder to reduce the deficit and give something for Pellegrini and City to work with going into the second half.
It was a half of football which City would like to forget as quickly as they can, but credit should go to Liverpool the way they pressed City very high up the pitch. The trio of Lallana(right), Firmino(centre) and Coutinho(Left) consistently pressed a shaky City’s defense causing them to make many passing and decision-making errors. Milner and Can complimented very nicely by pressing the fullbacks and not allowing either of Sagna and Kolarov to really run in behind or run at Moreno or Clyne. It was a master stroke from Klopp starting with Firmino at the top, clever runs in behind the centre backs and work rate off the ball was just emphatic.
Second Half :-
The home team started with little more purpose and Aguero’s goal just before the break seemed to have given some life to the City players, but they were unable to really break Liverpool until Milner’s attempted backpass went horribly wrong and Aguero’s shot was fantastically saved MIgnolet. Once Aguero got subbed off in the hour mark, City’s tooth in the attack just broke and they looked clueless again. It could had been more misery for the home team had it not been Joe Hart making 2-3 fabulous saves, one of which came when Can’s pass was dummied by Lallana which caught Mangala out and left Firmino one on one with Hart, the Englishman made a fabulous save. Coutinho and Firmino were substituted for Ibe and Benteke and Liverpool changed their shape to a traditional 4-3-2-1. Seven minutes from time, Benteke had the chance to put the game in bed only to be denied by marvelous Hart, the resulting corner fell kindly onto Skrtel who thumped home a fabulous goal wrapping up three massive points for Liverpool.
These were the general movements of Liverpool’s forward and midfield players, Coutinho and Lallana pressing Demichelis and Mangala, Firmino trying to create gap between them and run in behind them, once it goes to the fullbacks, Can and Milner comes into the game and pressed Sagna and Kolarov not allowing them easy runs from wide channels, forcing them into mistakes. This was a bit unorthodox forward setup by Klopp which just outfoxed City at the back. The game was mainly won here, once Liverpool had the ball, Firmino’s off the ball movement caused many problems and created many gaps between the centre backs or between a centre back and a fullback.
In all fairness, I must say Liverpool deserved the win and they are now starting to learn the ‘Klopp way’, there were too many shades of gegenpressing which bamboozled the City backline. All I can say is Liverpool were decisive in what they did, City just looked ragged and very reluctant in what they were trying to do.