Manchester City are defending Premier League champions and favourites to repeat. On Sunday, though, the defending champions came to Anfield not seeking to impose their game on Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool but to counter its strengths.
City manager Pep Guardiola wanted to control the game, to slow things down, commit fewer players forward, and to generally avoid giving Liverpool chances to force mistakes through the high press that has become their calling card.
“We know how complicated it is playing this club in this stadium and how dangerous they are,” Guardiola said following the match. “They’re such an attacking side with runs in behind and waiting for our mistakes to make counter-attacks.
“They are incredibly good, incredibly quick, and we controlled them. We were close, more than ever, to winning here—but okay, it was better than last season, and especially when we tried to be ourselves. We had our chance so it is what it is.”
If there were any doubts as to Liverpool’s status as contenders—as challengers to City for the title—Guardiola’s caution and respect shown in a game-plan focused first on controlling Liverpool and second on playing their own game should put it to rest.
It resulted in something unexpected: a scoreless draw between two of the best attacking sides in the game. And while on another night one or the other might have taken all three points on offer, in the end a draw seems a fair result.
“If we play quick then they are much better than us,” he added. “So the way they play, we want to create but they wait for when you make mistakes. If it’s an open game in Anfield, an open game against Liverpool, you don’t have even a one percent chance.”
“They are so good. They are maybe—no, not maybe, I’m pretty sure—the best team in the world running offensive-defensive transitions. They’re built for that, created for that.”