There’s a cliche in football that the most important match is the next one you play. Managers and players always say that when they’re interviewed by the media, including ours. Today’s 1-1 draw between Manchester City and Liverpool, you feel, was more about what’s happened before the game and what’s going to happen in the weeks to come. A relentless first half led to players from both teams being dead on their feet by the 60th minute. On the whole, I think both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola will be happy with the draw.
There’s always a massive build up to this fixture, which is completely justified given that these two teams have been the best in the business for the better part of 3 seasons. There’s been some classics between these two over the years but I won’t blame anyone for forgetting this one. The intensity from the first whistle was high, but only lasted about 20 minutes. Liverpool got their goal from a perfectly taken Mo Salah penalty that was won by Sadio Mane being fouled by Kyle Walker. Manchester City was able to equalize through a well worked goal by Gabriel Jesus. The talking point from this match will obviously be the penalty that Kevin De Bruyne eventually missed.
The second half was nothing like the first, where not much happened at all. There was only one shot between the two teams in the final 35 minutes. The players are tired and so are we. Now we get rewarded with too many international games this week. What a joy. Let’s dig deeper into this 1-1 draw.
The talk all week heading into this match was about whether Klopp would drop Roberto Firmino for Diogo Jota. The narrative has been that Firmino hasn’t been in good form and Jota’s been lightning when he’s played. When Jota scored a hat trick in the Champions League during the week, Klopp was immediately asked about Firmino’s form. So instead of giving this narrative any more fuel the manager decided to start both players. Fair play to Klopp for that.
Liverpool’s formation in the first half was mostly just vibes. Firmino was nominally behind the striker and Jota was nominally playing on the right side. It was 4-2-3-1 and 4-2-2-2 and 4-2-4 and 4-4-2 all at once. The idea broadly worked for the first half of the first half, with City not really dealing well with Liverpool’s frantic start.
Where it didn’t work well was behind the attackers. Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum had too much to deal with in transition and it pulled the shape apart when City got to attacking. I genuinely don’t know what the manager will think about how it worked. I imagine he’s happy with the chances that were created.
The Penalty Decision
We should just have a section of this blog where we argue about daft penalty decisions. This one doesn’t matter. Kevin De Bruyne missed.
The Second Half
I mentioned at the top that there was only 1 shot between the two teams in the final 35 minutes. That was bound to happen because both teams are exhausted because there’s too many games happening. There’s no coincidence that Liverpool got worse when both Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold came off. City had the better chances in the second half but none of them resulted in actual shots. Can’t score goals if you don’t shoot the ball.
The Need For Five Substitutions
Falling the match both managers have used their press conferences to have a go at the Premier League for the lack of 5 subs. And they’re both right to do so, just like Ole Gunnar Solskjær was right to do so yesterday. Here’s what Pep and Jurgen had to say:
Klopp very critical of PL CEO Richard Masters: "It's a lack of leadership. Richard Masters sold it completely wrong. It's not an advantage (to be able to use 5 subs), it's a necessity. In all other countries it happens. It’s really incredible." #LFC— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) November 8, 2020
Guardiola: "We [me and Klopp], we didn't speak about the result, we spoke that we need to keep fighting again for five subs. Look, Trent Alexander-Arnold, injured. Around the world they have five subs, but here we believe we are more special. It's a disaster."#LFC #MCILIV— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) November 8, 2020
This matchup is supposed to be the best the Premier League has to offer. It’s the last two champions facing off, and neither team is allowed to be at their best because those in charge of the scheduling and the rules care more about TV money than they do the actual football. It’s a disaster and it’s good that these managers are finally speaking out about it.
What Happens Next?
There’s an international break coming up. You get this idea in your head that the players will finally get a break but that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Most of Liverpool’s best players will now fly all over the world during a global pandemic to play three games in about ten days. Great stuff. This season will be a slog.
Up the Reds.