An early Saturday kickoff after two weeks without football. On the road. Against Manchester City. It all seemed primed to add up to disaster for Liverpool, who in this very up-and-down season of theirs so far have seemed to have almost exclusively downs when kicking off the matchweek and have struggled more than usual on the road.
At least to start, it looked like The Reds might finally escape that trend, with neither side at anything like their vintage best in the first half and the teams heading into the break level. Then, the second half kicked off...
Dissecting the Narrative
Liverpool are a shadow of their former selves, and much has been made of the Reds’ diminished nature and how a side that pushed to within two games of a historic quadruple just last year has fallen off the performance cliff, mentally and physically exhausted by from last season’s efforts and five years of trying to keep pace with the sportswashing front for a human rights abusing petrostate that is City.
Pep Guardiola’s City, though, at times appeared nearly as far off their best as Jürgen Klopp’s Reds in the first half. In past seasons, if City had held the kind of possession in the final third and worked the ball into the Liverpool box as often as they did here they could easily have been up 3-1 or 4-1 after the first half.
Of course, if Liverpool were as good as in past years City might have had less of the ball in those positions. And if Liverpool were as good as in past years, they probably wouldn’t have fallen apart completely when the second half kicked off and the blue half of Manchester ran out to the 3-1 and then 4-1 lead they hadn’t looked like getting in the first. Which about sums it up. The 2022-23 edition of City are a bog standard very good Premier League side and not the soulless robotic perfection horror show Liverpool have been trying to keep up with for years. Liverpool, though, are a broken side, and it’s a lot easier to see how City get back to their best than it is to see how Liverpool get back there.
Fans of the 4-2-3-1 and/or formation changes and/or trying something different, anything, may have enjoyed Klopp dropping the 4-3-3 for at least a week, with Mo Salah playing up top and Cody Gakpo in the free role off him. Fans of the 4-2-3-1 and/or formation changes and/or trying something different, anything, may not have enjoyed that it didn’t appear to make much of a difference and Liverpool still looked laughably open in midfield and Trent Alexander-Arnold was too often left on his own to try to defend two attackers, which ended predictably but particularly badly on City’s fourth.
Winners and Losers
People Who Like to Complain About Liverpool’s Owners
Liverpool lost and looked pretty terrible for long stretches and the midfield that’s needed a rebuild that it hasn’t got for at least the past two summers was especially dire. Which all means that pretty much the only people who won today on the Liverpool side are those whose brand is moaning about FSG on social media and are going to now get to really enjoy moaning about FSG on social media. Have fun, guys.
There almost certainly isn’t an easy, obvious, singular reason why Liverpool are where they are. When you’ve got arguably the game’s best manager and you’re one of the richest clubs in football and things go wrong, though, the buck stops with the owners and what’s now a two summers overdue midfield rebuild. So. Better manage to close out that Bellingham deal, guys.
What Happens Next
Liverpool sign Jude Bellingham and at least one additional midfielder of a similar calibre and also probably one top centre half or they spend next season on the fringes of the top four fight again with no realistic chance of silverware. Oh and also they play Chelsea then Arsenal next and probably need to win both games to keep whatever’s left of this season’s top four hopes alive, so that should be fun.