Man City vs Liverpool: How the Citizens solidified their title credentials

Manchester City versus Liverpool FC was the best way to kick-off the Premier League weekend after an international break.

Goals were expected considering the strength both the sides have in their attacking unit. However, not many would have predicted that the Citizens would thrash Liverpool 5-0 on Saturday.

Sergio Aguero opened the scoring in the game and gave his side the lead.

This goal was followed by a Red card to Liverpool’s star man Sadio Mané after the Senagalese’s boot hit the opposition goalkeeper Ederson’s jaw while trying to get to a lob pass from Joel Matip. Braces from Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane sealed the game for Pep Guardiola’s men.

Here is the tactical analysis of the big game from the weekend.


The line-ups and formation

Manchester City went for a 3-1-4-2 formation. Danilo, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi formed the back three for them.

Ferandinho played slightly ahead of them providing a defensive cover. Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker played on either sides, while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne operated as central midfielders. Upfront, it was Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus for the Citizens.

Liverpool, on the other hand, continued with their preferred 4-3-3 formation.

The attacking trio of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah continued upfront. Same was the case with the Liverpool midfield as Klopp went with Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can.

In the back, it was Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno for the Reds. Begium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet replaced Loris Karius in the goal.


First Half

It was very obvious that Liverpool were going to stick to their usual style of football and that was the case.

However, things were different with Manchester City. Pep Guardiola had done his homework well and was well prepared for Klopp’s heavy metal football.

Manchester City were not very much focused on keeping the possession like Pep’s teams always do. Instead they had a different game plan.

Despite playing as midfielders, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker were very defensive in the first half. With Fernandinho dropping back, it looked like a six man defence for City.

These six players did a great job in refusing the give Liverpool’s attacking trio much space. When Liverpool had possession, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva dropped back keeping their opposition midfielders from making any dangerous passes.

When attacking, De Bruyne and Silva pulled the strings for Pep’s side with Aguero and Jesus putting constant pressure on Liverpool’s defence.

Speaking of the City strikers putting pressure on their opposition defence, Pep was clearly giving Klopp some of his own medicine. Jesus and Aguero pressed the Liverpool defenders putting them under immense pressure.

However, all these do not mean that Manchester City dominated over Liverpool. Despite the tight City defence, Liverpool managed to get three shots on target. Mané’s and Salah’s pace caused problems for Pep’s defenders too.

It was difficult to predict who was going to score the first goal of the game. Soon, Aguero broke the deadlock.

The Argentine striker got to a through pass from De Bruyne and went around Mignolet to comfortably put the ball in the back of the net in the 24th minute of the game.

De Bruyne was given too much time and space to pass. When you give so much time and pass for a player of his calibre, you know you are going to pay for it especially when there is a striker like Aguero upfront.


The Red Card

Liverpool could have made a come back and it was always looking like it until the August Player of the Month Sadio Mané was given a direct red card by the referee in the 37th minute of the game.

Mané was trying to get to a lob through pass from Joel Matip and Ederson being the last City man ran forward to clear the danger. Both the players got to the ball almost simultaneously, but it was Ederson who connected the ball with his head.

In an attempt to get the ball, Mané lifted his foot very high. The winger missed the ball as Ederson had already got to it and hit the goalkeeper hard on his jaw.

Referee Jon Moss without thinking much went to his pocket and took out a red card. Sadio Mané was sent off and things got even worse for the Reds.

Mané’s red card has created a lot of controversy and is very much talked about.

According to the law, boot to the face with studs showing is a red. However, those who think it was not a red say that Mané did not see Ederson and was just an accident without any intention. It has to be noted that Pep Guardiola and Kevin De Bruyne were of the opinion that it was not a red card.

Mané actions should also be mentioned as he stayed on the pitch for a few minutes after receiving the red to check on Ederson. The player also took to social media to wish the goalkeeper a speedy recovery.


Second City goal

Despite the red card being given at the 37th minute, the game did not resume until the 45th minute. Ederson was structured off and also was given a standing ovation.

An extra eight minutes was added to the first half. The morale of the Liverpool players had gone down and the extra eight minutes did not help them in any manner.

Manchester City had majority of the ball and looked like scoring another before half time. Gabriel Jesus had a goal disallowed as the striker was offside.

However, the Brazilian did score before the halftime. Jesus connected to a De Bruyne cross with his head and the ball ended up in the back of the net in the final minute of the injury time.

At half time the scoreline was 2-0 for Manchester City, with Liverpool a man down.


Second Half

Both the teams made a few changes at half time.

Manchester City switched to a back four with Mendy and Walker dropping back to full-back roles. Danilo, who played as a centre back in the first half, switched to a centre midfielder role in the second.

Pep’s men were much relaxed and started to play their usual game - possession based football.

Liverpool took off Salah and brought on latest addition Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Emre Can dropped to a deeper role and almost played like a centre back. Wijnaldum, Henderson and Chamberlain played as attaking midfielders. Liverpool’s full-backs were also given more freedom to attack.

Klopp’s half time decisions are criticized by some.

Taking off Salah for Chamberlain was a mistake according to them. However, this decision from the German manager was very understandable. He wanted to make the midfield and defence strong.

With both Salah and Firmino playing upfront, it was not possible. Chamberlain was given freedom to attack like a winger and was responsible to drop back like a central midfielder. Giving more freedom to Wijnaldum and Henderson was also an attempt by Klopp to not compromise offensive strength in order to make the midfield strong.

Klopp was also criticized for not focusing on defending after being a man down. When you are a man down against a quality side like City, you have to go defensive and try to make things as tough as possible for the opposition.

Klopp did not do that. Instead, he made changes to the side that maintained a balance in the formation. He might have done that because he believed his team could get back in the game, but that did not happen.

In the second half, Manchester City were relaxed and easily had the majority possession. The game was all about how much more City would score.

Without much delay, Gabriel Jesus scored his second of the game in the 52nd minute of the game. Aguero and Jesus were two on one against Mignolet. Aguero took out the goalkeeper by passing the ball to Jesus, who comfortably scored the goal.

The youngster was taken off just five minutes after his goal for Leroy Sane.

Meanwhile Liverpool took off Wijnaldum, who was very ineffective, for former City player James Milner. This move was probably to bring more stability in the team. However that did not seem to work either.

Liverpool made another change in the 67th minute.

The third and final player of the team’s deadly attacking trio Roberto Firmino was taken off for Dominic Solanke. Klopp knew the game was over and it was a waste to play both Salah and Firmino for no cause. The Reds have a Champions League fixture coming up on Wednesday and the substitutions made sense.

City’s Otamendi, who did not have a very good game despite keeping a clean sheet, was taken off for Eliaquim Mangala in the 71st minute.

Mendy played like a left midfielder in the first half, but was busy contributing defensively.

He moved to the left back position in the second half. However, the former Monaco player was very much involved in City’s attacks after the position changed. A goal from a Mendy assist was always coming and it did not take long.

In the 77th minute of the game, Leroy Sane scored a tap in goal from a Mendy assist. Both the players linked well before scoring the goal. The Liverpool defence was ripped apart.

The normal time of 90 minutes was soon over and it looked like ending in a 4-0 win for City. That was when Leroy Sane came up with a curler from outside the box resulting in the ball ending up in the top left corner of Liverpool goal.


Final Verdict

This match cannot be used to judge Liverpool and their season.

Mané red card changed the whole game and we can only wonder what the result would have been if not for the sent-off. Nothing can be done about the decision, but giving Mané a ban would be harsh.

Liverpool will have to let bygones be bygones. They have to get up and brush their shoulders off. The Reds have a Champions League fixture coming up against Sevilla and they have to focus on that.

As for Manchester City, that game showed why they are one of the biggest title contenders this season. They have a quality team with a quality manager.

There is still a long way to go in the season and we have no idea how things will pan out.


Written by Dakir Thanveer

Follow Dakir on Twitter @ZakWriter

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