Who needs strikers? 5 talking points from Man City 1-4 Liverpool

Paul Wilkes manned the Etihad Stadium press box to report back on a brilliant evening for Jurgen Klopp's Reds...

1. Coutinho enjoying life under Klopp

When Philippe Coutinho was linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona earlier in the season, many Liverpool supporters felt it was a little premature thanks to to his lack of consistency. The Brazilian had scored only three goals in his final 18 appearances under former coach Brendan Rodgers, but now already has four in his last three matches for new boss Jurgen Klopp.

The Reds magician was superb from the start, as he linked up cleverly with Emre Can on Liverpool’s left side. When Joe Hart put Bacary Sagna under pressure with his clearance to the right-back, it was Coutinho who reacted quickest as he closed the former Arsenal man down and nicked the ball away before setting off towards goal. The playmaker slipped in his countryman Roberto Firmino, who cut the ball back into the box where Eliaquim Mangala couldn’t adjust his feet in time and duly knocked it into his own goal.

Coutinho was a constant threat due to his positioning and tenacious energy without possession. He seems to understand his manager’s demands and is carrying them out perfectly.

2. You don’t need strikers to score goals

Liverpool found themselves 3-0 up with only a third of the game played, as Klopp’s team blew City away with their speed in transition

All the pre-match talk concerned the fitness levels of Sergio Aguero and Daniel Sturridge, while Christian Benteke was surprisingly named among the substitutes by Klopp. Firmino had occasionally played as a central striker in Germany, but the adaptable attacker is certainly no natural in the position. His mobility enables him to play off the last defender and his tactical awareness ensures that he creates space for others by either dropping deeper or dragging defenders wide.

“He could train 10-12 days with us without interruption and that’s very important, the same as Coutinho,” admitted Klopp in his post-match press conference. Trevor Francis couldn’t comprehend Klopp’s decision to use Firmino ahead of Benteke against Chelsea, so Britain’s first £1 million man will have been surprised by this scintillating display.

The movement and interchange between Coutinho, Firmino and Adam Lallana was outstanding, and the midfield runners' eagerness to charge into the area caused Manchester City numerous problems. “It was the reason we played like this; with the formation, we tried to bring as many players onto the pitch who had trained together,” added Klopp.

The two Brazilians combined for the second and third goals, with each claiming a goal and an assist. Liverpool found themselves 3-0 up with only a third of the game played, as Klopp’s team blew City away with their speed in transition.

3. City need more striking options

With five minutes remaining, Sterling arrived at the back post only to completely miss the ball

With Wilfried Bony injured, Aguero had to start, according to Manuel Pellegrini. But with the expenditure made by City, it’s not unreasonable to expect greater options. Former forwards Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic are currently in fine form in Italy, while Alvaro Negredo can’t even get in the matchday squad for Valencia after a disagreement with coach Nuno (plus injury, more recently).

Aguero obviously wasn’t at his best as he tried to force his way into the game, but it was a typical finish from the Argentine for City’s goal; he used his acceleration to race into the box before unleashing a brilliant shot with very little backlift that gave Simon Mignolet no chance. 

Young forward Kelechi Iheanacho looked around in almost disbelief, as Pellegrini called him back to the bench when he was warming up. The academy product came on for City’s talisman after an hour and was used alongside Raheem Sterling towards the latter stages of the match. With five minutes remaining, Sterling arrived at the back post only to completely miss the ball. Cue the travelling supporters asking their former idol about the score.

4. Moreno shows his defensive ability

He first shackled Jesus Navas, then kept Kevin De Bruyne relatively quiet in the second half

Liverpool have struggled at left-back for a considerable amount of time, and they appeared to have solved the dilemma when they bought Alberto Moreno from Sevilla. The Spaniard had attracted the attention of Real Madrid before his move to Anfield, but he struggled in his initial adaption period. He wasn’t helped by Rodgers' wish to use him as a wing-back, though he did show his capability in attacking areas.

However, at the Etihad Stadium Moreno was brilliant in a defensive capacity, as he first shackled Jesus Navas, then kept Kevin De Bruyne relatively quiet in the second half. His fantastic positioning was illustrated in the 17th minute, as he twice intercepted the ball thanks to a combination of loose passing from City and his own anticipation.

He wasn’t the only transfer committee signing to prove his worth when utilised correctly: German midfielder Can also had a huge impact, most notably when he pulled off a sublime backheel into the path of Coutinho in the build-up to Liverpool's third goal.

5. Fernandinho crucial to City’s midfield

The Brazilian has been superb this season and had been the only City player to start every league match before this encounter. With Klopp renowned for his high-energy approach it was a shock to see the box-to-box midfielder named as a substitute, as Yaya Toure and Fernando were given the task of protecting the defence. They failed to do so, as Liverpool continuously found space between the lines and had bags of time which enabled their players to turn with ease before setting off on direct counter-attacks. 

Fernandinho and Fabian Delph’s introduction at the break was an admittance that Pellegrini had got both his team selection wrong and that they were being out-powered in midfield, even if he wouldn’t admit this after the match. “I wasn’t happy with the performance of 11 players, not only Yaya and Navas,” the Chilean claimed.

Toure may have left the field after only 45 minutes, but he still made the third-highest amount of passes. It was the Ivorian’s mobility – or lack of – that seems to have forced his withdrawal. Pellegrini described the match as a “complete disaster” but refused to single out individual performances. “I think it’s very important to talk to the players as soon as you can, it’s not normal (the result), we must think about what we have in the future.”

Facts

  • This game saw Man City concede three goals in the first half of a competitive game at the Etihad Stadium for just the second time (2-3 vs Man United in the FA Cup in Jan 2012, the other).
  • Eliaquim Mangala’s own goal was the first one City have conceded at home in the Premier League since Pablo Zabaleta scored one in August 2014, also against Liverpool.
  • Philippe Coutinho has scored more goals versus Man City than any other Premier League team (4).
  • Martin Skrtel has scored four goals against Man City in the Premier League, more than against any other side.
  • Sergio Aguero became the top-scoring South American player in Premier League history (85 goals).
  • This is only the second time that Man City have conceded four goals in a competitive game at the Etihad (Man City 2-4 Aston Villa in the League Cup in September 2012 the other).
  • It’s the first time they’ve conceded four at home in the Premier League since February 2003 to Arsenal (when they played at Maine Road), having lost 5-1 that day.
  • Liverpool have scored as many goals in their last two away Premier League games (7) as they managed in their 11 before that.

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