JACK GAUGHAN: Manchester City’s loss to Liverpool has strengthened Jack Grealish’s case as the quiet, impressive £100m signing could have unlocked De Bruyne central to stun Jurgen Klopp’s side and avoid defeat
- City still control Liverpool’s results despite their slow start to the season
- Man City see Liverpool as the only other side capable of winning
- Pep Guardiola praised the quality of Liverpool players and their manager Klopp
- That is why City went to Liverpool with an extra midfielder, to get more control
Even with Liverpool’s surprisingly slow start to the season, their results still became the first to be checked by Manchester City every weekend.
City believe Jurgen Klopp’s team is the only other side in the Premier League capable of creating monstrous, season-defining winning streaks and – despite a 13-point lead before Sunday’s defeat – have maintained that Liverpool are the most credible threat in this title race.
In a respectful assessment of their rivals, Pep Guardiola said that on the eve of a day turned ugly, with the mesmerizing game eventually being relegated to mere sideshow.
Manchester City defeated Liverpool in their Premier League game on Sunday (pictured above)
Jack Grealish (above) sat on the bench for their Premier League clash on Sunday afternoon
There was praise for the quality of Liverpool’s players and their manager – and Guardiola, for all his meticulous tactical planning, is a man buying the historic legend surrounding the Reds. In much the same way when he speaks of Real Madrid, Guardiola believes in Anfield’s specific and unquantifiable strength.
That’s why City went to Merseyside with an extra midfielder to gain more possession in an encounter that so often blew away from them in a tornado of frenzied football. That’s why he moved away from a 4-2-3-1 system and, for the most part, City dictated the game without ever forcing Alisson to make numerous big saves.
Having Grealish (pictured hugging Phil Foden) on the pitch could have unlocked De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne was shunted slightly wider to the right by the selection of Ilkay Gundogan
Guardiola chose Ilkay Gundogan for Rodri and Bernardo Silva as a link, but that pushed Kevin De Bruyne a little further to the right.
The lopsided two benches of three in midfield were designed to maneuver De Bruyne into unoccupied space, but two teams can tactically change themselves and City may not have expected Liverpool to defend deeper than usual.
Also contributing to this move was that Phil Foden then switched from right to left, logically pitting him against an aging James Milner, whom he walked in ragged condition last year.
Manchester City still check Liverpool’s results despite their slow start to the season
Man City see Liverpool as the only other team that can make a series of victories this season
But when Foden was asked to recycle possession as he was, he never walked on his full back and without De Bruyne taking more central positions, the sharp momentum that City normally possess around Erling Haaland was dulled.
In fact, it makes you wonder if Guardiola has – at least for a moment – thought about playing a false nine for shoehorn in all of his midfielders.
Tinkerman’s expected universal cries of dropping the world’s best striker for the biggest game of the year probably weren’t worth it. Imagine if they had lost by one goal with Haaland on the bench.
Pep Guardiola (R) praised the quality of Liverpool players and their manager Jurgen Klopp (L)
It was Mohamed Salah who scored the only goal of the game to see Liverpool win 1-0
City didn’t play particularly badly, the game plan sounded and was undone by one mistake, but what Sunday did do was bolster Jack Grealish’s case.
Grealish has quietly impressed this season and had Foden not been ordered to run to Milner, Grealish on that side, and the academy product on the other flank, might have unlocked De Bruyne centrally. And had Foden take Andrew Robertson inside.
They could still have all done that by operating within the same tactical framework. Without even playing for a minute, Grealish’s stock seemed to rise.
City didn’t play particularly badly, the game plan sounded and undone by one mistake