5 Talking Points from Liverpool vs Manchester City
Give this midfield the credit it deserves
Social media is filled with fans wanting Ox and Keita to start despite our poor defensive record when they are on the field. Klopp knew that we needed our hard-working, blue-collar midfield against a dangerous City team. The trio of Fabinho, Gini, and Henderson might not always make the highlight reel at the end of the game but they are our ideal trio at the moment for good reason. Fabinho is at his best when Hendo and Gini are able to give him protection towards the wings, enabling Fabinho to step up to tackles when needed and dominate the center of the field.
A goal from Fabinho and a great assist by Hendo contributed to the scoreline today as well. Traditionally, this midfield gets a lot of unfair criticism from the fans for their lack of attacking contributions and let’s hope today’s result will quite that crowd a bit as well. I have given up on their work-rate being appreciated at this point. You have to have blinders on when you are watching the game not to notice the hard work this midfield does to close opponents down, control the center of the field, and enable the front three to free roam and exploit space.
6 points won
It is too early in the season to be celebrating the title but this game was definitely a huge one. City needed the win and at least not take a loss to keep Liverpool close and the Reds knew that a win today would essentially cause a 6 point swing in the title race.
The win gives Liverpool a lot of breathing room and drops City to 4th place in the Premier League. More importantly, City is headed into their toughest fixtures after the international break. City host Chelsea and United along with tough away games to Newcastle, Burnley, and Arsenal within their next 5 fixtures in the Premier League. While there are no easy games in the Premier League, it is undoubtedly their toughest stretch and will give the opportunity for the Reds to keep and extend their lead while the teams behind them play each other.
The power of Anfield
When Pep is proud of his team to be able to put a losing performance at Anfield and keeps talking about how hard it is to play there, we know we have something special that everyone fears. Klopp made it clear that the stadium had to be on top of their game, including the guy who sells hot dogs (did not see his hot dog sales stats, but heard he had a solid outing as well) The key is for Anfield to bring that to every game and not take anything for granted. If we are afraid of the team taking their foot off the gas pedal, the fans have to make sure they are not the first ones to do so. The environment should have the same consistency in future games regardless of the fixture. There are times where you can sense that the stadium expects an ‘easier’ game and approaches it that way until they feel the team needs a push to go over the line. Liverpool will need the power of Anfield to continue their dominance at home. It has to be there every game day, just like it was today.
Handballs & VAR
The only weakness of the first goal was the lack of celebrations following that rocket by Fabinho. The crowd in the stadium was so calm that I thought the goal was disallowed. In the VAR age, this is now the norm where we cannot celebrate until we see the ball back in play after the kickoff. My dog Stitch gets a treat after every goal and three treats for the three points earned after the win (no, I am not superstitious, but I think he is… as he demands them after every goal). He was extremely confused today as our third goal was the only one I could celebrate immediately without waiting for final confirmation. The first joy and scream of victory is always followed by watching the screen for any issue that can come up with VAR, before finally actually celebrating the goal.
Trent’s handball in the first half can objectively be debated. Is it clear? No. Would we want it called for us as a penalty if it happened to Walker? Probably. The fact that the ball is coming off of Silva’s hand to start with affects my decision on it being a good no call. The second handball was a lot easier to waive off I think where the hand is closer to the body and the ball is coming fast at a very close distance.
One thing I do not agree with is how VAR is used. If the goal is to make things clear cut, why introduce a huge grey area of “clear and obvious error”? Why not use it to confirm the call or make a new one that is correct after watching several angles? It is clear that VAR will evolve over time and still feel it is good for the game of football in the grand scheme of things.
Great team performance when needed
The Reds have admittedly not been their best in recent weeks. While we applauded the team’s winning mentality and never say die attitude, I think we can all agree that some of those last-minute heroics should have never come to that. We had some clear cut MOTMs in those games or were just debating between one or two players. The fact that there is a lot of discussion about who is the MOTM today shows a great team performance where every player played their role in the win. It is what it takes to beat a side like City who clearly has a lot of world-class players despite their injuries. Despite starting the game poorly, the team stuck to its gameplan and executed it perfectly. The result is a huge win and an eight-point gap between our closest opponent after 12 games. Third of the season has now been played and Liverpool definitely has the look of a title winner.
Just another great day to be a Liverpool fan. YNWA!