3 things we learned: Manchester City - Liverpool
Manchester City - Liverpool was a classic Premier League encounter, especially in the first half, as the two title favorites did battle at the Etihad Stadium.
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Mohamed Salah scored an early penalty kick but Gabriel Jesus equalized before Kevin de Bruyne put a penalty wide.
It was a classic Pep Guardiola v. Jurgen Klopp battle, as the end-to-end encounter saw two completely different styles of play take center stage. Klopp will be a lot happier with the point than Guardiola, as his team are five points ahead of City, although they have played a game more.
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Here’s a look at what we learned from Manchester City - Liverpool.
Liverpool’s aggressive formation flummoxed Man City
Klopp wanted to squeeze both Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota in his starting lineup so he changed his formation. Klopp never changes his formation. He switched from a 4-3-3 to what was essentially a 4-2-4 and it worked, especially in the first half. Mane and Jota played well and Salah and Firmino played centrally, as the latter tactic worked to starve Man City’s midfield duo of Rodri and Gunodgan the ball.
Even when Firmino was brought off, Xherdan Shaqiri came on and Klopp kept the 4-2-4 formation. At times it left them more open on the counter, but it also meant that when they won the ball back on the halfway line they had one more attacking option centrally which gave Man City all kinds of problem. The 4-2-4 flummoxed Man City and even Guardiola, a man who often opts for wild formation changes for big games, would have been surprised to see this change.
Handball law needs to be changed
We don’t want to spend too long talking about the handball rule because this game was brilliant, but we have to. The handball decision given against Joe Gomez just had to be given under the new IFAB handball rule, but the rule itself needs to be changed. We saw it this weekend with Max Kilman from Wolves conceding a very similar penalty kick, and the same happened to Gomez as his arm was in a natural position but a cross was slammed against it from relatively close range.
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To not run the risk of giving away a penalty, players will have to start running with their arms stuck to their side and that just isn’t possible from a balance and purely mechanical standpoint. UEFA has written to FIFA to try and bring more flexibility on the handball rule because right now any time the ball hits an arm of a defender in the box, it should be given. It is not fun and ruins games.
Jesus gives Man City much-needed focal point
It’s easy to forget that Man City have played for much of this season without a recognized striker and are just four points off the top four with a game in-hand. Sergio Aguero has been out long-term, while Jesus returned in midweek against Olympiacos and has scored in his first two games back.
He gives Man City a focal point, someone Kevin de Bruyne and Sterling can work off, and he scored a great solo goal and should have headed home a second. Is Jesus the long-term answer for Man City, with Aguero likely to leave next summer? The jury is still out but his return is a timely one and it made a big difference to their entire attacking unit.