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Five Things Learned: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool (Premier League)



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Manchester City’s somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw against Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon would eventually see them move to second in the table.

While it is not always the case in this fixture, City took control from the start. The blues quickly worked the ball to Jeremy Doku who easily beat two Liverpool defenders off the dribble in the opening minute of the match to create a chance. It set the tone early that Trent Alexander Arnold had his work cut out for him. 

Liverpool had their best chance of the half in the 16th minute, when Darwin Nunez had a header from the edge of the six yard box that forced a diving save from Ederson. One of the key reasons for the visitors’ lack of chances was their inability to build out from the back. City’s press kept Liverpool deep in their own half for much of the opening 45 minutes.

It appeared as though one of the strategies of Pep Guardiola and City was to make Alisson be on the ball as early as possible, and to use the pressing ability of Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden to force the Brazilian into mistakes.

Just a few minutes later Alisson slipped while trying to find Mohamed Salah on a long ball. The errant pass landed at the feet of Nathan Ake, who beat two players off the dribble and led Erling Haaland through on goal to score the opener. 

The second half started off much like the first, with Manchester City taking control, but some early substitutions by Jurgen Klopp gave his Liverpool side some fresh legs. The visitors had begun to grow into the game, winning more and more corners, and taking advantage of City’s more and more prevalent turnovers. 

In the 80th minute, Liverpool finally took advantage. It was a goal that seemingly came from nothing. Luis Diaz’s poorly hit cross to Mohamed Salah killed off a Liverpool attack, but the Egyptian laid the ball off for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who found himself a yard of space and rifled home a low range effort that Ederson had no chance of stopping. 

It was a well taken goal, and served as proof for the Manchester City players who had failed to take advantage of the chances they had created. However, City were unable to get a shot on goal and the match ended in a 1-1 draw. 

It’s become a theme as of late in this Liverpool matches, an oftentimes dominant City display that does not lead to three points. But maybe that is to be expected considering City have not won consecutive league games against Liverpool since the 1930s. 

Here are the five things learned from Manchester City’s disappointing draw with Liverpool!

Manuel Akanji is a good-not-great John Stones replacement

While England international John Stones remains Manchester City’s most influential and versatile defender, Manuel Akanji appears to be growing more and more into his quasi-midfielder role.

Other than the one glaring error late in the first-half of Saturday afternoon’s clash, the former Borussia Dortmund defender – signed by Manchester City during the summer transfer window of 2022 – held his own against a tough Liverpool press.

It was noticeably better than his performance against Chelsea, and not bad considering Akanji has been asked to now play as a traditional centre-back, right back, and holding midfielder all within the first 15 months in the most tactically advanced team in the world. 

Bernardo Silva is still our big match player

From his goal scoring against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last season, to his Herculean performances against Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and the early Liverpool sides, Bernardo Silva remains the most vital player in the biggest of matches. 

The Portugal international playmaker can beat anyone off the dribble, kill an opposition’s press within seconds, win every second ball, all while covering 14 kilometres on the pitch for Pep Guardiola’s side.

Maybe one day Bernardo Silva will leave Manchester behind for a better climate. But until he does, he remains the first name of the team sheet. His performances against elite opposition have become second nature, and his unique skill set will be far from easy to replace.

Jeremy Doku deserves more big match minutes

A lot has been written about Pep Guardiola and control in matches, specifically about how Jack Grealish is the epitome of that philosophy and that is why the England international continues to start every big match when fit. 

It is hard to argue with a treble-winning strategy. However, Jeremy Doku was not on the team last year, and Pep Guardiola was not forced to make those decisions. While the Catalan coach is still obsessive over control, it is clear that between the summer signings made and some tactical decisions of late, he is willing to embrace chaos, at times. 

There is mounting evidence that Jeremy Doku is the best dribbler in the world, and he is still years away from his prime. Pep Guardiola can still obsess over control, and always play Jack Grealish during the away fixtures to kill off the crowd. 

But Doku deserves more game time in these matches at the Etihad Stadium, let him grow and become a winger that can pick and choose when to be safe, and when to terrorise whatever defender is unfortunately in front of him.

Squad depth remains a serious issue

Losing Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko last year was OK, there were players brought in that were more than able to replicate that success. It was a necessary shake up that allowed Manchester City to start fresh and led to a treble.

However, the loss of Riyad Mahrez and particularly Ilkay Gundogan have already made their mark. Mateo Kovacic is a fine player, Matheus Nunes may develop into an excellent midfielder. But at the moment, neither of them are looking anywhere near Manchester City levels. 

Jurgen Klopp made full use of all five of their substitutions on Saturday afternoon, and it was yet another match where Pep Guardiola did not use a single one of his.

Kevin De Bruyne is needed

It is funny to look back at when there was a serious argument as to whether Manchester City are better or worse without Kevin De Bruyne in the squad.

Maybe there was water to that argument when Ilkay Gundogan was still in the squad, but with the former captain now in Barcelona, there’s a massive creative hole in his wake.

From his playmaking ability, chemistry with Erling Haaland, and knack for scoring goals in the most vital moments, his absence is clearly felt. It may not be an issue right now, as Manchester City are (for now) still top of the table. He will be needed for the spring run in.