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Wijnaldum makes the headlines: 5 talking points from Liverpool 1-0 Man City

A first-half header from Georginio Wijnaldum gave Liverpool an important 1-0 win over title rivals Manchester City.

Liverpool 1-0 Man City

Premier League, Anfield
December 31, 2016

Goal: Wijnaldum 8′


Anfield was buzzing as Liverpool held on to a one-goal lead which gave them all three points against third-placed Manchester City, and kept them within six points of league leaders Chelsea.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side didn’t let City rest on the ball, and they might feel that they should have made it two or three nil by the end of the game.

Here are five talking points from a match which featured plenty of tireless performances and interesting one-on-one battles.

 

More Pressing Matters

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 31, 2016: Liverpool's substitute Daniel Sturridge warms-up before the FA Premier League match against Manchester City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The lack of a Divock Origi or a Daniel Sturridge in the starting lineup might initially have been a surprise, but when the game kicked off the intentions were immediately apparent.

Jurgen Klopp had picked a unit which would trouble a Man City side who’ve developed a habit of tentatively playing the ball around at the back, as opposed to assuredly keeping possession in the way Pep Guardiola would like.

City ‘keeper Claudio Bravo was forced to play the ball long on nearly every occasion, and when it eventually found its way to John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, there was very little they could do other than pass it between each other, such was the advanced nature of Liverpool’s pressing.

Only when Origi came into the game later on, and the wide duo of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane started to tire, did the intensity drop, allowing Stones to carry the ball out of the defence for the first time.

 

Midfield Variety Pack

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 31, 2016: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum celebrate at the final whistle after his side beat Manchester City 1-0 during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The form of both Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield has led to calls for both players to start—the problem then was which of the other players in the side to leave out.

With Jordan Henderson being captain and Adam Lallana playing some of the best football of his career, it seemed impossible to fit both Can and Wijnaldum into the side.

Klopp solved this problem by leaving out a striker, allowing Firmino to return to his attacking role in the middle and getting Lallana to take up Philippe Coutinho‘s usual position on the left.

Wijnaldum operated in the advanced central midfield role normally occupied by Lallana, and this gave him an easier route to the box and more chances to join the attack.

Once Henderson went off injured in the second half it was easy to drop Can into the deepest role and move Lallana back into the midfield.

This versatility will please Klopp, especially as he has to rotate his side in the coming weeks, and a big part of the German manager’s philosophy has been about getting each player to understand the roles of others.

 

Icing on the Cake for Wijnaldum

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 31, 2016: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring the first goal against Manchester City during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Dutchman is often the unnoticed schemer in midfield, pulling the strings with his quick and accurate passing.

Against City he went from support player to headline act, straining every sinew to rise above Aleksandar Kolarov and power a header past Bravo.

His efforts this season have been all about knitting the play in the middle of the park, and he regularly finishes games as Liverpool’s top player in terms of passing success.

He wasn’t as tidy with in possession in this game, ending the contest with a passing success of 82 percent, but his more advanced position in the midfield will have affected this.

 

Milner vs. Sterling

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 31, 2016: Manchester City's Raheem Sterling and Liverpool's James Milner during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 22-year-old international winger against the 30-year-old retired international midfielder playing out of position at left back. There should be only one winner.

But James Milner more than held his own and the judges at pitchside would give an overwhelming victory on points for the Liverpool left-back.

Milner used all his experience to outfox his fellow Englishman, with Raheem Sterling getting little joy down the right channel throughout the game.

The former Liverpool man eventually switched to the opposite flank later on in the second half, where he came up against a similar obstacle in Nathaniel Clyne.

 

Who Gets a Rest vs. Sunderland?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 31, 2016: Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match against Manchester City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With a break of less than 48 hours between this game and the next, it’s almost certain that Klopp will need to make changes for the trip up to Sunderland.

Depending on the seriousness of Henderson’s injury, with the captain withdrawn on the hour, the manager’s hand could be forced into adding Lucas Leiva, Kevin Stewart or even Ovie Ejaria into the midfield.

Lucas came on at the end of this game against City, and if he’s not completed his rumoured move to Inter Milan in the next day or so, then he could start against the Black Cats.

Sturridge remained on the bench and should get a start against Sunderland, while Alberto Moreno will also be hoping to make a rare appearance in the starting lineup.

This means the players to get a rest could be Milner and possibly Firmino, although Klopp will feel he’s taking a risk if he leaves the latter out in a league game.

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