Liverpool 1-0 Man City
Premier League, Anfield
December 31, 2016
Goal: Wijnaldum 8′
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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.