Reds show credentials for title fight but ‘fear factor’ must be restored – Media on Liverpool 0-0 Man City

8 October 2018

The media expressed concern over Liverpool’s ongoing attacking struggles and felt respect was the factor behind the “cagey” 0-0 draw with Man City.


Jurgen Klopp’s Reds battled to a valuable point in the eagerly awaited clash with Pep Guardiola’s side.

Liverpool owe huge thanks for getting a draw to Riyad Mahrez, who blazed a wild penalty into the upper tier of the Anfield Road end five minutes from time.

It was a hard-fought contest and though the Reds didn’t hit top form, Klopp will be quietly pleased with his side’s efforts to have taken a point in the final game of a gruelling run.

Still sat unbeaten and joint-top of the league, Klopp and his players can look forward with plenty of positivity to really kick on after the international break.

Here is how the media assessed an engrossing encounter at Anfield.

 

The watching media immediately turned thoughts to what the result means for the potential title race

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (R) is challenged by Manchester City's David Silva during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mirror’s John Cross believes the result will give Liverpool every reason to believe they can push City until the very end:

But Liverpool should not be disheartened. They have clearly got the measure of City and, if they can remain consistent, then they will push them all of the way.

And The Mirror’s James Whaling noted how tight it now is at the top of the table and thinks we could see more than just the expected two-horse race:

Just two points now separates first from fifth in the Premier League with both these sides level with Chelsea in the top three positions.

[…]

The two-horse title race some expected after the first weeks of the season may not materialise after all.

Goal.com’s Neil Jones thought we didn’t learn anything new, with both teams only underlining why they will be challenging come May:

And so in the end we learn nothing new, only that these two sides have the utmost respect for one another, and that they remain determined to be in the mix for major honours this season.

 

Reporters felt respect and tactical changes from both managers made for an underwhelming contest

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Evening Standard’s David Lynch, along with almost all other reporters, felt the respect between managers was the main reason the teams cancelled each other out:

The respect the two teams showed each other contributed to a cagey, tense affair not befitting the attacking quality on show, or the two managers’ forward-thinking approach.

Melissa Reddy, for JOE.co.uk, thought City’s plan to retain possession and slow the tempo worked as it denied the Reds any chances to conjure up ‘chaos football’:

City worked tirelessly to slow the game with extra passes, exerting their energy to shut down Liverpool’s rapid transitions and opportunities to counter.

The Independent’s Miguel Delaney felt Liverpool were notably more conservative in their attacking play, and put it down to Klopp trying to “steadily navigate an actual title race”:

On the other side, though, Liverpool were obviously nowhere near as rampaging as they were in April to try and break that.

And part of that is likely because of Klopp’s own compromises, both in the long term and short term. The German has obviously been trying to recalibrate these team so that they can more steadily navigate an actual title race, but he rearranged his side even more here.

Callum Rice-Coates, also of the Independent, assessed a big reason behind Liverpool’s attacking struggles was the absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s threat from right-back:

The result was more defensive solidity, but a clear deficiency going forward in wide areas.

[…]

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s natural attacking inclination was sacrificed for a player who has played exclusively at centre back this season, and that cautiousness epitomised what was to come.

And Reddy was one of a couple of reporters who felt that the fact Pep Guardiola changed so much only reinforced the notion that Klopp’s side are serious contenders:

The comments from City and the honesty over their approach underscores Liverpool’s elevation under Klopp, who celebrates his third anniversary on Merseyside this Monday.

They are now genuinely title contenders – albeit with a lot of improvement still to ensure – and are treated as such.

 

There was growing concern in post-match analysis for Liverpool’s lack of attacking threat

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's Naby Keita during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce assessed the form of the front three as the main disappointment, but also thinks change is needed in midfield to help the trio start firing:

The disappointment was further forward as once again Liverpool’s attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah rarely set pulses racing.

[…]

A lack of creativity from midfield is another issue with Naby Keita still finding his feet and Klopp overlooking the claims of Xherdan Shaqiri.

Jones believes Liverpool look like a team struggling to find their identity in general, a mix between two different styles:

The Reds look like a team still searching for their rhythm, finding out exactly who they will be this season; cavalier, conservative or a blend of the two?

Football 365’s Steven Chicken focused on Mohamed Salah’s struggles and thinks the Egyptian is causing his own problems by being “over-elaborate” when in good positions:

Rather, the issue is his tendency to be needlessly over-elaborate after getting the ball in good positions.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 29, 2018: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mail’s Ian Ladyman thinks Salah is facing the challenge of having to reinvent himself to overcome the special treatment he now receives from opponents:

However, it is how a player looks that can often tell you more than the statistics and the fact is that Salah is not currently the threat that he was last season. Teams are wise to him, of course.

[…]

Salah will have to find a way to overcome all of this, of course. The test of a truly great player is found partly in his ability to regenerate himself season on season.

ESPN’s David Usher feels it is time for Klopp to freshen his attack by introducing Xherdan Shaqiri:

The explosiveness and swagger of last season isn’t there and it may now be time to mix things up in attack and give Xherdan Shaqiri an opportunity to show what he can do.

Meanwhile, our own Joanna Durkhan praised Liverpool’s defence for stepping up to somewhat negate the issues caused by the misfiring attack:

It is a welcome change to know that while the midfield and attack struggle to find their feet that they won’t have the added pressure of needing to outscore the opposition as the back line has them covered, even if changes to personnel have been made.

 

Certain reporters offered thoughts on the key areas for the Reds to address over the international break

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

First of all, Jones thinks the pause has come at a good time for the Reds:

Perhaps, for once, this international break comes at a good time. Recover, re-focus, re-charge. And when they return, it’s time for Liverpool to put their foot down.

Chicken believes the big thing for Klopp to rediscover is Liverpool’s fear-factor, as the loss of it is negatively affecting how the Reds are approaching games:

To put a more sensible spin on it: the main issue is that the sense of invincibility has now gone, and that will affect the way teams approach Liverpool just as much as it will affect the way they approach their opponents.

[…]

Despite being composed of the same personnel, this does not feel like the same Liverpool of Supermen that so convincingly destroyed Tottenham less than a month ago. It is now on Klopp to restore that aura.

The Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle thinks Klopp’s big task is to work out how to restore creativity in midfield:

Where is the ingenuity in the engine room?

Adam Lallana could do a job but doubts persist over his fitness, while Xherdan Shaqiri is itching to prove his 45-minute show against Southampton wasn’t a one-off.

How best to bring a creative edge to his midfield will be top of Klopp’s to-do list during the next fortnight.

And Jones pointed out how Klopp’s side must take full advantage of a kinder run upon the restart to ensure positive results in recent big games don’t go to waste:

Their fixture list after the international break – Huddersfield, Cardiff, Arsenal, Fulham, Watford, Everton, Burnley, Bournemouth – looks a little less daunting than the last three weeks did.

[…]

Klopp knows his side are in a strong position, but if they are to capitalise on it they’ll need to find their attacking mojo again soon.

 

Journalists offered verdicts on the star performers at Anfield

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's Dejan Lovren (R) and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Usher thought Dejan Lovren vindicated his recall and gave the Croatian 9/10 for his performance:

Eyebrows will have been raised by his recall to the side but he justified his manager’s faith with an accomplished performance, capped by two excellently timed challenges in one-on-one situations late in the game.

ESPN’s Mark Ogden thought Joe Gomez vindicated Klopp’s decision to play him at right-back with an “outstanding” display, and praised the youngster’s versatility:

Jurgen Klopp made a surprise decision by dropping Trent Alexander-Arnold in favour of Joe Gomez at right-back, but the Liverpool manager’s selection was vindicated by the 21-year-old’s outstanding performance.

[…]

Gomez has every attribute required to become a top defender: he is tall, quick and physically strong but also reads the game well. Against City, he showed what an asset he has become for Klopp’s team.

The Mirror’s David Maddock praised Liverpool’s centre-back pairing, and felt Lovren and Virgil van Dijk showed why they are the best partnership to lead the title charge:

It’s true that Gomez has struck an impressive partnership with van Dijk of his own, but Lovren and the Dutchman are at a different level.

[…]

And for all the talk of Gomez taking the Reds into a new era, this is a central defensive partnership of experience for games like this, one which they will need to be credible challengers.

Finally, Durkhan praised Jordan Henderson for turning in “a true captain’s performance”:

It was a true captain’s performance. On numerous occasions he was the man to make key tackles and interceptions, not to mention his persistent closing down of the City players in possession—and he is not all backward and sideways passing as many would lead you to believe.

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