The good, the bad and the five sub rule – Debating Man City 1-1 Liverpool

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Liverpool drew 1-1 with Man City on Sunday, and the focus from both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola was a fair result that highlighted the need for five substitutes.

The Reds took a front-footed approach to their title clash at the Etihad, with Klopp fielding all four of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah, and it took Guardiola by surprise.

Mane was brought down by Kyle Walker to allow Salah to convert the opener from the penalty spot, but missed chances from both Firmino and Jota saw City fight back into the game.

Gabriel Jesus levelled and another controversial handball decision saw Joe Gomez penalised and, fortunately, Kevin De Bruyne miss from the spot, with both sides left to settle for a point.

This means Liverpool stay five clear of City, who still have a game in hand, and one behind league leaders Leicester, who just happen to be next up after the international break.

But what can we take from this attritional affair in Manchester?

Here, This Is Anfield’s Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_), Matt Ladson (@mattladson) and Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) debate the good, the bad and the physical toll of another big game.

 

The good…

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game from the penalty spot with Roberto Firmino during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester.

JACK: The key positive for me was the game plan and, for much of the game at least, how it was executed.

The way we came out the blocks and took the game to City on their own patch showed the confidence we’ve now got against, supposedly, our biggest title rivals.

Basically fielding a four-man attack was bold, but it paid off, and we really should have put away more chances before the game grew stale with tired legs and Guardiola catching up tactically.

I’d love to see it more in the future, particularly with Henderson and Wijnaldum in such strong form in midfield, allowing us to hold shape while Mane, Salah and Jota in particular work their magic in attack.

MATT: For me, one of the biggest positives was the use of the front four.

It makes us a lot less predictable, which is something Pepijn Lijnders acknowledged the need for after the title was won last season.

The addition of Thiago will make the 4-2-3-1 an even better option, and as Klopp noted post-match: “Usually people know which system we play, that’s now water under the bridge.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 8, 2020: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the first goal with team-mates Trent Alexander-Arnold (C) and Joel Matip (R) during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by Propaganda)

HENRY: First things first, it’s a decent result. It is so important not to lose either fixture against City each season, such is the six-point nature of them in the title race.

In terms of individuals, I though Gomez and Matip were excellent, especially as it was their first-ever start as a centre-back pairing.

They both remained focused and reliable throughout – Gomez, in particular, has really stood up without Van Dijk.

Alisson was great in his decision-making – his level of importance to this team is not too far behind Van Dijk’s – while Robertson, Henderson, Salah and Mane were all good, too.

 

The bad…

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 8, 2020: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold receives treatment for an injury that forced him out of the game during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by Propaganda)

JACK: Any injury to Trent is a big blow, and hopefully he won’t be out for too long – the international break is perfectly timed for him, Thiago and Fabinho.

There’s clearly not enough faith in Neco as his backup yet, otherwise he would have stepped in at some point already, and while Milner is an able stand-in, the quality Trent has shown both in defence and attack in recent weeks means he would be a big loss.

Fingers crossed, basically, as he is one of our most important players – and we’ve already lost too many of those.

MATT: Trent’s injury was, unfortunately, one of the most predictable things to happen this season. He’s been playing far, far too much football for a 22-year-old.

Klopp said after signing Tsimikas that he would be rotating his full-backs a lot more this season, but so far that has not happened.

Perhaps he has since revised his opinion of Neco and the youngster isn’t deemed quite ready now.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 8, 2020: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (L) challenges Manchester City's Raheem Sterling during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by Propaganda)

HENRY: Another game, more VAR madness. How you can give a handball for that against Gomez is beyond me, but I suppose it is the correct decision by the rules, which are nonsensical.

It was frustrating the way in which Liverpool lost their way in an attacking sense, with the final ball off target too often, and possession lost cheaply with long, aimless balls.

It was a gruelling contest, though, so I will cut them some slack

I thought Firmino was well off the pace again, which was concerning. That slightly heavy touch in the first minute, when he could have gone round Ederson, sums him up at the moment.

There was just too much hopeful shooting, misplaced passes, and most worryingly, not the same energy off the ball from our No. 9.

Wijnaldum didn’t have a great day either, losing possession cheaply at one point, getting drawn out of position for Jesus’ goal and generally not looking his usual accomplished self.

The two-man midfield didn’t help in that respect.

 

And do you agree with Klopp that we need five subs this season?

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola after the final whistle during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. (Martin Rickett/PA Wire/PA Images)

JACK: Definitely. I was on the fence when the discussion was ongoing before the season, but something’s got to give and it clearly won’t be the fixture list.

The evidence is there in muscle injuries for Trent and Fabinho already, and at this point it seems like a game of Russian roulette when it comes to the next to be sidelined.

It would be a miracle if the likes of Robbo, Salah, Gomez, Gini and Mane avoid any setbacks in the weeks to come.

Being able to rotate from the start, with the option of further changes throughout the game, would at least give players and managers peace of mind as we head into an even more ridiculous schedule over Christmas and New Year.

MATT: It’s laughable that it wasn’t voted in. Talk about lower clubs shooting themselves in the foot.

They’re not having the same issues as teams like us who are in Europe at the moment, but wait until December and January and I’m sure they’ll change their tune.

The Premier League sums up England as a nation – they think they know better than the rest of the world, when the reality is, they don’t.

Insert your own Brexit analogy here.

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold sits on the pitch before being substituted with an injury during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester.

HENRY: It is no coincidence that Liverpool have had such a nightmare in the injury department already and you fear more will come as the weeks and months pass.

Bringing in the five-sub rule would at least help alleviate that issue, ensuring players get more rest and aren’t running on empty by the spring. The Euros could be laughable at this rate!

I’ve seen some arguing that Klopp doesn’t even make three subs at times, let alone five, but that can’t be used as a stick to beat him with.

You never know when a late injury may occur, for example, so it would be reckless to use up all the subs too soon.

I hope the Premier League changes the rules sooner rather than later, admittedly only for this season before things (hopefully) go back to normal in 2021/22.

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