It’s always interesting to get the perspective of an opponent, but perhaps especially ahead of Sunday’s big one with Man City – a match that is usually considered a title match-up but appears not this season.
Liverpool have a huge job on their hands, with Pep Guardiola’s side in unstoppable form currently.
The big win at Rangers will have provided Jurgen Klopp‘s squad with some much-needed confidence, but that will be severely tested at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, City head to Merseyside full of confidence, form, goals and everything else, with Erling Haaland proving to be a predictably fearsome signing and another title looking highly likely this season.
We spoke to City writer and regular TIA contributor Simon Curtis (@bifana_bifana) to hear about Haaland, Liverpool’s issues and much more.
So, another season of being delighted as a City so far then?
Sickening, isn’t it? I just don’t know how they do it.
Pep Guardiola is managing to do what Liverpool now need – a serious overhaul without letting the baton drop.
There has been a sizeable clearout with the last of the great era leaving (Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero), big players shifted to title rivals (Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling) and a raft of bright new faces that, Erling Haaland apart, have not cost much.
Manuel Akanji, Sergio Gomez and Julian Alvarez are good, although everything pales when your attention becomes fixed on the great beanpole loping around up front.
How good has Haaland been? And how has your system changed with him?
He’s not really normal, is he? A clinical finisher but with a good first touch for a big lad. Sounds like Niall Quinn or even Andy Carroll!
Obviously, those excitedly telling us that if he carries on like this he will score 98 goals before May, are going to be disappointed, but the rest of us will just remain amazed at his uncanny ability to finish more or less anything off from any height, angle or position.
He likes to take a whack as soon as he sees the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes, which is a pleasant move away from the old tiki-takaying it into the goal in death by a thousand passes.
When he hit the post against Southampton, the first reaction was “he’s actually missed one!”, quickly followed by “well he’s not going to score today, is he?”.
Five minutes later, he scored.
The way the system has changed is that there is at last someone who can convert a greater percentage of those incredible balls into the box from Kevin De Bruyne.
There is a direct option and a reliable target in the middle.
Do you fear any kind of title challenge from Arsenal?
Nothing is really plain sailing in the Premier League, although Man City‘s drive, organisation, preparation and ability make it imperative for serious challengers to find a very high level of performance and to maintain it for months.
Arsenal have found a higher level of performance, but I am not convinced they will be able to maintain it.
I think they will be caught at some point by Chelsea, Spurs and possibly Liverpool, who will join the chase of City at the top.
Mike Arteta’s doing a grand job and the players are responding, but they have already caved in to United so they are far from the finished product.
As for Liverpool, what do you think has gone wrong so far this season?
It’s perhaps easier for me as an outsider to offer constructive criticism.
Jurgen Klopp has presided over a fossilisation process that many could see coming. Suddenly, half of the squad are 30 or over and the panic has set in.
Klopp’s modus operandi is high-energy, press, run and don’t stop. Clearly, that cannot be maintained if half the squad is out on its feet.
Is it bad luck, bad planning or bad management? I think Klopp was panicked into the Darwin Nunez signing because of Haaland and, unlike City, the attempt to fit in a completely different type of striker has not yet worked.
It’s far too early to get too excited about it all, though – football lives in the immediacy and Liverpool are still a strong challenger.
Where do you think they will finish?
You don’t, as multiple-front challengers, suddenly forget how to do it, so I think Liverpool will improve gradually as the season goes on.
The mind will remember what the instructions were, but can the legs still carry them out? The so-called Mentality Monsters have to now show their mettle or people will begin to ask questions.
Liverpool remained at the top through the 1970s and 1980s by making tough decisions on personnel at the right moments.
The expectations are high and the returns are in danger of failing to match them.
Which Reds player who you most like to have at City at this point?
With the risk of sounding like that dreadful “Not Arrogant, Just Better” United banner, I don’t think I’d take anyone at present, thank you.
Looking ahead to Sunday, what do you see as the key tactical battles?
Liverpool need to find some energy and cohesion.
From what I have seen the defence is out of sorts, listless and badly positioned, the midfield is lumpen and not working and the strikers are being left to go it alone.
They will need to get organised, close City down with a passion and hope they remember some of their old tricks.
Liverpool’s evident problems at right back mean City are more than likely to come flying at you down that side. Grealish, Foden, Bernardo all likely to have some impact down that flank if it continues to be the Free Trade Zone of recent weeks.
Finally, what’s your prediction? You must be sensing a win, surely?
You have seen City’s record against Liverpool, right?
We have not walked into Anfield “sensing a win” since the ark started to be constructed down in Bootle docks!
On the back of midweek results, I’m all ready for Liverpool 3-0 City.