It was a predictably entertaining affair (well, aside from the pretty lacklustre ending) between the league’s two best sides, as Man City and Liverpool battled to earn a point each in a game in which City really should have won.
Liverpool are always a tricky opponent for City, and the opening 20 minutes saw the visitors unsettle City’s defence with an adventurous system and probing runs from a forward four full of pace.
It was little surprise that they took the lead from the penalty spot, but City grew into the game and ended it, on the whole, the better side. However, we failed to build on Gabriel Jesus’s ingenious equaliser, and missed several opportunities to take the lead – most notably when Kevin de Bruyne missed from the spot.
Here are the five things we learned from the game…
Mahrez in the mud?
Riyad Mahrez has always had a mixed reception among the City fanbase. He won over many critics last season but a substantial section remain unconvinced that the Algerian offers enough to the team.
This season, Mahrez has not been great. However, the fact he did not even make the bench, for such a huge match, does not bode well for his future. Mahrez will feel aggrieved, and probably with some justification; Ferran Torres and Bernardo Silva offered little themselves today.
I’d be surprised if a personal reason was not involved, and maybe Pep Guardiola has not been happy with the player’s attitude recently. There was talk about other player expressing their discontent about Mahrez’s apparent greed in possession, although the player denied it.
At any rate, it looks like Mahrez will need to start producing more when he does play if he is to remain at City beyond this season.
Walker a walking liability
Typical. After a period where the player has been showered in praise from Guardiola to Rio Ferdinand, it was typical that in the biggest game so far this season, Kyle Walker lapsed into his old habits and gave away a needless penalty.
As good as Walker is, he is prone to these braindead moments. Roy Keane called him an “idiot”, and it was hard to disagree with the assessment. There was no need whatsoever to challenge Sadio Mane, and it was a definite foul.
Aside from the penalty, I thought Walker was poor. He gave the ball away frequently, miscontrolled it, and generally did not look anywhere near his best. It was a flashback to the Leicester game earlier in the season.
Walker can have a month of excellent form, but if it’s sandwiched between performances like this and the one against Leicester, you have to wonder if his contribution to the side is a net positive.
Jesus the saviour
Ah, what a feeling it is to have an actual striker fit and available to play. There were only two players in the squad who could have scored that equaliser today, and luckily for us Gabriel Jesus was deemed fit enough to start.
His turn was exquisite and the finish instinctive; he left Allison and Gomez with no chance of stopping the goal after de Bruyne played him in. Generally, Jesus was good, and he displayed his excellent dribbling skills to help keep some attacks alive.
Unfortunately, he really should have buried the header in the second half after a great run was picked up by an even better ball from Joao Cancelo, but after netting the equaliser we can forgive him that one.
Rodri-Gundogan…please make it stop
It’s fashionable among City fans to hate on the Rodri-Gundogan pairing that Guardiola inexplicably insists on with a disturbing regularity, but it’s a fashion I fully endorse.
The trend is typically to pick on Gundogan, and while he was poor I thought, often failing to pick out the runs ahead of him, Rodri was not great either.
For me, Bernardo Silva or Phil Foden should have started in the midfield three. Rodri and Gundogan are too conservative to pair together and it does not offer much solidity either, so I’d prefer Pep to just favour a player with more energy and more dynamism in the final third.
I don’t think we realise how lucky we were to have Fernandinho in his prime, as he was so effective at dealing with danger that Pep never worried about putting both de Bruyne and David Silva alongside him.
Penalty woes creeping back
I’m too lazy to go and check the stats, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall a spell last season where it seemed like we missed about 27 penalties in a row, and every player in the squad had a turn at taking one, from Sergio Aguero to Brian Kidd, before we realised de Bruyne was a reliable option.
When the Belgian lined up this afternoon to beat Allison from 12 yards out, I wasn’t that nervous, which reflects how composed and unfussed de Bruyne appears when he’s on penalty duty.
Alas, I should have been, as he completely missed the target. Are we now set for our next cycle of chopping and changing our penalty taker before we rightfully decide Ederson should take them? Will that miss haunt us, or, like Mahrez’s miss two seasons earlier, will we put it behind us and win regardless?
Let’s hope it’s the latter.
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