- Fernando and Yaya Toure’s midfield relationship from Newcastle carried over against Liverpool. Fernando’s main job was to be apply pressure on whoever had the ball in the midfield, not allowing the trio of Gerrard, Allen and Henderson to have much time to feed their threatening attacking options. Fernando wasted no time doing this, as just two minutes into the game Fernando was able to force an errant pass due to his pressure on the ball. Unfortunately, a heat map can not properly illustrate this since most of this pressure didn’t actually lead to Fernando taking a touch, which would show up on the heat map.While it didn’t happen much in this game, Fernando’s seemingly never ending energy to sprint towards whichever Liverpool CM had the ball gives Yaya Toure the freedom to do whatever he wants and bomb forward as need be. Fernando also knew his role as a passer in the midfield: maintain possession and let Silva, Nasri, Toure do the burden of the play making. As a result of this Fernando had 97% pass accuracy.
- In that aforementioned Liverpool trio, Joe Allen seemed to be the man who was played the farthest forward by quite some margin. This was much more visible when Liverpool either had the ball or shortly after they had lost it. This screen shot shows Allen much closer to Coutinho/Sturridge/Sterling than Henderson and Gerrard. This one also illustrates how much farther forward Allen found himself. Allen did track back on defense where he was more closely aligned with Henderson and Gerrard but on Liverpool’s attacks it was clear Allen had more freedom to go forward than the other two did.
- Coutinho tracked back a lot more than Sterling did. Sterling didn’t take a single touch in Liverpool’s defensive third and generally was content to stay somewhat higher up the pitch and leave Glen Johnson without that much support. Coutinho was much deeper throughout the game, providing support to Premier League debutant Alberto Moreno. Coutinho took 18 percent of his touches in the defensive third. This led to a largely lackluster offensive performance from the Brazilian: he had 0 successful dribbles and 0 key passes in a game that likely won’t appear in any Youtube montages. Of course going up against the Premier League’s best right back doesn’t help much either.
- An interesting development for Liverpool was when Lazar Markovic came on for Coutinho. Markovic was much more involved than Coutinho was, and Alberto Moreno also started coming forward a lot more. This probably has a lot to do with the scoreline, as City were comfortably ahead and playing solely on the counter. Liverpool had a lot more possession during this period, but their final ball was lacking. They were threatening, but not so much.
- Silva comes off in the 65th minute for Jesus Navas, and he and Samir Nasri switched flanks. Navas was presumably subbed on to pressure the now attacking Moreno. His assist for Sergio Aguero’s goal in the 68th minute effectively killed the game.
- In the 75th minute, Liverpool brought on Emre Can, and I thought his position was interesting. Rather than pushing Gerrard up, he acted as a cover for Stevie, playing like a second Jordan Henderson. It’ll be interesting to see what this means going forward for Liverpool, and whether this is a precursor to what the side will look like with Mario Balotelli.
- The last ten minutes could also answer what the Danny – Mario partnership will look like. Rickie Lambert came on for Raheem Sterling, which affected the shape of Liverpool’s attack. Instead of being up front, Daniel Sturridge started getting the ball in wide areas, going one on one with the full back while Rickie Lambert served as a target man. Lambert’s goal in the 82nd minute came about when Sturridge received the ball at the edge of the area and lofted a cross for Lambert to head in. Lambert had another chance to add to his tally but he decided to pass the ball instead of shooting.
City look like a finished product – albeit one that was playing on cruise control – while Liverpool are clearly a team in transition. They started well but weren’t as sharp as they were last year with Luis Suarez. As the game went on and Brendan Rodgers started making changes, you could sort of see what this Liverpool squad is going to look like.
I don’t share Brendan Rodgers’s opinion that this squad is better than last year’s, as the same defensive questions still abound. Dejan Lovren is unsure of what to do in this scheme, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but Steven Gerrard is not a defensive midfielder. While Moreno should have done better with the clearance, Steven Gerrard’s inability to track David Silva is equally at fault for Jovetic’s first goal.
Liverpool travel to White Hart Lane next week with Mario Balotelli in the squad and I will hold off making final judgment on them until I can see what Mario can do. That said, unless Mario can play full back and track back, I can see the Poch Press making life miserable for Liverpool yet again.
City welcome Stoke into the Etihad, but I have a feeling City will cruise through their fixtures until September 20th, when Jose Mourinho comes to town.