Sanjay Nair dissects Liverpool’s shocking performance at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Liverpool went into their seemingly mouth-watering clash against Manchester City as the team in terrorizing form.
Their 4-0 annihilation of Arsenal before the international break, a breathtaking display of attacking football, had us in great anticipation of a victory at the Etihad.
For the neutrals, it was meant to be something of a spectacle given the attacking capabilities present in both teams
What transpired was nothing short of a horror show for Liverpool. In the early stages, it was clear that City were wary of Liverpool’s potency in attack and were working hard to hold out very well against the pace of Mané and Salah as well as the trickery of Firmino.
Salah had at least two clear goal-scoring chances but his finishing and inability to make reasonable use of his weaker right foot let him down. Even with Liverpool on the attack, it was very evident that the rest of the team was not in their element for this key encounter.
The reshuffled back four was barely hanging on and the usually solid midfield trio was often guilty of either losing the ball or weak passes, which were intercepted by the more hungry City players. It was one such occasion that City took the lead through Liverpool’s prime nemesis in this fixture over the years, Sergio Agüero.
And then came the crucial red card for Mané. It is still being debated by fans and pundits whether Jon Moss was correct in sending off Mane, given that he had eyes for the ball only and also the fact that City’s stopper Ederson was some way out of the 18-yard box at the time of contact.
In similar situations, we normally get to see the team reduced to 10 men take a more pragmatic approach for the rest of the game. Players buckle up, focus on playing more compact and rely on any counter-attacking opportunities that come their way to try and force their way back into the game.
Liverpool would have been forgiven for taking this approach for the remainder of the game, especially when one takes into consideration the attacking prowess of Manchester City.
For whatever reason, the Reds’ game went from bad to worse. The frequency with which we lost the ball all over the park progressed from occasionally frustrating to regularly annoying to finally ridiculously outrageous.
Time and again, City were given the ball and space to do whatever they felt like and it was only due to Mignolet’s saves that the scoreboard stayed at 3-0 until the final 15 minutes.
Barring Mignolet for most parts of the game and the ever-hardworking Firmino, no other player seemed ready for the occasion. It seemed as if no-one was ready to assume any sort of leadership role and rally the team, post the Mané incident.
Liverpool just caved in, inexplicably and so out of character for a Klopp side, at the first instance of adversity and looked more and more like a team waiting to board the next bus back to Merseyside.
For that matter, it is difficult to understand why Klopp would tinker with the defence in such an important game even with a Champions League fixture in midweek on the cards.
You always need your best players playing against the best teams and one would expect these professional players to be ready to put in 2 shifts in a week. Else, you are implying that they are simply not good enough.
Credit, however, must go to our fans who were seen singing You’ll Never Walk Alone even at 4-0 to try and wake their team up from a deep, deep slumber.
As Liverpool fans, we can pray that this was just one of those matches that will give the team a reality check and play a part in propelling our team to achieving their targets for this season.
It is definitely going to take one hell of a performance from the entire LFC setup if we are going to put aside this 5-star shellacking and win our Champions League opener on Wednesday against Sevilla.