https://www.sportinglife.com-Graham Ruthven picks apart Manchester City’s 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool
Not since 2003 had Manchester City beaten Liverpool at Anfield. Even as Pep Guardiola’s side won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2018 and 2019, accruing an astonishing 198 points, they dropped points on Merseyside.
There’s just something about the old place that gets to City, even going back to the pre-Abu Dhabi days.
The curse, however, was emphatically lifted as the Premier League table-toppers smashed four past the defending champions to extend their lead over all suitors to five points.
Here are four things we learned from Manchester City’s statement 4-1 win over Liverpool.
How good is Phil Foden?
Phil Foden’s talent has been obvious for years, but this was the match that saw the 20-year-old grow into his new role as Manchester City’s main man.
It was Foden who created the goal from which City regained the lead at 2-1 and capped the scoring at 4-1 with a stunning dribble and finish of his own.
Billed as the natural successor to David Silva, Foden is splitting the difference between the role once performed for City by the Spaniard and the duties of Sergio Aguero. He is more than just a playmaker and more than just a finisher.
The speed at which Foden operates in the final third is frightening. He somehow takes touches of the ball quicker than anyone else. He sees his teammates where others would miss them and more often that not finds them, as he did with his assist for Gundogan.
Kevin De Bruyne was missing at Anfield, but Foden ensured that was barely mentioned.
Of the players to have scored goals in Europe’s big five leagues this season, only Erling Haaland is younger than Foden.
Pep Guardiola finally bests Jurgen Klopp
Anfield hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Manchester City in recent years, but this performance proved Pep Guardiola has learned lessons from his team’s past humblings there.
City’s defensive shape out of possession denied Liverpool space to run into both in midfield and down the channels. This is where Jurgen Klopp’s side have done real damage to City in the past.
Liverpool’s trouble in playing through the visitors were clear, but while most focused on how the absence of Virgil van Dijk and the loss of his passing ability out from the back, City deserved credit for the way they limited the space for their opponents to play in.
The only Liverpool player who looked willing and able to break City’s defensive structure was Curtis Jones – more on that in a moment – yet Klopp made the decision to withdraw the young midfielder just after his side had equalised and given themselves a foothold in the game.
The situation quickly deteriorated for the hosts after that.
Ederson should take Man City’s penalties
Since the start of last season, Manchester City have been awarded 17 penalty kicks in the Premier League; they have scored just nine.
That is a remarkably low conversion rate of just 53%. City’s success rate from 12 yards out is barely better than a coin flip.
Ilkay Gundogan, who still managed to bag a brace in the second half, missed a penalty against Liverpool just as De Bruyne did in November. And Riyad Mahrez did the year before that.
City lack a player who can reliably take a penalty. An outfield player, anyway.
Guardiola has admitted Ederson is the best penalty taker at the club. The goalkeeper has also insisted he’d be up to the task from 12 yards out.
How many penalty misses will City suffer before Guardiola gives Ederson a chance? He wouldn’t be the first penalty-scoring Brazilian keeper.
Curtis Jones was Liverpool’s best player
Liverpool’s midfield unit has come under scrutiny in recent weeks with Jordan Henderson moved back into central defence and Thiago still not entirely in sync with his new teammates.
Subsequently, Curtis Jones has been thrust into the first team and this was a display that proved what the 20-year-old offers.
Jones was alert to danger whenever City burst into the channels. He was even tracked at 33 kmph (via Opta) when chasing Phil Foden to prevent him going through on goal at one point.
He tracked runners, used the ball intelligently and gave Liverpool some drive through the middle. It was no coincidence that the Reds’ collapse came after Jones was withdrawn.
This is a role Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain once performed for the Reds. The same Oxlade-Chamberlain who produced his best performance as a Liverpool player in a Champions League win over City two years ago.
Today, he watched the full 90 minutes from the bench.
Report: Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City
Liverpool goalkeeper Allison gifted Manchester City two goals to help them to a crushing 4-1 win at Anfield, and 10th straight Premier League victory.
With the match evenly-poised at 1-1 with 17 minutes remaining the Brazil international’s errant passing presented the league leaders with two goals – including Raheem Sterling’s first at Anfield since leaving in 2015.
Alisson was back in the team after missing the midweek defeat to Brighton with illness but he will be sick when he watches back his part in City’s first victory on this ground since 2003 and only their second in 34 visits.
Mohamed Salah’s 63rd-minute penalty – ending a home goal drought nine minutes short of seven hours – had cancelled out the opener from Ilkay Gundogan, who redeemed himself after missing from the spot in the first half.
Alisson then scuffed a pass straight to Phil Foden, who drove forward and crossed for Gundogan to make it nine goals in his last 11 league matches.
Worse was to follow as the Brazilian then repeated the error even closer to goal with Bernardo Silva teeing up Sterling to nod home his 100th goal for Pep Guardiola, with Foden adding the finishing touches late on.
Victory extended City’s winning run to 14 matches and left Liverpool 10 points behind having played one match more and even in this season of surprises a comeback from that position seems unlikely.
It meant Gundogan’s penalty miss late in the first half – City’s third this season and their third in four attempts in this fixture – and Guardiola kicking a bucket in frustration were distant memories.