2nd Matchweek of the 2014/15 Premier League season and we’ve already got the defending champions playing against their closest opponents of last season. Many would think that this is going to be as close as it can get, but this is a very different, new Liverpool team, against a very similar Man City team to what we’ve got last year. It turns out to be a relatively comfortable evening for City, thanks to a brace from Stevan Jovetic and one from the ever impressive Kun Aguero, new signing Rickie Lambert got one late consolation goal in a miserable night for the Reds.
Man City made 1 change from their victory against Newcastle, with Zabaleta coming in to RB, as Kolarov is dropped to the bench. The man of the moment for Man City is probably Stevan Jovetic, as he starts for the 2nd time in the row alongside Edin Dzeko and more impressively ahead of Sergio Aguero.
Young Spanish left-back Alberto Moreno makes his debut for Liverpool, forming a relatively inexperienced back four, from a playing time viewpoint. Sturridge continues to lead the line. It will be interesting to see what’s the real role of Phillipe Coutinho who starts on the left flank.
In this article, I will try (as this is my first article) to underline the important points that lead to this relatively surprising results.
- New back four = new problems?
The right side of the back four (Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel) are used to play together, but Dejan Lovren only has a few weeks of playing with both two, let alone Alberto Moreno who was playing his first premier league game.
Even though he’s right-footed, Dejan Lovren has always played in the left centre-back position, and Moreno is like every modern full-back these days, loves to get forward, we can call him a complete wing-back.
First, I will analyse Liverpool’s defensive positioning:
Possession-wise it was pretty balanced, 52-48 in Man City’s favor, what’s interesting during those periods of Man City’s possesion is the positioning of Alberto Moreno. Gaps between CBs and Full backs need to be reduced (Johnson-Skrtel and Moreno-Lovren) so that David Silva and Samir Nasri cannot exploit it, because it is harder to defend when opposition players get in between defenders, you would prefer your opponents to go to the wide areas, and then try to block the crosses. In the picture below, by closing that gap, Moreno seems to drag Coutinho with him into an unusual left back position, which make it look like a back five. Space between Coutinho and Moreno can be exploited by Nasri and SIlva. They are not the quickest wide players in the premier league, so they will look to get directly into the 18-yard box instead of running with the ball and hugging the touchline like any pacey wingers would do. If Nasri makes a run in behind Coutinho or just in front of him, then Man City are in a very good position.
In the build up of the 1st goal, that gap between Lovren and Moreno is too big whereas the space between Johnson, Skrtel and Lovren were reduced, too reduced in fact, because there was only one Man City player lurking outside of the 18 yard box. I believe Johnson and Skrtel are able to deal with that and I think Lovren should have covered that big hole, because Silva is making the run through that gap and finds himself in a very handy position.
The second error comes from Moreno, who is caught up by the pace of the Premier League games. He should have dealt with Lovren’s clearance, but was caught napping by Jovetic, who slots it home with a very good finish.
The second goal again comes from the left hand side of Liverpool’s defense. Once again, Coutinho finds himself in an awkward left back position. Moreno is closing down an opponent further up the pitch. But crucially, Coutinho and Lovren then decided to step out of that line of back four, thus creating spaces behind them for runners, with Martin Skrtel playing everybody onside.
For some reason, Coutinho just stepped out of that back line, maybe assuming Moreno would be back at that position, but he wasn’t. Lovren’s poor positioning creates the space for City. But credit to Stevan Jovetic for both creating and finishing… Wonderful flick, and composed finish.
Liverpool’s left side of the defense has been ripped apart, no other way of saying it, the third goal comes from that side as well, scored by super sub Sergio Aguero, only 23 seconds after coming on. This goal though is due to the pure brilliance of Man City.
Maybe Moreno could have closed Jesus Navas a bit more to prevent the pass, but all in all, it was a fantastic through ball. No positioning error from Dejan Lovren this time, but Aguero was making the right run, and was quicker than the Croatian international. Very quick and clever play from City.
Of course, new players need time to adapt to their new team’s style of play. Lovren and Moreno haven’t had the best game of their career, because they are largely to blame for the first two goals, but their time will come for sure.
- What about their attacking players?
Liverpool started the game well, they were even dominating possession at times. They started with Coutinho on the left, Sterling on the right and Sturridge up top. As I said in the introduction, Coutinho’s role is interesting, he has really the freedom to move on either wings, in the centre behind Sturridge and Sterling, he even drops deep to chase the ball, he plays like a Trequartista. The picture below shows how deep Coutinho is playing compared to his supposed striking partners. This allows Sterling to roam a bit more, to cut inside and try to use the space between Gael Clichy and Martin Demichelis, as Sturridge and him form what looks like a front 2.
The attacking chances come from both wings (both full backs are venturing forwards very often) and from long passes of Steven Gerrard, who sits deep in the hole between the defense and the midfield (very creative anchorman).
This performance from Man City is a real statement of intent. They have a deep squad with a lot of quality, and their man Stevan Jovetic could be set for a massive season after an injury hit season last campaign.
No doubt Liverpool have been affected by the departure of Luis Suarez, but Sturridge, Sterling plus the arrival of Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli are massive boosts for the club, and they should be able to maintain the performance level of last season.