Despite the dominating performance at the Etihad earlier in the season, City fans were rightly cautious about the threat Liverpool posed prior to kick-off. This evening’s game showcased exactly why. City were put to the sword from the first minute and buckled heavily under the pressure.
When all is said and done this result probably won’t matter much in the scheme of things. It should not be understated just how bad performance was though. The result itself flattered City as until the last ten minutes they were utterly dismal. Defensive and offensive mistakes littered the performance and overall we were lucky to only lose by one goal.
This Should be the Wake Up Call the Team Needs
We all knew that it was unrealistic that City would finish the season unbeaten and that eventually we would lose. Whilst the result today will leave a sour taste in the mouths of many, it has arguably come at an important time.
Performances as of late have been more than a little underwhelming. I’m aware that this may come across as overly critical especially given the ways we have managed to grind out strong results in recent weeks. But the bottom line is that City have been struggling against almost every opponent put in front of them, with only a couple of exceptions. Whilst this could be attributed to the overly defensive strategies employed by the opposition, City faced teams with similar game plans earlier in the season and dismantled them with ease.
It’s a face that form fluctuates and the level of performances along with it, but there has been a worrying trend developing in recent weeks: poor first halves and sloppy attacking play. This is something that we have managed to get away with in a number of games now, but it couldn’t last forever. Today is another example of this, it took 75 minutes before we started to actually play some decent football. Look what happened when we finally played to our potential, a point was very nearly rescued.
The big task now is for Pep to make sure his team recovers and responds correctly. A painful loss right before the return of the Champions League should serve to light a fire in the dressing room and hopefully motivate everyone to up their level of performance once again.
Agüero More Hindrance Than Help
Another game, another dire performance from Agüero. Goals can’t continue to mask just how poorly he has been playing this season. His ability to contribute to build up is simply non existent at times. Watching him today, it felt as if every time he received the ball he lost it – nothing was sticking. Add to the that the excessive amount of time he spent on the ball when he managed to get it under control and all he did was either slow the pace of the attack down to a crawl or cause it to end all together.
His display this evening was a prime example of why so many fans and Pep himself (probably) feel that Alexis Sanchez is an absolutely necessary addition to the team. Based on tonight, who could possibly argue with that? I’ve been a strong advocate of not overpaying for Sanchez but this run of performances may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for myself and many others.
Stones Not the Same
It might be harsh to single Stones out when so many players had unusually bad performances but his form does need to be addressed. Since returning from injury he hasn’t looked to be the same imperious defender that he was before he ruled out for a couple of months. There is a chance that this is simply down to a lack of match fitness, but the kinds of mistakes he has been making cannot be excused by that.
Aside from the obvious error that contributed to Firmino’s goal, there were numerous smaller mistakes that he made frequently throughout this game and his previous outings. The most obvious of those is a seeming inability to communicate with Otamendi and Walker effectively. So many minor mixups occurred with Stones being positioned awfully or unwilling to take up positions asked of him by those around him. This happened time and time again with Walker; he constantly asked Stones to track runs made behind him so he could apply pressure to the ball carrier and Stones was not forthcoming. This led to Mane getting in behind Walker all too often and is a huge reason that Liverpool were able to advance up the pitch so easily.
If City are to progress in the Champions League and make their mark in Europe, Stones needs to get back in sync with the rest of the backline. Quickly.