Manchester City drew 1-1 with Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in a high-voltage Premier League match on Saturday. Erling Haaland scored the opening goal of the match in the first half, but Trent Alexander-Arnold equalized for the Reds late on to keep them within a point from the Cityzens.
However, as of now, Pep Guardiola’s team remains the favourites to win their fifth Premier League title in six seasons. This is despite Arsenal’s victory over Brentford later in the day, to go top of the league.
Manchester City’s formation keeps playing to their advantage
Manchester City started the match with a 3-2-4-1 formation, with Manuel Akanji playing alongside Rodri as defensive midfielders. Having Akanji in that position meant that he was able to drop down every time Kyle Walker, one of City’s three center backs, ventured forward into overlaps.
Thus City never had fewer than three men in their defense, which helped them deal with Liverpool’s front three quite effectively.
Nathan Aké enjoyed a great battle with Mohamed Salah. Jürgen Klopp’s men kept playing forward balls to Salah, which was expected. Man City did the same to Jeremy Doku
, which was not.
To remain on the subject, Manchester City’s formation allowed them enough width up front with the brilliant Doku
, who kept winning corners for his team for fun. Phil Foden cut inside from the flanks, while Bernardo Silva and Julián Álvarez dropped down at times to make it a 3-2-2-3.
City’s attacking might have meant that the Liverpool full backs had to stay inside their own half defending the flanks. This also meant that they seldom had enough opportunity to go forward and aid their wingers in stretching City’s defense wide. All of that implied that there was enough width in City’s attack to hurt their opposition, but the latter often did not have enough width in their own attack to hurt City.
Liverpool became more aggressive in the second half and their equalizer came through Alexander-Arnold. That was a rare occasion where he had the rare opportunity to be in the same line with Salah, who provided the assist.
However, well before that goal, Manchester City had started playing counter-attacking football, with Bernardo orchestrating moves from the deep. Had the likes of Haaland and Álvarez been less profligate, the Cityzens would have won the match comfortably.
Next two games very crucial for Manchester City
City will face Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, both quite formidable opponents, in their next two Premier League matches. It probably will not be an overstatement to say that City’s fate in the Premier League this season will be decided by the results of those two matches. Should they be able to get six points from those matches, they will take a huge step towards defending their title.
They will face the likes of Luton Town, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace in December, none of which should pose a considerable threat to them. Hence, having six points from the next two matches will virtually ensure that the Cityzens end the year as table-toppers.
Guardiola’s men are known to play even better after Christmas than they do before it. Therefore, they will be in with a great chance of extending their monopoly in English football. It might not be great advertisement for the competitiveness of the league, but simply no other team looks as complete as Manchester City at the moment.