Liverpool’s Lack of Plan B Sees Them Humbled by Man City

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Manchester City 5
Liverpool 0
By Umarah Naz.

Saturday afternoon became one to thoroughly forget for Jurgen Klopp as Manchester City handed him his heaviest defeat as Liverpool manager, at the Etihad.

A 5-0 thrashing humbled Liverpool who have enjoyed a good record against Guardiola’s side of late. Both teams have had their own, well-documented defensive struggles so goals galore were predicted. Add to that the excellence of both sides in attack and those predictions weren’t so far-fetched.

What one couldn’t have foreseen was that Liverpool’s forward triumvirate, that have been scoring at will this season, would fail to register a single goal.

It’s almost as if something went terribly wrong at some point during the game to seriously disrupt Liverpool’s progress. As if a red card had ruined the game and forced Klopp into making changes that were detrimental to the team.

Liverpool spent much of the first-half getting into good positions in and around City’s box but were often let down by the final ball. Salah wasn’t clinical enough or made the wrong decision when in front of goal. As frustrating as this was, it still looked likely that a breakthrough would be made at some stage. Inevitable even.

Despite this, City took the lead on twenty-five minutes when, man of the match, Kevin de Bruyne’s pass superbly split the defence finding Aguero charging towards Mignolet, who was brought straight back in after his rest.

But once Mignolet had made the decision to come out, the Argentine skipped around him and put the home side ahead. Perversely, it seemed the perfect tonic to kick Liverpool into the urgency they required, with Mané and Salah looking the likely outlets.

Can had his own chance from a free-kick on the edge of the box, after Mané had been fouled by Fernandinho, but his effort was well wide of the mark. And although Liverpool weren’t playing the free-flowing football we have become accustomed to from the first few games of the season, they were still very much in the game.

That was until the thirty-seventh minute when Mané was clean through on goal. As goalkeeper, Ederson, rushed out of his penalty box to try and clear the ball, Mané attempted to play the ball with his foot.

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Instead of connecting with the ball, his studs found Ederson’s face who collapsed in a heap onto the turf. After a few seconds of contemplation, referee John Moss brandished his red card at Mané, sparking much debate, but effectively ending Liverpool’s afternoon at the Etihad.

If there’s one thing Liverpool aren’t equipped for, its managing a game with ten men. It seems there’s only one way the team are set up to play and that’s to score goals. When Gabriel Jesus doubled City’s lead in the eight minutes of injury time resulting from Ederson’s injury and subsequent substitution, it was time to switch from outright attack to damage limitation; a territory Liverpool are unfamiliar with. To further compound the issue, they were playing a City team in the mood to attack.

The second-half did nothing to allay any fears Liverpool fans might have had. Klopp decided to play a back three of Matip, Can and Klavan (who had come in as a replacement for Lovren) but that did nothing to stop the rot of City goals.

Eight minutes into the half, Jesus was the beneficiary of some unselfish play by Aguero, who rolled the ball into his path for City’s third. Klopp brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for his debut at the start of the second-half, sooner than he’d probably imagined. The former Arsenal man must have had a severe feeling of déjà vu after being on the receiving end of Liverpool’s rout against Arsenal only a fortnight earlier.

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The new signing replaced Salah, who’s departure was a silent admission that Klopp had somewhat given up on salvaging anything from the game as the Egyptian seemed the only one who would help provide anything resembling a goal.

James Milner and Dominic Solanke came on for Wijnaldum and Firmino respectively, but neither could do anything of note. Leroy Sane hammered home two more goals to cap off a miserable afternoon for Liverpool who breathed a sigh of relief when the final whistle was blown.

The red card can be argued about till hell freezes over but what can’t be denied is the team’s reaction to being reduced to ten men. Rather than batten down the hatches and fight, they capitulated.

Some might say that it’s not in Liverpool’s DNA to play any other way than attack. And that’s fine if all cogs in the machine are working harmoniously, but when one breaks down then a plan B needs to be implemented.

It’s highly likely that this result was a freak one for Klopp and one that won’t be repeated, but it’s important for the players to be comfortable with a contingency plan if all else fails.

Some occurrences will be out of the team’s control and it’s those ones that Klopp needs to prepare his men for.

Mané will miss the next three domestic games after his sending off but Liverpool should remain well-equipped upfront to deal with his ban.

Sturridge, Solanke and a certain Phillipe Coutinho are all waiting in the wings to impress.

Next up for Liverpool are Sevilla on Wednesday in the first of the Champions League group games. And what better way to forget the woes of the weekend than with a midweek win….

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