Whenever your team faces the defending Premier League champions, you can’t help but feel a bit nervous of what might happen. In the case of Liverpool this holds even more true. The Reds didn’t have the best of starts against West Brom last week and if they didn’t get a result against City, could see themselves at the bottom of the table for at least a week.
Many, if not all, Liverpool fans would have taken a draw before the game kicked off, and the task of overhauling seemed daunting to say the least.
As it happens, many, if not all, Liverpool fans will feel a little hard done by that result.
Looking at the score-line, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Liverpool’s home woes are still haunting them. In a sense you’ll be right, Liverpool dominates match, makes silly mistakes and end up with an undeserved draw. For Rodgers, though, the performance means as much as the result.
The way the Reds went about their business was in stark contrast to what we saw at the Hawthorns, and the challenge of adapting to Rodgers’ system seems a little exaggerated. The Reds dominated most of the proceedings, but was just edged out in possession with 48.7% to Manchester City’s 51.3%.
The order of the day was once again a solid passing game and, considering the opposition, we did quite well in that regard. Liverpool attempted 462 passes (59 less than against WBA), and managed pass completion percentage of 81%.
Joe Allen was once again the most accurate passer for Liverpool, completing 93% of his 46 passes. Allen wasn’t Liverpool’s top passer this time round, though, with Steven Gerrard attempting 65 passes. Although Gerrard attempted the most passes of any player in red, he only completed 78% of them. It also has to be noted that 47 of Gerrard’s passes were in the opposition half, 23 of them in the final third.
It is also encouraging to see that Liverpool’s second and third best passers are Jonjo Shelvey (88% pass accuracy) and Fabio Borini (86% pass accuracy). It’s not as if it was only a couple of passes either, Shelvey attempted 50, while Borini attempted 29, 21 of which were in City’s half. Liverpool’s future sure is bright when their three best passers against the Premier League champions are 22, 19 and 21.
If there’s one area where Liverpool could undoubtedly improve, it’s the final third. When looking at the passing zones (image from EPLIndex’s stats centre below), it’s quite obvious that they spend most the match in their own half and just over the halfway line. The majority of Liverpool’s passes, 278 of them, took place in Manchester City’s half with 71% of them accurate. Only 105 of those opposition half passes were in the final third, and the Reds could only manage a completion percentage of 64% in this zone. While attempting fewer passes in the final third, Manchester City proved much more precise in this zone, completing 70% of their 104 final third passes.
In terms of chance creation, Liverpool created 14 chances compared to 6 created by City. Of these 14 chances, 11 came from open play. Gerrard was Liverpool’s best creative player, creating 4 of their chances, 2 of them through set plays (one was an assist) and 2 of them from open play. On the other side, Manchester City’s most creative player was Yaya Toure, with the Ivorian creating 3, all from open play.
Liverpool had City on the back foot for most of the game, from the moment Skrtel scored his powerful header, the Reds took control of the match and kept City at bay until after the break. Liverpool started the second half well, but in the 63rd minute Martin Kelly mishandled a Carlos Tevez cross straight towards Yaya Toure, who made no mistake in putting the ball in the back of the net. Defensive error number 1.
Liverpool showed character to battle for a second goal, and just 3 minutes later Luis Suarez put the Reds back in the lead with an inch perfect free kick. Liverpool, once again, bossed the game and looked set to take all three points, until defensive error number 2 that is.
With around 80 minutes gone, Skrtel took control of the ball and looked to play it out from the back. Two City players immediately closed Skrtel down, leaving him with no options but to pass to Reina. That wouldn’t have been so bad, if only Skrtel didn’t play the pass blind, straight into the feet of Carlos Tevez. The rest is history.
In spite of defensive errors, Liverpool can be very proud of their performance in their first home game of 2012/12. After the horrible defeat at the hands of West Brom, the Reds have acquitted themselves well against last season’s Champions. They played very closely to the way Rodgers would want them to play once he’s fully implemented his system. Of course the errors were costly, chances were wasted and they probably should have won, but the signs are there that Rodgers will get this side back to where they want, and should be.
Man of the Match: Joe Allen. The Welshman has made an immediate impact after his move to Merseyside. Two man of the match performances in two league games is an exceptional return. His ability to get his pass away under pressure is magnificent. His composure on the ball makes such a difference. Very much a player in the mould of Barcelona’s Xavi.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.