Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City on Saturday marked another major improvement experienced by the club in the Jurgen Klopp era. A Liverpool side that found it tough to beat the top sides under Brendan Rodgers has now beaten Chelsea and Manchester City. In the process the Merseyside club became the first team to put 4 beyond the Manchester Club at the Etihad in the Premier League.
The victory brought to the forefront the capabilities of two Brazilians who operated in tandem to leave the City defence tattered, Coutinho and Firmino. The Brazilian duo seem rejuvenated under the new regime and Liverpool’s push for a top four finish will largely depend on the creative players. Klopp’s decision to play Firmino at the top reaped rich rewards as the Brazilian troubled the City backline with his movement and trickery.
The duo was largely neat with their passing for players operating in the final third of the pitch as they averaged a passing accuracy of 72%. They created 5 chances between them against a total of 9 that were created by the City side in the evening. The first goal was result of Coutinho’s incessant pressing, a trademark of a Jurgen Klopp side. There were cheeky passing, incredible off the ball movements and at times simple play from the Brazilians that shred the City back line.
Though the midfield might not have come under immense praise, the likes of Can, Milner and Lucas put in an incredible shift through the evening. They effected some nice attacking moves while ensuring they did all the dirty work in the middle of the park to stifle out an often enterprising City side. They were all over the City midfield, hardly giving them any space to operate.
During the evening, the trio effected 13 successful tackles (average success of 50%). While they might not have been as successful in the air, their tenacity and frequency, even in the air made the City side lose their wits. The midfielders have shown a better understanding now that they have clocked some time together and were able to intercept on 9 occasions with some of them being in the critical final third of the pitch. Lucas, who has come under immense criticism for his abilities as the defensive midfielder seems a totally different player under Klopp. While he did put in some incredible shifts under Brendan Rodgers, his abilities as a defensive midfielder have come to the fore front under Klopp.
Let’s be honest, we are not the biggest fans of the Skrtel-Lovren partnership. In fact, we aren’t the biggest fan of a Liverpool centre-back pairing without Sakho. The circumstances have turned on us and it was a pleasant surprise to watch the Skrtel Lovren duo play with such aplomb against a City side that has put the tightest defences to shame.
The duo showed a perfect understanding through the evening, covering the right spaces off the ball and making some crucial tackles and interceptions to deny the City side. The evening could have been perfect for the centre-backs if not for a silly mistake from Skrtel that presented City some hope when Aguero scored just before the break.
When Sakho is fit and raring to go, its only natural that Klopp will bring his best defender back into the starting line-up. However, it serves as a relief that, when put together, the Skrtel Lovren duo can actually put in a neat shift.
All in all, it was a glorious evening for the Reds. Having experienced some disheartening losses over the last 18 months, it was another positive improvement under Klopp. The season is still not out of bounds and if they continue to dish out such imposing performances, a top-4 finish can’t be too far off.