If the opposition do manage to keep hold of the ball, Liverpool’s entire defence and midfield make swift recovery runs to get back into their 4-3-3 out-of-possession shape (above). Their goalkeeper Alisson is always ready to sweep behind a high defensive line, in front of which hard-working midfielders keep the distance between defence and midfield to a minimum. Van Dijk and whoever partners him are confident in their ability to deal with any aerial threat that comes their way.
The same cannot be said for City, who have been far too open at the back. They have struggled, in particular, against high balls into their area, conceding far too many goals from crosses – including two headers in their defeat at Anfield in November.
Title-winners will usually experience some good fortune, and Liverpool have had their share with injuries. Klopp might attest that he has managed his players’ game time intelligently, and his recruitment team may also argue that they have signed players who are not prone to injury. Liverpool suffering so few injuries is probably a combination of all three.
Key players have been available for almost the entire season. Van Dijk, Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Mané, Salah and Firmino – all of whom are in Liverpool’s strongest XI – between them missed just 13 Premier League matches all season. For City, Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones all missed lengthy periods.
Much has rightly been made of Liverpool’s sensational full-backs, who are so dangerous going forwards that they have eight more Premier League assists between the two of them (25) in 2019/20 than City’s three leading wingers, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling, have in total (17).
Robertson plays higher and wider than Alexander-Arnold (below), who has perfected his crossing technique and tends to deliver balls into the area from a deeper position than his left-sided teammate. Both from open play and dead balls, Alexander-Arnold is among the best crossers in the world – and, at 21 years of age, there will be many more assists to come. The pair also regularly combine with switches of play that have proved an effective tactic when it comes to stretching opposing defences.