- Jesus (31)
- Salah (13 pen)
Manchester City and Liverpool shared the spoils at the Etihad as the two favourites for the 2020/21 Premier League title played out a draw that might have suited both managers. However, although Pep Guardiola will have been desperate not to lose further ground on Jürgen Klopp’s reigning champions after a number of early-season slip-ups, he will have been left the more disappointed of the two managers. Having gone behind to Mo Salah’s penalty following a clumsy foul in the box on Sadio Mané by Kyle Walker, City equalised after a moment of magic from Gabriel Jesus, and then missed a huge chance to go ahead as Kevin De Bruyne sent a spot-kick wide.
“The way they played and the way we behaved in response was incredible,” said Guardiola. “I’m so proud of my players. The difference today was they got a penalty and we missed a penalty.”
“It was an interesting game – a lot of tactical stuff on the pitch,” Klopp said. “Both teams played with an incredible energy level to close the other team down and use the few opportunities. I thought it was a top, top, top game.”
Pep Guardiola set his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, while Liverpool dropped back into a 4-4-2 mid-block when defending, with Roberto Firmino up front alongside Mo Salah. Manchester City managed to penetrate through Liverpool most effectively when Rodri drifted across to the inside channel. Salah and Firmino did a good job of blocking passes into central midfield, but when Rodri moved to the side, he dragged Firmino with him – this opened up a central passing lane for the hosts. Kevin De Bruyne – as the highest central midfielder – also moved wide to stretch Liverpool’s midfield, allowing the centre-backs to look for direct passes to Gabriel Jesus up front, who then tried to set the ball to City’s forward-facing wingers. However, this didn’t work consistently, so City instead tried to build around Liverpool’s block, but found little joy down the flanks.
City’s equalising goal came after they momentarily drew Liverpool out of shape as Sadio Mané moved out to press Rúben Dias – until this point, this had been Firmino’s job. This freed up Kyle Walker, who attacked the space where Mané had previously done a superb job in protecting Andy Robertson, especially after switches of play from City’s left to right. When Georginio Wijnaldum moved across to Walker, he left De Bruyne in space centrally, who fed Jesus to smartly turn and finish. Shortly afterwards, De Bruyne missed a chance to put City in front when he put a penalty wide following a handball by Joe Gomez.
City continued to have most joy with Rodri moving wide of Liverpool’s front two to receive possession, and they looked most dangerous when he was able to find quick passes to the full-backs in high and wide positions. This stretched Liverpool’s midfield and also allowed City’s wingers to move centrally, giving closer support to Jesus, who had at times looked isolated. De Bruyne operated between Liverpool’s double pivot.
Bernardo Silva’s introduction on the right side of midfield to replace Ferran Torres changed City’s approach. He played wide, while Walker worked inside the pitch. On the other flank, João Cancelo continued to overlap Raheem Sterling, who moved inside to work with De Bruyne.
Although the tempo of the game was far lower in the second half compared to the first, City continually managed to progress around the visitors’ narrow midfield unit, with Rodri again key. However, they consistently lacked enough support for Jesus in advanced areas, and Liverpool’s compact defensive block held firm as City were unable to produce any further chances of note.
Sadio Mané moving out of position to press Rúben Dias led to Manchester City’s goal, with Rodri quickly finding Kyle Walker in space on the right flank
City used a 4-4-2 defensive block out of possession, with a deep double pivot blocking access into Liverpool’s forwards
Rodri dropped into a back three to help City build around Liverpool’s first line of pressure, but they struggled to find a route to Raheem Sterling or Ferran Torres, who moved inside after the full-backs pushed up
City tried to maintain a narrow midfield, forcing Liverpool to play around the outside of them, in much the same way that Liverpool defended
Liverpool set up in a 4-2-3-1, but Roberto Firmino, who started as the number 10, pushed beyond number nine Mo Salah as the attackers rotated positions from the outset
Liverpool used a 4-4-2 mid-block out of possession, with the high back line squeezing the space between the lines
With access into the double pivot or attacking midfielders between the lines blocked off, Liverpool were forced into playing mostly unsuccessful long balls in the second half
Liverpool’s wide midfielders were crucial in denying City access back inside the pitch once they had played around the first line of Liverpool’s defence
Jürgen Klopp set Liverpool up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with an attack-minded front four of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Mo Salah. They came up against a Manchester City side in an out-of-possession 4-4-2 mid-block.
Salah was the centre-forward in the team, but he drifted out to the right to make runs across Aymeric Laporte as Liverpool tried to exploit the space in behind City’s defence from the outset. On the other flank, Mané pushed high to run beyond Kyle Walker. Early on, Liverpool played lots of direct balls into the space behind City’s defensive live, quickly signalling their intentions.
As they settled into longer periods of possession, Liverpool’s left side offered more rotation than their right. Georginio Wijnaldum moved into a false full-back position, with Andy Robertson pushing forwards and Mané moving inside to test Kyle Walker. On the right, Trent Alexander-Arnold did not overlap as much, instead looking to put crosses in from deeper positions, while Jota moved inside. With Mané and Jota narrow, Liverpool often had four attackers pushed up against City’s back line of four. Mané moving inside led to him winning the penalty from which Salah put the visitors ahead.
Liverpool dealt well with City’s intermittent high press, with Firmino and Jota key in dropping into positions that offered an out-ball for the defenders. City’s wingers pushed high on to the full-backs, denying Liverpool a route out through Alexander-Arnold or Robertson, and Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus blocked passes into central midfield. Firmino and Jota then looked to receive passes on the outside of City’s double pivot. When this pass found its target, Liverpool’s full-backs overlapped and Mané and Salah moved centrally to attack any deliveries from out wide.
However, Liverpool struggled to find players between the lines and therefore found it difficult to break beyond the City defence, ensuring chances were hard to come by. Even when they played more direct, they rarely won the battle for the second ball, with Rodri and Ilkay Gündogan superbly covering the space in front of the City defence as the game drifted towards the draw that won’t have disappointed either manager too greatly.