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Manchester City expose Liverpool's weak underbelly

Saturday 9th September 2017
In the final game before the international break, Liverpool hammered Arsenal 4-0 to expose the Gunners inability to defend and cope against an incisive attack. Every footballing channel openly mocked Arsenal, ridiculing them for yet again failing to add any players of note to a defence that looked sub-standard last term.

Liverpool, on the other hand, were lauded for their outstanding attacking display with the ball, while when Arsenal had possession, they were seen chasing every pass and touch, looking to put pressure on their opponents and force a mistake. They indeed achieved this and ran out comfortable winners.
This weekend though, Liverpool were handed a similar lesson by Manchester City. Pep Guardiola's side thrashed Jurgen Klopp's men 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium to continue their promising start to the season. In truth, things could have been markedly different had Sadio Mane not received his marching orders in the first-half.

The electric forward was racing onto a lofted through ball but, as he went to take a mid-air touch, he connected with City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes' face, causing a lengthy stoppage and for the goalkeeper to be replaced by Claudio Bravo. While opinion remains divided on what colour the card should have been for Mane, the fact of the matter is Liverpool had to play the entire second-half and then some with 10 men.

While Mane's dismissal will have played a massive role in the defeat, it caused Liverpool to stand-off the ball in more situations and allow City to dominate possession and pick their passes. Against Arsenal, Liverpool didn't have to defend because they kept the ball so well and pressed Arsenal high up the pitch. When the Gunners were able to get forward, their own profligacy in passing and shooting let the Reds off the hook.

In their battle with City, Liverpool's weak defence was exposed in the first-half by Kevin de Bruyne who's perfectly weighted and directed pass cut Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip apart. It was finished with aplomb by the grateful Sergio Aguero who, in truth, was not ever going to miss in a one-on-one with Simon Mignolet.

Indeed, for Gabriel Jesus' second goal, another simple pass between the two centre-halves was played to Aguero, who rolled it into the path of Jesus to tap home.

For Leroy Sane's goal too there was more defensive ineptitude. Klopp put Emre Can between the two centre-halves to create a back three and try to plug that gaping hole between Matip and Klavan. However, a simple pass from de Bruyne between Matip and Can started the move and ended with a fourth.

It does beg the question, how are the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and even Manchester City, who are not solid in defence themselves going to challenge in the Premier League and in Europe? There will be days where injury, international duty or just an off-day will see any of the teams only net once or not at all, with their defence needing to stay firm and air-tight.

What makes last season's champions and runners-up in Chelsea and Tottenham, and Manchester United this year such seemingly unstoppable teams is not just their ability to score, but also their superb defence. While the likes of City and Liverpool will win games and play some truly exquisite football, there will be days in which they must depend on their defences to get them out of a hole. When those days come around, we will see just how much a good defence is worth.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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