Such a great game, a real quality Premier league game, fast, open and contested fiercely from the first whistle.
Hoofed forward from kick off and so it began, 90 plus minutes of fast, hectic play, intermittent with great pressing and playing out of the press by both teams. Both used the space presented to them well, City spreading the pitch and creating some good positions to enter the final third, with us dropping in to find the ball in our usual more central areas and hitting the channels early, usually to Mane who I thought was excellent all game.
One area that I hardly ever hear anyone ever praise him for is his ability back to goal. Long balls up to him either stick or create problems with the second ball, the latter I don't think is a coincidence, he contests most long channel balls with good positioning and uses his strength as much a possible whether the pass is aerial or into space to run onto. Thought he ran Clichy ragged, he didn't know where he was half the time, his runs and anticipation to get in behind are top class and if he keeps improving his finishing nothing to stop him hitting 20 next year, with a bit of luck he might even get there this season. Pretty sure he's improved his goals tally from last season already, and bet the assists are similar or better already too. Was good to see him go central when Origi came on, possibly for a tactical reason, to isolate the City LB again with Origi fresh (although we struggled to get him into the game), if anything, I would have liked to have seen a more pronounced switch with Firmino going wide and Mane going in a little earlier when they both had a little more left in the tank give Stones and Clichy something different to worry about.
That said, thought we were great going forward, especially in the final third, created some really dangerous positions, and thought we were good value for a couple of penalties easily. Attacked an utterly exposed Yaya well, couple occasions Can and Mane literally just accelerated past him. I'm all for attacking midfields, but leaving Yaya sitting is asking for trouble with Silva and De Bruyne ahead of him, always a weakness to attack in a crucial area of the pitch.
Still think we need to find that balance with our own midfield, not in terms of the personnel, but in keeping a clearer shape in certain instances, few times City played out of the press and would have expected us to have been deeper and closer as a three, they created good areas from some of those exchanges and I generally thought we defended them well. Still think we can improve our pressing to edge it more towards anticipation rather than reactionary. The work rate is definitely there but what we do at the end of the sprint is just as crucial. If your mind is quick enough you wouldn't have to sprint in some cases.
Maldini managed 180 minutes over two legs vs United a few years ago without making a tackle. Even Ferguson praised him.
It's a toughie though as I do like Gini in his more advanced base position, but always feel more relaxed when being attacked when he is sat a little deeper and closer to either Hendo or Can, as we've seen on a few occasions this season. That said I thought all 3 of the midfield 3 played well, individually they all showcased some great first touches, all had a run with the ball, and was impressed by how many times we almost forced the ball forward.
Decision making. We have improved massively this season. Offensively anyway. No surprise we have scored the most goals and got the greatest spread of goals around the team in the league, our decision making in the final third is why. Massive credit to Klopp, the frequency of times I've said "should have shot/passed" seems to dwindle when we are playing well and on it. Sometimes it's the simple ball, sometimes it requires great accuracy, but we are finding them with a good enough frequency, especially in open games like this one.
Thought the defence played well, and yet we let one in and could have conceded 3 on another day. Couple of instances we could have been closer to winger earlier, esp De Bruyne in the second half when he went out there but actually thought we dealt with the ball in well on a few occasions, just let them get too many opportunities to put it in that really did for us in the end.
Not much to say on Mig, but have a look back at his first few games for us, the difference is crazy. He couldn't distribute the ball, and struggled with crosses (he never came for them). At least now he attacks both to the point he's not causing us too many issues, odd mistake aside but all keepers make em.
Great game, good performance, one I bet everyone involved went away happy, Pep certainly seemed it, I'd say that was his first Prem game where he really felt the pull of the English game and it's frantic, organised craziness.