The Premier League returned at the weekend with a big top of the table clash, plus bad results for Everton and Manchester United. Here’s what we learned.
The Premier League returned from the international break with a mouthwatering clash between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad. The match was a bit of a disappointment, however, as Sadio Mane was sent off toward the end of the first half. Elsewhere, Manchester United dropped their first points of the season, Everton lost big to a top six side for the second match running and Slaven Bilic bought himself some time, guiding West Ham to a comfortable home win against Huddersfield. Here’s what we learned.
Liverpool paying dearly for failing to address defensive needs
Liverpool’s defense is once again in shambles. Yes, four of the five goals came when the Reds were down a man. However, that’s no excuse for poor man-marking and poor positioning. The first goal embodied all the characteristics of a backline that will compromise any hopes of a title challenge. Ragnar Klavan failed to keep the line alongside the other three defenders and kept Sergio Aguero onside. Joel Matip wasn’t really marking anyone, leaving Aguero with tons of space to run into once Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliant through ball was played.
The second City goal, which essentially sealed the outcome, wasn’t exactly a function of playing a man down. De Bruyne had enough time to turn the ball on his stronger foot, and deliver a cross into the box. Gabriel Jesus was completely unmarked eight yards out in front of the goal for an easy header into the net. Were Jesus to miss the ball, there was another City player (also unmarked) ready to pounce on that cross. That is simply atrocious at any level.
There were serious questions regarding the Liverpool backline, the center-backs in particular, heading into this season. The failure to address these glaring needs is starting to prove costly. Liverpool seem to be getting better at the same facets of the game they were pretty good at: high pressing, forcing turnovers and quick release into space taking advantage of the speed of their forwards. Without a significant improvement in the quality of play of the likes of Matip, Dejan Lovren, Klavan and any other player Jurgen Klopp may use as center-back, the Reds’ aspiration for a title challenge will go up in smoke soon.