Football Features

“Klopp is Guardiola’s Kryptonite” – Five things learned as Liverpool smash Man City to go eight points clear

By Ben Green

Published: 18:34, 10 November 2019

Liverpool have strengthened their grip at the top of the Premier League table after humbling Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield.

The Reds raced into a two-goal lead thanks to a wondrous Fabinho strike and timely Mohamed Salah header, before Sadio Mane made it three just after the restart.

Man City did manage to claw a goal back through a well-wrought Bernardo Silva volley, but the Merseysiders held out for three valuable points.

Jurgen Klopp’s side now have an eight-point cushion at the summit of the Premier League table. So what did we learn from this blockbuster bout?

1. Fabinho stamps his authority 

Klopp decided to keep Fabinho on ice for the last-gasp Aston Villa victory, with the Brazilian just one yellow card away from suspension, and that decision – despite Liverpool’s dip in performance, has been well and truly vindicated this afternoon, as the majestic metronome once again proved just how important he has become for this Anfield side.

Salah and Virgil van Dijk will often steal the Merseyside headlines, but this season Fabinho has arguably supplanted the duo as Liverpool’s fulcrum. His tempo-setting exploits have revolutionised Klopp’s midfield, bringing an elegance as well as an aura of authority, but more recently, he has been refining his end product in the final third.

Against Tottenham Hotspur, Fabinho came up with the goods as Liverpool went searching for the win. He collected the ball in-field before unleashing a trademark, defence-splitting pass to tee up Jordan Henderson. And this week, he has showcased another element to his game, executing a thunderous strike to break the deadlock.

His repertoire of skills makes him one of the most multifunctional players in world football at the minute, prompting Jamie Carragher to proclaim that: “He has taken Fernandinho’s mantle as the best holding midfielder.”

On recent evidence it is hard to argue against that statement.

2. Klopp has instilled a champion’s mentality  

Before kick-off Klopp called on his players to be “brave” against the reigning champions. Not only were Liverpool brave, but they attacked Man City’s backline with an arrogance and bravado that best epitomises the German’s Rock n’ Roll football, capitalising on Guardiola’s shortcomings in defence.

Yes, Man City started brightly and had plenty of the ball, but that didn’t seem to bother Klopp’s side in the slightest. They have proven time and again that they can exploit Man City’s defence, and that was the story of this game. The Reds refused to rest on their laurels like last season’s tame 0-0 stalemate, instead bringing the game to Man City, and that is exactly why Liverpool have been so successful this season: a shift to a champion’s mentality.

Last week they refused to yield against the Villans, pushing bodies forward in search of a late equaliser, and then, eventual winner. The age-old adage often goes that champions win games even when not at their best, and that was certainly the case a week ago. Without talisman Fabinho, Liverpool got the job done at Villa Park.

Before that, in the win against Spurs, Liverpool went a goal down but didn’t panic. There was an assurance and composure in their play, despite being a goal down. There was no desperation or anxiety, Liverpool simply stuck to their style, believed in the system and ultimately secured three points. No longer are single points enough, Guardiola has set the bar at such an unprecedented level that only consistent wins can see Liverpool clinch a first ever Premier League title.

And that is another win for Klopp over Guardiola, making him the Catalonian’s true Kryptonite.

3. Guardiola desperate for Laporte return

The Catalan coach has been forced to deploy both Fernandinho and Rodri at the back in recent games, and even when he’s had Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones fit and available, they’ve scarcely taken to the field together. Without Aymeric Laporte and former skipper Vincent Kompany, Guardiola’s backline has looked leaky and fragile at times, with the former not expected to return until February.

Those losses have left a mammoth void in the heart of Man City’s defence, and against a front three as electric and venomous as Liverpool’s, those deficiencies were laid bare as Klopp’s juggernaut ran through them like a hot knife through butter.

The line-up would have done little to evoke an initial sense of belief for the traveling City fans; the makeshift backline contained an assortment of benchwarmers, a midfielder and Kyle Walker. Man City were simply there for the taking, and well, Klopp certainly filled his boots.

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4. Aguero’s Anfield nightmare continues

There are few grounds that haven’t experienced the utter goalscoring devastation of Sergio Aguero, but Anfield remains unscathed. The Merseyside stadium continues to haunt the Argentinian marksman, whose Anfield duck remains intact.

There was a time midway through the second-half when Aguero looked nailed on to find the back of the net, but he somehow failed to meet Kevin De Bruyne’s weighted pass, and that pretty much summed up his experience of Anfield.

He is truly one of the greatest strikers to have ever graced the Premier League, but at the one ground Guardiola needs his star man to step up and provide the goods, he has consistently come up short – not one of his 173 Premier League goals has come at the home of Liverpool.

And so, his 250th Premier League appearance ultimately ended prematurely and without reward, with Guardiola substituting him in the 70th minute, making it an incredible 601 minutes at Anfield without a goal for Aguero.

5. City now in a fight for second

It looks very unlikely that Liverpool will let slip the eight-point chasm that they have created between themselves and second which, incredibly, is now occupied by Leicester City. Such has been the familiar duopoly of Liverpool and Man City in the Premier League, that it’s almost unnerving to see Guardiola’s side now sitting in fourth.

But that is now the current complexion of Guardiola’s situation, and given recent slip-ups – against Norwich City and Wolves – it isn’t unimaginable to envisage Man City battling it out with the likes of Leicester and Chelsea for the runners-up spot.

Of course, Man City have more than enough in the locker to still push Liverpool all the way, and with the uncertainty of the congested Christmas schedule, anything can still happen, but there have been one or two discernible chinks in Man City’s armour this season, while Liverpool look more threatening, more resolute and more formidable than they have ever looked.

Man City’s clash against Chelsea after the international break is looking tastier and tastier by the game.