For sheer footballing exhilaration, it is going to be hard for the Premier League to pull out a better match than Liverpool’s 4-3 win over champions-elect Manchester City. The win lifted Liverpool to third in the league and offered City’s local rivals Manchester United the chance to pull within twelve points of the leaders – it may be unlikely to affect the direction of the league title this season, but it has certainly made the league more interesting as teams such as Crystal Palace and now the Reds have shown how Pep Guardiola’s men can be got at.
So what are the four most important things we learned from the showdown at Anfield last Sunday lunchtime?
1. Andrew Robertson is hugely underrated
Pity the Celtic coach who in 2009 decided that Robertson was “too small” to make it at the top of the Scottish game, because while the attention post-game went to Liverpool’s Coutinho-less “Fab Three” – more on that in a bit – the former Dundee United man was in stunning form on the left of Liverpool’s defence.
The rowdy, partisan Liverpool crowd did not give Raheem Sterling a moment’s peace on his return to Merseyside in a City shirt – but to say that their wall of sound unsettled him would do a disservice to Robertson, who did a fine job on Sterling with his pace and determination.
2. Bernardo Silva deserves more playing time for City
When it became clear that Sterling wasn’t going to get any change from Robertson (word has it the left-back even tracked him to his front door and knocked the keys out of his hand as he arrived home), Guardiola sent for Bernardo for the last twenty minutes of the game. With City already 4-1 behind a certain amount of pressure was off, but Silva’s showing, with one goal and a great deal of purpose, was impressive and he should add to his six Premier League starts soon, on this form.
3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may make Liverpool forget Coutinho
With Philippe Coutinho safely delivered to the Nou Camp, Liverpool’s Fab Four became three on Sunday, and Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah all responded by scoring the three goals in ten minutes that took this game to 4-1 and put it beyond City. However, it was Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ninth-minute rocket that indicated the visitors wouldn’t have this game all their own way; while pre-match predictions indicated City were strong favourites, Liverpool’s midfield was forcing them into mistakes from kick-off. While Coutinho can pick a pass, he can’t press like Oxlade-Chamberlain. That might be the missing puzzle piece for the Reds.
4. Liverpool Still Need A Goalkeeper
Maybe it’s playing behind that defence, but Loris Karius’ struggles in the Liverpool goal were reminiscent of the club’s other goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. A commanding keeper in the Manuel Neuer mould would be ideal at Anfield – the club’s 28 goals conceded is by some way the highest in the top four, and too many of them have been down to ‘keeper error. Virgil van Dijk is a good start to tightening the defence, but a truly reliable Number 1 is a must.
It seems a shame to analyse something so beautiful, but even a 4-3 thriller can have a few lessons in it, too.