Liverpool’s recent jitters meant they were there for the taking by Manchester City on Sunday, but the unusually conservative champions missed a trick, falling further behind Premier League leaders Arsenal who must be taken seriously as title contenders.
Last season, two breathless 2-2 draws between Liverpool and Manchester City showcased the best of what the Premier League had to offer – two brilliant teams at the peak of their powers – but this term, the new-found rivals have enjoyed differing form.
While champions City, chasing a fifth league title in six seasons, travelled to Anfield unbeaten, having plundered 33 goals in nine league games at the start of the new campaign, Liverpool trailed in their wake.
A worst start to a league season after eight games since 2012-13, when Liverpool went on to finish seventh, meant City will have fancied their chances of earning a first win over the Reds in five matches in all competitions.
Confidence would have been sky high with Erling Haaland gunning for his 21st goal in a remarkable debut season so far in England, up against an injury-ravaged Liverpool backline, who had 36-year-old midfielder James Milner at full back.
But, the champions could not get going at Anfield, restricted to half chances in the first half, with an unusually reserved formation from coach Pep Guardiola curbing their flow.
Liverpool looked nervy in possession, giving the ball away with regularity, but a normally ruthless City could not capitalise.
After they were denied an opener in the second half by VAR, they never really threatened the Liverpool goal, and there was only going to be one winner, with Mohamed Salah’s fine solo effort making all the difference.
A goal you’ll enjoy watching on repeat 🤩
Here’s every angle of Mo Salah’s magnificent winner against Man City, presented by @Sonos 📹 pic.twitter.com/QerOQh8gwz
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 17, 2022
It was more frustration against Juergen Klopp for Guardiola. The Spaniard has lost 11 matches against the German as a manager, at least four more defeats than against any other coach.
“Many years we come here and we lost because we made a mistake and played one of the best teams in the world,” Guardiola says.
A word from the boss.
🔴 1-0 🐝 #ManCity pic.twitter.com/tlWZDJaMfc
— Manchester City (@ManCity) October 16, 2022
“At that level, we cannot concede the mistakes. It is October, so we must learn.”
Not just in terms of points, City could have really taken a position of superiority in this new-found rivalry with victory, but instead allowed Liverpool to get the win they need to galvanise their stuttering campaign.
The other big winners from City’s Anfield lapse were Arsenal. Nobody tipped Mikel Arteta’s side to be serious title contenders this season, not after finishing no higher than fifth in the standings in each of the last six campaigns.
Their impressive early season form was put down to new signings making an instant impact, but few predicted it would last.