Jurgen Klopp 1 – Pep Guardiola 0. English football’s curtain-raiser did not disappoint, as Liverpool’s ruthlessness was once again on display. After a tough end to last season, Klopp’s men have started the campaign like they mean business, while on the other side, a revamped Manchester City team were defeated in the foxes’ den. Let’s look at how Liverpool dominated Man City in the 2022 FA Community Shield.
Much of the headlines were on two big-money strikers – Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez. City’s striker made his debut, but Liverpool’s new recruit was left on the bench waiting for his turn. Pep lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with De Bruyne playing behind Haaland. Liverpool, meanwhile, stuck with their usual 4-3-3 with Roberto Firmino as the number 9.
The Reds had a mixed preseason record going into the contest. However, they took part in four games as opposed to City’s two. So, it is fair to say that fitness-wise, Guardiola and Co. were not as ready as Liverpool before the Community Shield game on Saturday.
THE FIRST HALF
Manchester City and Liverpool’s shape in and out of possession
As opposed to wide wingers in the past, Pep decided to invert his wide players and allowed the fullbacks to push high up the pitch. This meant that the two pivots – Rodri and Bernardo Silva dropped deep to facilitate the build-up and create overloads against Liverpool’s forwards.
Off the ball, Liverpool carried their intense pressing with their front three in the early stages. Henderson joined in with the forwards when Bernardo dropped as a pivot. Since Liverpool’s wingers looked to cut off passes to the center-backs, Man City looked to bypass the press by penetrating the wide areas through Cancelo and Walker.
Once Manchester City moved past the first phase, they set up in a 3-1-1-5 with Rodri or Silva usually dropping with the center halves. Grealish and Mahrez were engaged in the half spaces while De Bruyne occupied the spot between the lines, behind the focal point, Haaland. Cancelo and Walker provided the width as they did during City’s 2-2 draw at the Etihad last season.
In the early stages of the game, Liverpool lined up in their usual 4-3-3, with Thiago dropping alongside Fabinho. City, meanwhile, pressed in a 4-4-2 shape as Erling Haaland cut the passing lanes of the center halves and Kevin De Bruyne stayed back, marking Thiago. As a result, Liverpool struggled to build out from the back as the sky blues had it covered both centrally and in the wide areas.
How did Jurgen Klopp change the dynamics to control the game?
After realizing his team’s struggles, Klopp decided to stretch the pitch via his center halves, with Matip almost operating as a right-back. This meant that Van Dijk, who Manchester City were cautious of pressing, had the opportunity to switch the play to his fellow center-back.
Matip, known for his ball carrying, now had the time and space to showcase his skills. Adrian also became more involved in the buildup and Liverpool seamlessly created overloads in the first phase.
To counter this, De Bruyne dropped in on Van Dijk to stop him from switching the play, while Mahrez now had the job of marking Thiago and Grealish looked after the other central midfielder (Henderson). Bernardo Silva was instructed to mark Fabinho, but this now meant that City were narrow and Liverpool’s fullbacks had the space to receive the ball.
Here, when Adrian has the ball, Bernardo Silva blocks the pass to Fabinho; Grealish, meanwhile, has one eye on Matip. The Cameroon international instructs Adrian to use Alexander Arnold, who is in space.
Since Silva is covering Fabinho, Henderson has the space and time to receive the ball from Alexander Arnold. Man City are now all over the place and Salah has the opportunity to run in behind the defence.
Liverpool’s setup in the second phase of the buildup
Once Manchester City got back in shape, Liverpool, just like their rivals, used a 3-2-5 shape but in a slightly different way. Salah and Andrew Robertson provided the width, while Luis Diaz tucked inside to provide space for the willing runner Robertson. Trent, however, was conservative and sprayed passes from deep.
Switches of play were a key part of Klopp’s strategy and his team executed it to perfection. Liverpool targeted Cancelo’s side as Salah ran riot in the first few minutes. Following this, City tried to double up on both sides, but this meant that Thiago had the space to display his wizardry on the ball.
Here, Salah receives the ball from a Thiago switch and since Grealish and Cancelo doubled up on him, Trent now has the time to deliver a cross from the half-space. It almost always leads to one result, but his time Robertson scuffs it wide. A sign of what is coming? Yes.
A few minutes later, Liverpool scored a goal by exploiting Manchester City’s wide areas. This time, Trent switches the play to Diaz, and, once again, City double up to stop the tricky winger. Like clockwork, Thiago was in acres of space.
Well, you can’t expect the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich man to misplace a pass. Unfortunately for Man City, the pattern repeated, only this time Trent decided to take it upon himself and score the goal. Manchester City 0 Liverpool 1, a thoroughly deserved goal for the Reds.
A poor start for Erling Haaland?
After a strong start introduction in the United States, the spotlight was on Haaland, but his debut did not go according to plan. However, the players around him also had a part to play to create chances. It took over 30 minutes for City’s creative department to pick Haaland’s sharp runs in behind.
While Haaland ultimately could have played better, he was poorly serviced vs Liverpool.
That first moment at 2:42 into the match is a classic Haaland run that feels like the perfect opportunity to start the match up 1-0. Just a minute later he’s denied an easy through ball pic.twitter.com/ZyGaEkLZke
— Joe Ricci (@ViewsOfABlue) August 1, 2022
Once they started doing it towards the end of the half, the blues took control of the game and created goal-scoring opportunities. The Norwegian might have failed to convert it on Saturday, but the positions he took would have delighted Pep Guardiola. It will, however, take a few games for this Manchester City team to adapt to Haaland as seen in the Community Shield.
THE SECOND HALF
Mahrez and Grealish particularly struggled in the first half, partly because of their inability to make runs in behind. Man City set up similarly during last season’s engaging 2-2 draw in April and dominated the game to a large extent.
The difference was the combination of wingers (Jesus/Sterling and Foden) who caused havoc to Liverpool’s fullbacks by constantly making runs in behind and dislodging their title rivals’ backline.
But, of course, Pep had something up his sleeve. The introduction of Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez in place of the two wingers made an enormous difference. From the moment they arrived on the pitch, they looked to exploit Liverpool’s high line by taking the place in between the center-backs and the fullbacks to run in behind.
City’s goal sums it up perfectly. Alvarez wins the ball in midfield, and immediately darts in behind Robertson. Liverpool were stretched and now it was Foden’s turn to make a similar run into the box. He misses the chance, but Julian Alvarez gets off the mark by smartly tapping in on the rebound.
Foden and Alvarez linked up well, and it changed the dynamics of the game. Following the goal, De Bruyne was substituted and replaced with Gundogan. Manchester City moved to a 4-4-2 with Alvarez and Haaland upfront and Bernardo Silva moved to the right.
Momentum was swinging the Premier League Champion’s way and Cancelo and Walker started pushing high up the pitch. However, this is where Klopp’s introduction of Darwin Nunez paid dividends, as Liverpool stuck City on the break several times.
Diaz was suddenly released from the shackles of facing Walker and used his pace and trickery to full effect. With Nunez and Salah providing the pace, Liverpool had the advantage of dismantling Manchester City on the break.
Liverpool’s penalty came in a similar fashion. Gundogan’s misplaced pass to Cancelo meant City were caught on the break. Salah, Nunez, and Diaz against Manchester City’s back line were always going to cause mayhem.
The Egyptian’s stunning cross found Liverpool’s new number 9, which ultimately resulted in Mo Salah’s penalty goal. Nunez scored the third to cap off an excellent victory for Liverpool as they celebrated their first Community Shield win in 16 years.
The attention now turns to the Premier League. Liverpool kick off their season against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday as they hope to continue where they left off. Nunez has certainly gained confidence and will be rearing to go.
Manchester City, however, has work cut out. With Marc Cucurella reportedly out of the equation, the City faithful will feel that depth and lack of variety in the squad could harm them as the season progresses.
At the same time, we have seen repeatedly how Pep and his staff find a solution during tough periods. They will start their campaign vs West Ham away from home in what looks like a tasty opening weekend of football.