As said at the time, out of the two games I would rather have got the win at Wembley than in the league, but the sheer manner of the defeat last night was extremely hard to take. I don’t claim to be a manager, not a pundit, just a simple hard working and loyal fan, yet days ago I made reference to the fact that Liverpool would need no added motivation for the league fixture, just 3 days after coming unstuck against us in the League Cup final. Yet last night, a response seemed to be the last thing City expected as they began in a lethargic and downright cumbersome manner. Despite Liverpool harassing them at every single opportunity, players continued to dwell on the ball, hold on to possession a fraction too long or just offer zero in the way of movement for their colleagues. To say they looked shell-shocked by the energy from Liverpool is an understatement. The manager, in his wisdom, tried to blame tiredness, but this is a team who have technically had a day more rest than the opposition (who were also pushed for 120 minutes at the weekend, let’s not forget). The truth is, they lacked any real courage nor desire to take the fight to Liverpool, who were clearly up for the battle.
Too often we look for an excuse, a reason, and when that fails we fall back on “typical City”, the ability we possess to shoot ourselves in the foot at any given moment, hell it’s in our DNA. But last night the reason was clear to see, the players lacked any motivation. Whether that is down to them or the management team is open to debate, but either way it is not good enough, not for a team who claim to be still pushing for the title. Actions speak louder than words, and FA cup aside when we rested the core of our team, the effort being shown in the Cup/Champions’ League has been absent in the league. A complete failure to take points from any of the teams around us is not acceptable. It is almost comical in fact that we are even within any sort of touching distance of the title given our record against the top half. Pathetic springs to mind. All this serves to do is highlight our fallibilities. This season we have seen Chelsea fail to defend the title in spectacular fashion, and sack their manager as a result. Truth be told, we are in all too similar form to that which saw the end of Mourinho, and Chelsea have been far better than us since the change of personnel. By and large, except from the always critical few in the media no matter our success, we have avoided any real criticism locally due to the lacklustre events on show down the road, but they are now level with us. Sure, we’ve got a new manager coming in, and many want to use that as an excuse, but form was woeful before the announcement regarding Pep, and several of these players are supposedly now playing for their futures at the club, and on recent performances, they simply don’t have one.
Back to last night. Even with the woeful start we were holding our own until we handed Liverpool a goal from nothing. The manager came under fire from all angles last week as he stuck to his guns to replace fan favourite Joe Hart with Willy Caballero for the final. His decision was wholly justified when Willy Caballero was the undoubted hero in the penalty shoot-out. Last night saw the return of our Joe against the same opposition, and yet somehow the normally reliable keeper found himself beaten way too easily from distance. The shot from Lallana lacked any real power or conviction, but Hart was nowhere near saving it. “Typical City”, you say. We looked to offer some response after going behind, but after a little spurt of possession play, in which we once again appeared to attempt to walk it into the net rather than test their keeper from any distance, we were once again undone way too easily for the second. Milner was allowed to roam to the edge of the box completely unmarked, and a smart first touch gave him the time and space to slot the ball past Hart, with the defence in no mans land. Much was made of his celebration against the club he represented last season, but personally I don’t care if he celebrates or not. He made his choice to move on, let him get on with it. Liverpool fans themselves are a lesson in just how embarrassing holding on to a grudge against a former player can be.
Sterling, subject of the aforementioned panto fans, was hauled off at half-time, not the greatest piece of man management, and a tad harsh when he was one of the few players at least trying to offer some form of outlet and after a shaky start was beginning to make some progress (even if the fans were on his back). In spite of being overrun in midfield, Pellegrini made the bizarre decision to sacrifice the work rate and width offered by Sterling for another striker in Wilfred Bony. In trying to guess his motive, you could argue that he was hoping Bony could hold the ball up and bring others into play, but if that were his aim he should have made himself clearer in getting it across to the players, who continued to play in the same laboured manner as in the first 45, making Bony largely pedestrian and the midfield even more outnumbered. And when yet another member of the now almost defunct midfield engine room, Fernandinho, was brought off for more firepower, amid much head scratching from the City faithful, there was little surprise when they conceded the third to Firmino. With three attackers now on the pitch, you feel we should have at least offered some threat to the Liverpool back line, but it was not to be. In fact, when Kolo Touré was seen to outpace Sergio Agüero and clear the ball with relative ease, it kind of summed up the evening.
After the game, Pellegrini was seen to wheel out the excuses, while the usual suspects took to social media to offer new motivational tweets in the aftermath. If they had shown anything like the same level of commitment on the pitch as they do to Twitter, then the outcome may not have been so horrific. I fully expected us to lose this game, a mixture between our lack of any real form at Anfield and the added motivation Liverpool had to beat us coming into the game, but few could have predicted the manner in which we fell. In a week when Spurs & Arsenal both lost, and Leicester also dropped points, we have managed to both go backwards and also do some harm to our usually impressive goal difference. Next up for the side is Aston Villa at the Etihad. While not being a fortress this season, we have still been rather formidable at home, but for a few blips along the way, most recently against Leicester City & Spurs, and we will need to return to winning ways and another impressive performance to put last night to bed. Villa somehow managed to grab a point in the reverse fixture at Villa Park, but have been in a steady state of decline since, including a 4-0 mauling from us in the FA Cup back in January, and it would take a brave man to predict anything but a return to winning ways for City on Saturday, but as we’ve seen this season, anything is possible.Share this: