Player ratings: Man City 2-1 Liverpool

Our first game of 2019 was also our first loss of the current campaign in what was a thrilling if somewhat frustrating night at the Etihad. Let’s see how the lads got on.

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Alisson (7.5) - Some nervy moments at the start with his kicking. Often invites pressure on himself by taking too long. Other than that however, another solid display from Alisson, not much he could have done about either goal and dealt superbly with a one on one situation with Aguero near the end of the game, which would have finished the game as a contest.

TAA (7) - Showed the inconsistencies of youth last night. Played a brilliant cross field ball to Robbo in the build up to the goal and made some good forward runs but was caught out of position a number of times and the quality of his passing was sporadic at best. Doesn’t look out of place at this level though.

Lovren (3) - Awful display for pretty much the entire 90 minutes. Couldn’t get near Sane all night as the City forward breezed past him far too easily, time and again and it was no surprise that’s where the winning goal came from. At fault for the first as he allowed Aguero to both cut in front of him and get his shot away. Nervous, rash and low on quality - everything you don’t want in a CB. Worst player on the pitch by a country mile.

Van Dijk (8.5) - The polar opposite of Lovren, Virgil put in another superb display, full of quality and composure. He was everywhere last night and dealt well with the threat of Aguero for most of the night. Made a brilliant block to deny David Silva in a dangerous situation. How Van Dijk isn’t captain of this team, I’ll never know.

Robertson (8.5) - Another fine display from Robbo. Won almost every single one of his individual duels with Sterling and got an assist with a lovely cushioned ball across to Firmino. Couple of misplaced passes aside, another excellent display. It’s no surprise both City’s goals came through the right hand side of our defence as Van Dijk and Robbo on the left side are as good as anyone in the world right now.

Henderson (6.5) - Did some good work defensively and put in a reasonable display but for me, it’s always the same with Hendo, especially against quality opposition and that is a severe lack of technique. Whenever I see Hendo shaping to shoot, attempt a final ball or cross, I have no faith it will find its target and the relentless backward and sideways passes drive me nuts. Does his best but will surely become more and more of a squad player as our new midfielders begin to settle in more.

Milner (6) - Just back from injury and struggled to get to grips with the pace of the game. Tried hard but couldn’t really influence proceedings. Understandably subbed.

Wijnaldum (7) - Our most consistent midfielder this season put in another solid display. Really does shield the ball as well as anyone and is very rarely wasteful in posession. Just lacks a little ambition with his play at times. As the most technically gifted of the three starting midfielders, I wish he’d take on a little more attacking responsibility.

Salah (6.5) - Struggled to get involved for large parts of the game but was fairly starved of service, particularly in the first half. God only knows how the ball didn’t go in off Salah after Mane hit the post, I doubt you could replicate what happened there if you were trying to. Continues to be far too easy to dispossess though, it’s really an area of his game he needs to work on.

Firmino (7.5) - Worked tirelessly all night defensively and was rewarded for his hard work with a goal. Like Salah, struggles to impact the game in the first half due to a lack of service from midfield but boy does our Bobby put a shift in. Justifies his place in the team through workrate alone.

Mane (6) - Sorry but in games of this magnitude, you have to bury chances like that. A bit unlucky hitting the post but you simply have to score chances like that away at City or guess what? You’ll lose the match. Sporadic finishing continues to be Mane’s Achilles heel in my opinion. Other than that, did the defensive side of things well.

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Fabinho (8) - The introduction of Fabinho changed the game, as he made a massive difference to our midfield. Wins back possession brilliantly and always looks to pass the ball forward. Accurately I might add. Should have started in my opinion.

Shaqiri (5) - A little harsh but he was on the pitch for a while and I can’t remember him doing anything particularly good. Sat far too deep considering we were chasing the game and tried a cross field pass that was nothing short of comical.

Sturridge (N/A) - Did he even get a touch?

Klopp-watch (6) - Klopp could point to the 11mm of the ball that didn’t cross the line or the Kompany challenge that could have been a red as a case for his team selection and he would have a point however I think he failed with his midfield selection last night and worse, repeated a mistake that has already been made this season. When those three midfielders start together, the idea of us being more solid is massively outweighed by how much they blunten our attacking play, therefore encouraging the opposition. Kudos to him however for assembling a very talented and extremely well drilled team.

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So an unwelcome, if perhaps not unexpected result. When you travel away to arguably the best team in the world and they have to win and you don’t, it’s always going to be difficult. They threw the kitchen sink at us and in the end, we were a little unlucky not to come away with a draw. On another night, they go 1-0 down early and then Kompany gets sent off and that, as they say, would have been that.

I do wish we’d been a little more ambitious in the first half though. We’ve looked by far at our best this season playing 4-2-3-1 with Gini and Fabinho as the double pivot. I could understand perhaps playing Keita or Milner instead of Shaq, if you wanted more defensive running but playing that formation is when we have looked at our best this season and I don’t think we should have changed it.

Anyway, we still have a four point lead, which we’d have all been delirious with at this stage of the season, if offered it before a ball was kicked. In some ways too, I think it might actually help to get rid of the ‘invincibles’ tag. That would only have created more pressure in the final ten games.

On to the FA Cup now, with Wolves our opponent on Monday night. Personally, I would rotate the entire team. I know people talk about winning that first trophy and kicking on and that’s all well and good but we have never been better placed to win the Premier League. It’s been a monkey on our back during the entire Premier League era and personally, I would majorly prioritise the league over the FA cup and Champions League. As a club, winning the Premier league would provide such a lift and could well lay the foundations for a successful next decade.

So, balls to the FA cup, play the kids and the squad players.  If there’s any left that haven’t joined Bournemouth that is... Walk on troops.
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