Swings and roundabouts
There were a few cats who had got the cream dotted around the Premier League this weekend and a fair few on the receiving end who were left to lap up the sour milk. Nowhere was this juxtaposition played out more vividly than the City of Manchester stadium on Saturday night.
Liverpool’s 4-1 (going on 7-1) dismantling of Manchester City this weekend tested even the good natured Manuel Pellegrini. ‘I am more than angry, it was a complete disaster,’ were the most pertinent words that the Chilean uttered following the defeat, and you can see why. City looked lifeless in the middle of the park as Liverpool tore them apart again and again. What may be more worrying for City fans however, is their manager’s confusion in defeat. ‘It is difficult to understand why we played so poorly,’ he continued before claiming that every single player on the pitch had to take responsibility for the result. It remains to be seen whether this laying down of the gauntlet triggers City into a positive response against Juventus in the Champions League, but many more games like that, where the manager can’t explain the reason for being utterly outplayed, and City fans will begin to become restless. Without a doubt, sometimes there are anomalous games where everything goes wrong for you, but it will be interesting to see how Pellegrini reacts if his charges fall to a similar fate later on in the season.
But, where there is despair, there is also great joy and Jurgen Klopp was laughing his way through the post-match interview and all the way back to Anfield after a highly impressive display of ‘Gegenpressing’ from his Liverpool team. This result, he said, should show that ‘the boys can believe now, that they are stronger than many people think.’ And why not. It is hard to resist the boyish enthusiasm that Klopp brings to the game, allied with a confidence and sharp mind that we are starting to see embodied in his Liverpool team already. This fire was evident when the German was seen to be screaming at his star men Firmino and Emre Can during Saturday’s winhttp://www.football365.com/news/klopp-explains-why-he-shouted-at-firmino-and-can .
Not content with battering the title favourites, Klopp tore a strip off his Brazilian match winner because he was coming too deep and risking the initiative his team had gained through him being a focal point for all attacks. No praising of the ‘honesty of the group’ as his predecessor trotted out come win, lose or draw, Klopp was intent on winning and winning again with every word he said during and after the game. What was telling however, was his comment that he would love to win a game like that at Anfield. As ever, home form will be critical in igniting the city and Klopp will know that facing the likes of a West Brom or a Stoke at home is a very different challenge to going away to City. If Liverpool can follow this victory up with solid home form, then they can start planning for a Champions League return but, as the Premier League has shown us many times this season, winning home games is getting ever more difficult.
While there is no doubt that Jurgen Klopp is bringing great excitement to the league with his swashbuckling style, there have been many fingers pointed at Louis van Gaal and his team throughout the campaign, for doing exactly the opposite with their staid style of football. This criticism was not lost on the Dutchman who crowed ‘We were very good in other games – so good it was boring.’ Call it arrogance or confidence in his methods, the fact that his team are allowing him to make these comments is a sign that Manchester United are starting to regain some of their old swagger.
One team that has most definitely lost that swagger, is Arsenal. In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised with the way they fell against West Brom and more worryingly, neither, it seemed, was Arsene Wenger. The Professor lamented the ‘nightmare’ performance and how Arsenal became too comfortable in the game before being hit by two sucker punches. Those comments were made on November 21st, but you could quite easily package them up for any time over the last ten years. The chances are, they will come out of the traps in the next game and put in a sparkling performance, but you still get the sense that Mr Wenger will be trotting out the same platitudes and lamentations sometime in the not too far distant future.