Dubai: After Manchester City’s 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium yesterday, I think that the gap between the clubs now resembles a chasm.
City’s dominance in the Premier League under Pep Guardiola’s management has been unparalleled, and their main competitor during this period has consistently been Jurgen Klopp’s Reds. They have been successful in unseating City in one title race, as well as inflicting painful defeats on them in the Champions League and FA Cup.
That was then.
They have now fallen well behind City and find themselves in a transitional period and it will take time for them to regain their old authority once again.
While they took an early lead, City quickly bounced back and displayed a magnificent team performance to secure a resounding win. Julian Alvarez, Argentina’s World Cup winner, stepped into the shoes of the injured Erling Haaland and scored a goal while making another.
Guardiola’s tactical switch of pushing John Stones into a more advanced midfield role worked, with the centre back displaying the poise and wisdom of a natural midfielder. At the heart of it all, however, was Jack Grealish, who made Alvarez’s equaliser and scored City’s fourth goal.
Liverpool had no answer. The team appeared downbeat as they made their way off the field at full time, and Klopp seemed dejected in his post-match address.
Their struggles in recent matches against Bournemouth and City, with a Champions League exit to Real Madrid sandwiched in between, are indicative of a once-great team on a downward curve. They require significant changes in multiple areas, as the team displays classic symptoms of decline.
While their interest in Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham has been widely discussed, it is unrealistic to expect the 19-year-old to be the solution to all of Klopp’s problems. Would he even want to move to Anfield right now? I have my doubts.
Liverpool require a significant overhaul at the end of the season as Virgil van Dijk’s vulnerability has become apparent. His old invincibility has gone, while Trent Alexander-Arnold’s flaws at right-back are becoming a concern.
Klopp’s priority is a top-four finish and he will believe he can get three points in their next match against fellow strugglers Chelsea. But the coach has been searching for solutions all season long that he just cannot seem to find. He made five substitutions at the Etihad Stadium before Guardiola even made one. The sight of Mohamed Salah being hauled off with 20 minutes left smacked of surrender.
City’s strength is now greater than ever, and it is evident that the two teams, who have long been each other’s shadows, have drifted far apart.