bbc– I still have Manchester City as favourites to win the Premier League – my only concern is that they are having to work far too hard at times to score.
The level of play they have produced so far this season has not been matched by their goal return – and Sunday’s thrilling 2-2 draw at Liverpool was another example of that.
As good as City were for long periods at Anfield – and they were very good indeed, and looked dangerous – there were times when I thought they were never going to find the net. Those questions over whether they need a striker appeared more prominent than ever.
I know City fans can say ‘hang on, we already scored five against Norwich, and another five against Arsenal’ – but those types of games are not going to define their season.
It is games such as this one and the one in France earlier in the week, where they dominated Paris St-Germain but were unable to score, that show they need a goalscorer in their side.
The question of how much difference a recognised striker would make for City is going to be flung at Pep Guardiola from now until the January transfer window. Unless they sign someone then, it will go on for the rest of the season too.
As good as their big summer signing Jack Grealish is, every time they don’t win a game, people can ask ‘did they really need him, and did they need a striker more?’
Guardiola’s argument can be that they didn’t need a striker to win the Premier League last season, but what he did have then was Ilkay Gundogan’s goals – he was popping up all over the place.
Gundogan got 13 in the league last season, but only has one so far this time and is not fit at the moment. Raheem Sterling is not scoring right now either, so who is replacing all those goals – especially at big moments in the biggest games?
Yes, they came back from behind twice this time, but they should have been out of sight long before Liverpool took the lead.
‘Liverpool have three lethal goalscorers’
The difference between the two teams on Sunday was this: even when Liverpool were being outplayed, I always thought that if they got one chance, they were going to take it.
I expected them to score because of the way Jurgen Klopp’s side are set up in attack. Against City, they had three lethal goalscorers on the pitch in Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota.
Compare that with the front three of Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish that City went with. If you put all their goals together, they are simply not in the same bracket.
Tactically, Guardiola got it spot on with the players he had at his disposal – but they could not find the finish their play deserved, so they didn’t get the win I felt they deserved either.
Liverpool almost snatched all three points right at the end, but I felt they got away with it a little bit even by getting a draw. Everything that could have gone their way did.
They relied on moments of genius from two world-class players – Salah combined with Mane to put them 1-0 up, before scoring that absolutely phenomenal solo goal himself. They were both goals out of nothing, goals out of dreams.
City had the same situation in the Champions League on Tuesday when they absolutely battered Paris St-Germain. I don’t know how they didn’t score in that game, when a bit of genius from Lionel Messi helped make the difference.
This time it was Salah who had a 10-minute spell where he was just unplayable, but before then City had dominated Liverpool, which was really weird to see at Anfield.
I am used to seeing Klopp’s side on the front foot no matter who is in town, but City found a way in the first half to nullify that altogether.
It felt as if Liverpool were trying to play counter-attacking football instead, but I am sure they were actually trying to play their usual style – either way, they couldn’t get out. It was total domination by City.
Why a draw wasn’t a fair result
Liverpool were suffocated and trapped and it felt as if they were sitting ducks. They were very fortunate to get in at 0-0 at half-time and even though they raised their levels after the break, they still lacked belief until Salah stepped up.
That is what Klopp was hoping for – usually he would be sitting there, watching his side in control of the game, but this time he was just relying on Salah or Mane doing something special. He found a way to get them in the game, and that is where Liverpool improved.
I know there will be an argument that a draw was a fair result in the end but I don’t think it was – Liverpool should have had James Milner sent off, which would have changed things completely.
Milner’s first foul on Foden was outside the box, but he didn’t attempt to play the ball so that should have been a red card. Foden didn’t even get the free-kick though.
Then there was another Milner challenge on Foden where he did get booked – as well as the one shortly afterwards where he blatantly took him out but did not get a second yellow card.
I can completely understand why Guardiola was going ballistic on the touchline – it wasn’t just the big moments from their superstars that got Liverpool a result on Sunday, the big decisions helped them too.