Football - FA Premier League - Manchester City FC v Liverpool FC

CONTROL. Control’s fascinating. We’ve fetishised control. I’ve fetishised control. Run a football match and everything will follow. Liverpool today took control. They chose control. A lovely shape in the first half out of possession. Allen and Henderson not just ahead of Gerrard but, out of possession both were ahead of Sterling and Coutinho.

We’ve been here before. Football is massively about choices. The choices made by the managers before and during and the choices made by players during it. They are all good players but they have their choices to make, though they’ll have been educated and programmed during the week.

Liverpool chose control when so often last season they seemed to eschew it in favour of chaos, in favour of tidal waves of red. So often. Southampton away, United away, maybe not. But mostly a noticeable difference. Including in the corresponding fixture last season.

What this does to the contest is turn it less from fencing into something more like sumo wrestling. Two strong forces, waiting for a mistake rather than speed looking to constantly penetrate. (I recognise I have probably just patronised both these sports).

It’s difficult to see many of these players in the context of control. Coutinho, Sturridge and Gerrard all struggled in different senses. Coutinho looked a player shorn of options. Choices limited by choices. Sturridge looked a man imprisoned outside the game, sacrificed at the alter of control. Gerrard’s left not probing, not winning, holding on toast. It doesn’t suit him and out of possession he seemed very much out of sorts. Rushian recently pointed out to me on Twitter Gerrard has started the last two seasons slowly. It may not be a luxury we have. He’s not plugging holes.

Currently to my left I hear talk of small details. I know there is talk of fine margins. Gary Neville at half time “You don’t get many chances in games like this.”

The realm of fine margins is something Liverpool rocketed out of, exploded out of, last season. Fine margins were everyone else’s business. Wide margins were ours.

Prior, tonight felt like a free game to me. It felt like a game which was a bonus if you stop City from winning and the jackpot if you win. What control does is change your mind after 30. Matt next to me said he’d have loved a point before a ball kicked but…, but… And then…

It remains a free game. And there’s no evidence whatsoever that any change in approach would have seen a better result. Or that there aren’t fine margins between these approaches. And so.

Football - FA Premier League - Manchester City FC v Liverpool FC

And so. Moreno is poor for the opener. He’ll learn and otherwise impressed. The second is a goal taking the piss out of the choices we’ve made, everyone in the wrong position bar Johnson who then can’t do what he should perhaps still have a chance of doing. The third’s dreadful from the new signing and worse from the goalkeeper. Lambert should unleash at 3-1 and it is very concerning he doesn’t. The weight of the shirt.

The shirt isn’t heavy. It really isn’t. Last year those lads cut a swathe and the shirt was light. The approach made the shirt lighter. The grey bearded call, the reasonable call for more sanity, for more sense weighs the shirt down. If Liverpool become a sumo wrestler they’ll find themselves against lads bigger, stronger and wiser.

Last season Manchester City were sensible and sane. They accrued more points than anybody else and scored a load of goals in doing it. Liverpool aren’t going to suddenly do it better. I’ve fetishised control. I was wrong. I was wrong.

No backward steps. Seriously. No backward steps.

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