Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool travelled to Manchester City in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…
What a point. What a game.
The point: The aim was not to lose. But in not losing not to lose ourselves. There is something to be said for fighting for your lives against Manchester City but something more to be said for doing that and also keeping your identity as a team. Liverpool looked after the ball well for long stretches and got in behind City well enough.
They had chances to create better chances, moments where they could and should find more but they got themselves up the pitch well throughout the game. They continually played.
The game: I worry – as I get older – I like the game too much. But the truth is I love footballers too much. I think they are incredible. I think the calm they play with is a sight to behold. Playing across your own penalty area with so much on the line and a man breathing down your neck like you are in the park. No one panics. This is mostly good. Mostly.
It is breathtaking to watch Manchester City at times, the keeper arrowing balls 40 yards trusting the touch of the players he hits it to. That player makes a flick, the next a header, one more around the corner and suddenly someone is on the halfway with space and time.
But Liverpool were able to do their own variant of that, Joel Matip justifying his selection over Ibou Konate for precisely that reason; he had an excellent first hour. You have to look after it, find space and find time. You have to ask questions. And you have to keep it.
The first half is the highest standard of contest imaginable. City edge it with the goal but ultimately they also sense danger that tiny bit better too. Their goal and the ones we fail to score show that. For theirs Ake does brilliantly after the mishit kick from Alisson Becker but no Liverpool player panics. This is the mostly from above. The fact is the building is on fire and someone needs to do something.
When Liverpool get into the City area and Ederson makes an error later on, every City player senses danger. They smother like a fire blanket and the danger is snuffed out. Kyle Walker could well be the best natural defender these Isles have produced in 10 years. He’s so quick, so good in the air and on it at all times.
Getting in at 1-0 is OK. Liverpool actually show real strength the 10 minutes after conceding. No recriminations, no blame, no regrets. This is the sort of thing you build a title challenge on. Because make no mistake we can win this fucking league you know.
It is Alexis MacAllister’s best Liverpool performance so far. He is where the action is for much of the time. His duel with Julián Álvarez is excellent. MacAllister shades it and keeps Liverpool playing.
Both Dominic Szoboszlai and Curtis Jones would have liked to have impacted the game more higher up the pitch. Curtis just looks after it but perhaps does a little too much of that when he could move it quicker. But his job is his job. It will remain thankless.
Mo Salah stays involved and sets up Trent Alexander-Arnold for his goal. His goal caps a performance full of sense and determination. He is part of understanding what the game is. The game: these are really good. You have to hang in. Jeremy Doku is the essence of that. He is so hard to play against. It isn’t as simple as “win your battle”. You can draw your battle as well.
You can draw. And drawing is occasionally good.
I’m tired that every Darwin Nuñez game becomes solely about him. He plays perfectly well without it coming alive for him.
The same can be said of Diogo Jota who was full of sense but no inspiration and Luis Diaz when he came on. It’s a strange thing really that
I like the game too much, like Guardiola too much but say what you want I love whatever Nuñez has done there to rattle him. I want him up nights thinking about Darwin, thinking about Liverpool. I want him to know this:
Liverpool can win this fucking league you know.
Jurgen’s reaction was splendid to the mini kick off on the side line. “Listen, we’ve all had a good day. It’s been a lovely time.”
And it had. It has. It has been a day to love football and footballers. To gasp at what the game has become. But a day which is another building block to buttress the greatest sentence in football, the best thing you can say watching a Liverpool team, joy rediscovered, an awfully big adventure lined up:
We can win this fucking league you know.
There is a massive pair of aways coming up at Bramall Lane and Selhurst Park. They are the only building block remaining. The last question unanswered.
For today there is a Liverpool open; a city to enjoy and delight in. Possibilities endless because 16 players went to Manchester and showed courage and focus and care. Care for each other, for the plan, for the idea, for the urge, for the collective ambition.
Liverpool have gone to Manchester City. It is out the way, done, like Chelsea, Newcastle, Wolves, Tottenham and Brighton and we can look at the league table and say this:
We can win this fucking league you know.