Nothing captures the essence of Manchester City against Liverpool better than the image of Diogo Jota launching himself to try and intercept Ederson’s pass along his own goal line to Aymeric Laporte.
In this extraordinary moment, with Ederson seemingly unfazed by the ball rolling into the net and Jota charging in, you see the contrast in styles and also why each team is the other’s Kryptonite. City’s nervous passing and control are just the kind of football to defeat Liverpool, as they demonstrated in a brilliant first half; and Liverpool’s relentless pressing is the only way to seriously threaten City. Rewind a few seconds before Ederson’s apparent escape and the point is underlined. Kyle Walker had been closed by Thiago Alcantara and Jota had gotten close to Rodri, leaving Walker with no choice but to play back against Ederson.
The Brazilian’s touch was poor as he stumbled when his foot caught the turf but it would have meant nothing if Jota hadn’t been so high up on the pitch and pushed him in the first place. Apart from Liverpool, no other team would have committed to it. No team would have been brave enough or had that belief.
Jota’s expression as he charged Ederson down was one of determination as he stretched every tendon to try to put the ball in the net. It was maximum effort.
And yet it was just as striking how imperturbable Ederson remained. He didn’t try to pull the ball back and control it so he could dribble past Jota or try to scoot it away. Instead, Ederson passed the ball down the goal line to Laporte, who had bounced back, so he could take it and let the game circulate.
It was a moment of apparent chaos that was taken care of, but it’s no coincidence. Indeed, under Pep Guardiola, City are specifically working on such moments. It’s a tactic practiced time and time again, as revealed by John Stones after a previous meeting between the sides, when he first noticed how much he, Laporte and Ederson were spending trying to get the ball not just inside their own penalty area, but also to fit in the six. yard box.
“It’s not typical English football, is it?” Stones said in 2018. “It was meant to attract the press and create more space for the other guys. I don’t think we could do that with any other manager and how he trains us in it. It’s up to him and his ideas.”
There is no Chaos Theory in Pep World, or so it seems. And yet Liverpool came so close to upsetting him. They were overwhelmed at Anfield in the first half but it ended in a 2-2 draw. And they were overwhelmed in the first half at the Etihad but it ended in a 2-2 draw.
There are two ways to get a result against City: defend low and counter or defend high and counter. Liverpool always do the latter and it helps that they no longer rely on a front three to run the press.
They now have a front five that can be rotated so with Jota and Sadio Mane hoops they can be replaced by Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino. It’s no coincidence that Liverpool’s two striker signings, Jota and Diaz, have been dubbed ‘pressing monsters’ by Jurgen Klopp’s assistant Pep Lijnders.
City also pressed brilliantly and achieved a high of the season with 181 sprints on Sunday. All of this confirmed that they and Liverpool are not only the top two teams in the Premier League, but also the hardest working. That is non-negotiable for Guardiola and Klopp and any slacking of pace or sign of fatigue means the player will be withdrawn.
All of which goes to show why this incident involving Ederson and Jota encapsulates what both teams are about. It shows their identity and beliefs and highlights the tiny borders between them.
Like the ball rolling down the city goal line, this title race is just a blade of grass away from turning to one team or the other. City still have the upper hand, but it will leave us in the dark until the last moment.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/title-race-is-like-that-ball-trundling-along-goal-line-a-blade-of-grass-away-from-tilting-one-way-or-the-other-41544076.html The title race is like that ball rolling across the goal line a blade of grass from leaning one way or the other