Liverpool FC’s struggles highlight brilliance of Pep Guardiola rebuild at Man City
Manchester City have started the season well while rivals Liverpool were battered 4-0 by Napoli in the Champions League.
Manchester City haven’t had the greatest start to the season but they are in dreamland compared to their great rivals Liverpool.
Yes, City may have been held to a couple of draws and been given some scares by teams they should be handily beating but they do remain undefeated in all competitions. Their Champions League campaign got off to a perfect start this week as they handled a potentially tricky trip to Sevilla with ease, winning 4-0. With Borussia Dortmund at home and a double-header against FC Copenhagen to come, the Blues already have one foot in the knockout stages.
A short trip along the M62 and things are nowhere near as rosy. Liverpool have lost just four games in 2022 but two of them have come this season already. They’re currently sat down in seventh place in the Premier League, they have lost to a Manchester United side that was on the verge of crisis, been held to draws by Fulham, Crystal Palace and Everton and have only managed to defeat Bournemouth and Newcastle.
Then things got even worse for Jurgen Klopp on Wednesday when he watched on helplessly as his side were torn asunder by Napoli in their opening Champions League group game. The Reds finished runners-up in May but you wouldn’t be able to tell as the Serie A side cut through them at will and went four goals ahead after just 46 minutes.
Liverpool’s financial advantage means they will still likely make it out of their group but it’s by no means a given with Ajax also getting off to a resounding start and Rangers offering a possibly difficult couple of games as well. It’s certainly been a sobering start for the Merseysiders.
It’s not just the results that are so worrying but the manner of the performances. While Klopp is contending with a severe number of injuries that would impact any side in the world, he still has loads of quality players at his disposal and the majority of them look shot. There appears to be a lack of confidence and, crucially, a troublingly high level of fatigue.
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That’s not surprising considering how intense Klopp’s football is. His teams run further, harder and faster than any other in the league and that is bound to take its toll, especially when all that ferocious energy is being spent trying to catch City and it hasn’t been enough. There’s going to be burnout and that’s when change has to come but there’s been very little of it at Anfield.
Liverpool have tried to rejuvenate things a bit in the last six months, Luis Diaz came in to preemptively replace Sadio Mane (what a loss he has proven to be) and Darwin Nunez arrived in the summer but it is nowhere near enough. The squad has hardly changed and now it’s coming towards the end of its cycle. It’s getting old.
Midfield especially has proven to be a big problem due to injuries which have meant 36-year-old James Milner has played in every game so far this season. At the other end of the scale, youngsters Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho are now being called upon as well and while they are extremely talented it’s a lot of weight to be placed on tender shoulders. There’s no middle ground at the moment, which shows how awry Liverpool’s recruitment has gone.
For so long they have been flawless in the market but this summer it was clear that significant reinforcements were needed in the middle of the park and they weren’t made. Klopp needed investment to continue improving his side but he hasn’t got it and it’s proving costly so far.
Liverpool’s early troubles are in stark contrast to City, who did look to rebuild and refresh this summer even though the need to was nowhere near as great. But Pep Guardiola took steps to shake up his squad before any rot set in. Like Klopp, Guardiola’s coaching and football are extremely demanding and it’s understandable that players can grow tired of it.
In order to prevent that and to keep the squad hungry for success, four key players who have played important roles during his reign all left and fresh blood was brought in. City might not be firing on cylinders quite yet but it doesn’t seem far away. They are heading in the right direction and look completely future-proof. Their proactiveness has likely sealed their domination in England for years to come.
A rebuild is no easy task, only a few of the best managers in the history of the game have managed to do it. Even Guardiola himself had never done so before this summer and things could have gone wrong. Maybe, though it’s difficult to see, they still could. But for now, the widely varying fortunes of City and Liverpool have shown just how good a job Guardiola has done.