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What Liverpool can learn from Manchester City after failed title defense

Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League
Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League
Thomas Price
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 08 Feb 2021
Feature

What a difference 12 months can make in football.

This time last year, Liverpool were cruising to their first league title in 30 years and had left Manchester City miles behind, licking their wounds after back-to-back titles.

Fast forward a year and Manchester City have now left Liverpool's title defense in tatters.

City's 4-1 mauling of Jurgen Klopp's limping Reds has left them 10 points ahead of Liverpool and opened up a five-point lead over local rivals Manchester United with a game in hand.

If there's no dramatic collapse, Manchester City will be crowned Premier League champions come the end of the season.

It's not been smooth sailing for City either, especially following a faultering start to the season.

But their perseverance has ultimately helped them find some rhythm and ensured that they are now best-placed to secure the league title.

Not so long ago, Liverpool appeared a dead cert to defend their Premier League title as they opened up a three-point lead at the top of the table back in December with a 2-1 victory over Jose Mourinho's Spurs.

A late <a href=Roberto Firmino header fired Liverpool 3 points clear in December" height="450" width="800" />
A late Roberto Firmino header fired Liverpool 3 points clear in December

However, excluding the 7-0 thumping of Crystal Palace that followed the victory over Spurs, Liverpool have been below par and their title defense has slipped away from their grasp.

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There are plenty of different explanations for Liverpool's collapse: the number of injuries, the workload, and even mental fatigue.

However the failure to win at home against lowly placed sides: West Brom, Burnley and Brighton are results that have stung particularly.

But it is the 4-1 humbling they received from Man City that has destroyed any hope of a title defense.

The defeat has certainly served as a reality check to where Liverpool are at the moment and the attention now shifts to securing top four and a good run in the Champions League.

But some self reflection will be required if they are to improve from this point on and they should look no further than Manchester City for a blueprint.

Lessons to be learned from City response

In the 2018/19 season, Manchester City became only the third club to ever defend the Premier League title and the first since Sir Alex Ferguson's Man United in 2008/09.

Last season Manchester City ammassed 81 points but finished 18 points behind Liverpool. Pep Guardioala didn't panic as he knew he still had a world-class crop of players.

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Instead, he assessed his side's weaknesses and acted upon it.

The £65m signing of Ruben Dias has turned out to be a shrewd piece of business and his impact has been immense.

It was a relatively quiet summer by Pep Guardiola's standards, acknowledging that his squad still had the quality to bounce back and challenge for the league title again.

The calm within Guardiola's response is one Liverpool will need to replicate if they are to bounce back next season.

Overhaul or refresh?

There will be plenty of calls for Jurgen Klopp to completely overhaul his squad. To some extent this is understandable.

The limited impact of players on the fringes such as Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi would suggest to a certain extent that Liverpool at least need better options from the bench.

However, a complete overhaul would be quite dramatic and arguably an overeaction.

It's more likely a reset and a refresh that Liverpool need rather that a complete overhaul.

What Next for Jurgen Klopp?
What Next for Jurgen Klopp?
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What do Liverpool need to bounce back?

First and foremost, the obvious is having their best defenders back. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have been sorely missed - as they would be in any team, and the absense of Joel Matip will be felt in the upcoming weeks.

A fully fit squad will be the first thing on Jurgen Klopp's summer wishlist.

The impending departure of Gini Wijnaldum means that Liverpool will need to replace a player who has been a stalwart in the midfield for the duration of their sucess in the last few years. But with his replacement could come a shift in style.

Despite the lack of defenders this season, it has been Liverpool's creative output that has been damaged most, suggesting perhaps that the Reds could do with a shift from the pragmatism in the current midfield.

Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino's alarming drop in form could suggest that Liverpool are in need of an out and out striker and with rumours of a certain Kylian Mbappe being available in the summer it could be an avenue the Reds pursue in order to respond to what has been a poor title defense.

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Conclusions

Defending the title was never going to be an easy task for Liverpool, given that so few have been successful at winning back to back titles in recent years.

However, they will be disappointed with how quickly they are out of the title race, even with their crippling injuries.

The response to the setbacks of this season will determine the trajectory of the club's future, but given the quality of players within Jurgen Klopp's squad, they will be back.

Published 08 Feb 2021, 11:33 IST
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