In Turkey football followers usually go "If this is football, what about the others?" when they are full of praise for a team with great quality. The expression was used very generously during the Liverpool and Manchester City Champions League match this week.
We can all agree that Manchester City has played some of the best football this season, so much so it has been compared to art. But Liverpool's domination of the Citizens and Jurgen Klopp's overall success against Pep Guardiola made everyone think twice. It even puts City's lead in the Premier League under question. In my opinion, these two radically different sides and their philosophies represent the peak of football and it is only a matter of time their methods trickle down to help the others.
First of all, let's start with Liverpool's decisive victory in the Champions League. They pressed Manchester City so fervently that Guardiola's glorious build-up game collapsed almost at the beginning of the match. But City also had long-balls in their arsenal and they had previously used it to dominate teams that tried counter-pressing.
Klopp, however, did something no other coach would dare to do. He pushed his defense up to the middle of the pitch and collected all the returned balls in the midfield. It was an incredibly risky move since Manchester City is deadly in counterattacking. But the gamble worked and City eventually lost its nerves against some intense pressing.
We should note that this is the second time Liverpool crushed Manchester City this season and the performance seems self-sufficient and repeatable.
But, we should also remember that Manchester City had destroyed Liverpool 5-0 earlier at the beginning of the season. Klopp managed to create a solution to the Manchester City problem by preventing build-ups, using the intense pressing and positioning his defense up in the midfield.
Now, it is time for Guardiola to find a solution to the Liverpool problem. The only feasible way to respond to this insane pressing would be punishing Liverpool for the large spaces they leave open while pressing.
In Guardiola's career, this kind of breaking points has arrived before. He failed to sort out Mourinho in 2012 or Simeone in 2014. Of course, Manchester City's versatility is different than Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but the opponent is also different than Real or Atletico Madrid. Guardiola must remember his main philosophy that his opponents may play as good as him and this should not stop his side from playing bravely.
The only answer to Klopp's madness is attacking Liverpool with full force, to try and make it play box-to-box. When Liverpool is forced to do so, its stamina falls long before it can reach the goals. Thus, Guardiola must use Klopp's strategy against him and go on an all-out attack so that the Liverpool defense cannot position itself in up the field.
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