I don’t often get into arguments about preseason matches and their meanings or discussions about which side has had it more difficult. Yet, I couldn’t be helped but to be drawn into a discussion, or at least to give my thoughts, after hearing a recent argument comparing Liverpool and Manchester City during the preseason.
The issue I found with the Manchester City supporter I encountered was his ridiculous notion that the Cityzens had a more difficult preseason and missed more first-team players from their squad. His argument seemed absolutely ludicrous.
So, I looked further into their preseasons to see who had a more difficult time.
Liverpool played seven preseason matches starting on 11 July. The Reds defeated Tranmere Rovers and Bradford City before heading off to the United States. There, they played Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla, and Sporting Lisbon in the oppressive American summertime heat.
After finishing their tour with two losses and a draw stateside, Liverpool travelled to Scotland to play against Napoli. A leggy looking team was defeated 3-0 while showing little as to why they are the reigning Champions League winners.
As the competition got harder for Liverpool, the absences of stars Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Alisson Becker, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Naby Keita were evident. Not only were those stars missing from the team due to their international duties over the summer, but Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexandre-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Shaqiri, and Georginio Wijnaldum arrived late o preseason due to their play in the UEFA Nations League.
All of Liverpool’s players, except Mane, returned for the final preseason game against Lyon. It was the first time during the preseason that Liverpool’s first-team players got to play together. It was also the first time, sans the opening 10 minutes of the match, that Liverpool looked like the team from last season. Although fitness for Salah, Firmino, Shaqiri, and Keita wasn’t quite there yet.
In all, Van Dijk, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Mane, Keita, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Shaqiri, Alisson, and Firmino all returned late at some point due to summertime international football. That is 11 first-team footballers with seven of which being considered as nailed on starting XI players.
Manchester City’s preseason
Manchester City played just four preseason friendlies this summer. It seems like a small number of matches, but coming off of a draining season, Manchester City seem to have taken the approach of less is more.
Who did Manchester City play? They defeated West Ham 4-1 before drawing with Wolverhampton Wanderers, nil-nil, in the final of the Asia Premier League Trophy tournament. Wolves then won on penalties.
The Cityzens then thumped Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC, a world football powerhouse, before downing Japan’s Yokohoma F. Marinos.
Striker Sergio Aguero was absent due to his play at the Copa America with Argentina. Ederson was also at the Copa America but kept out of the squad by Alisson. Gabriel Jesus played at the tournament and was sent off in the final against Peru. Fernandinho was also in Brazil but missed out on the final. Kyle Walker played for England at the UEFA Nations League along with Raheem Sterling and John Stones.
Riyad Mahrez won the African Cup of Nations with Algeria defeating Mane’s Senegal. Meanwhile, Bernard Silva featured for Portugal in the UEFA Nations League
So, that makes nine Manchester City players competing in summertime international by my count.
The Final Verdict
To say Manchester City have had the more difficult preseason would be foolish. However, the proof over which team chose the best preseason program will be shown to everyone on Sunday when the FA Community Shield kicks off.
Unfortunately, the cup match is treated like a preseason game when it should be played like the super cups that open domestic campaigns in leagues around Europe. Still, both teams will take the game very seriously as it is a way to get a leg up on the other.