Sunday’s Community Shield was a microcosm of the 2018-19 season. The first half was owned by Manchester City. Liverpool dominated the second half. There were brilliant attacking and some defensive errors. There were also shots cleared off the line or nearly over the line. And, in the end, Manchester City won by one penalty kick which can be equated to the one point they achieved in the final Premier League table.
If there were questions around whether or not Liverpool needed to dip into the transfer market this summer, those should have been answered on Sunday. Despite some of the players looking leggy and still needing to gain fitness, the Reds looked sharp, especially in the second half.
Manchester City took 10 minutes to warm up themselves, and once they did, they took control of the next 35 minutes of the first half.
Three weaknesses were found by the Cityzens. One was Liverpool’s high line in the first half which was continually beaten by Manchester City.
Kevin De Bruyne repeatedly made darting runs from the right side of midfield between Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson beating the offside trap. Jordan Henderson wasn’t able to run with him as he shut down the passer.
The final weakness was Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defending against Raheem Sterling. Alexander-Arnold is an excellent right-back, but he excels when going forward and not when he must defend first. Manchester City exploited his limitations which wasn’t the first time Pep Guardiola’s team had targetted Alexander-Arnold.
The second half was much better from the Reds and Jurgen Klopp’s alterations showed. The side really got going with the introduction of centre-back Joel Matip, who should have started next to Van Dijk. The two make a great centre-back duo.
Matip’s introduction moved Joe Gomez to right-back and Alexander-Arnold off. Gomez’s job was to stay in his position and defend rather than go forward like Alexander-Arnold. It took Manchester City’s out-ball down the left side away.
With Gomez focusing on defending, Henderson moved to the right side of midfield to support Mohamed Salah. It gave the Egyptian space and the ability to go after Manchester City’s defence. The Reds began to attack well and nearly got the leveller. Just like Manchester City, Liverpool’s goal came from a set-piece that had broken down.
By the end of the fixture, Guardiola was sulking on the bench like he had at Newcastle United’s St. James Park last term, knowing his side was second-best.
These teams are so even it is scary. Can both clubs obtain points in the high 90s? It is possible, but this season could see both clubs drop points.
The Community Shield showed both teams are primed to fight for the title once more. Liverpool aren’t going away. Anyone complaining the club hasn’t bought an over-priced footballer this summer should quiet down. It was a matter of centimetres between winning and losing last season at the Etihad and it was a matter of centimetres again in the Community Shield.