Date: 2nd March 2015 at 9:09pm
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The gusting wind off the Mersey welcomed a sunny morning in Liverpool as one of the memorable matches of this season or any other, these days set itself up to take place at Anfield. What magical mystery surprises would the respective managers serve up to their supporters?

Brendan Rodgers predictably set up 3-4-3 giving City hope by fielding Allen and sentencing Sturridge to the bench in favour of the midweek penalty bottler Sterling and with Sakho still unfit, the nervous Lovren joined Can and Skrtl in defence.

Pellegrini restored Kolarov to the back line alongside Mangala and axed Milner preferring to go 4-4-2 with Dzeko and Aguero up top.

The match got off to an equally predictable start with both teams “going for it”. City needed the points to edge closer to Chelsea and Liverpool want to edge equally closer to the Stretfords.

Aguero laid down the markers early and Dzeko looked as though he was more in Newcastle mode than Barcelona. But at the back it was turning out to be another mare of a day for Kompany who looks a long way from the dependable solid rock that he has been in this team.

This was best displayed after only ten minutes when a routine pass in midfield turned into an air shot, the follow-up tackle was missed and his positioning for the final shot from Henderson was equally woeful as it nestled in the top corner to ignite the scoreboard. Liverpool were pressing the ball well, protecting their back three and it paid off promptly.

However when City did get amongst their back three the Blues looked dangerous at almost every turn especially when Aguero turned them upside down to beat Mignolet but not the opposite upright. City were enjoying more possession but not exactly exerting themselves with it except for when Yaya played a superb long pass into the Silva, who quickly moved it on to Aguero who carried the defence around before slipping a neat pass in to Dzeko who in a quick movement levelled the scores.

This lit the touchpaper for a plethora of attacking football from both sides with chances at both ends, especially Lallana who was unlucky not to put his team back in front. Dzeko and Aguero could easily have done likewise for the Blues had it not been for an eagle-eyed linesman.

This game had quality football written all over it but in the second half almost all of that came from the boys in red. Players like Allen stepped up their game in his case to produce his best performance ever for Liverpool and with Lallana and the impressive Coutinho consistently finding space between City`s non-existent lines, the Blues midfield was over run time and again as superior tactics from Rodgers, boys, now definitely re-positioned on the mantelpiece rather than in the binning cupboard in Sue`s house, outweighed a rather lazy input from City`s midfield quartet.

Indeed as the second half progressed, Liverpool`s creative players were getting a free run at City`s beleaguered back four where once again Zabaleta was below par, Kompany was under the cosh, caught out of position time and time again. Kolarov was?Kolarov and the best man on show was the maligned Mangala.

It all came to fruition for Liverpool with fifteen minutes to go when movement down their left drew Zabaleta and with the ball recycled to Coutinho. There was nothing on, but he stepped inside into an acre of space and curled a gem over Hart, insode the post and under the bar. The Kop went ballistic. This was a truly superb strike, but quite simply how City gave up the space in such a critical position is one of life`s mysteries. Make no mistake, this was a goal worthy of winning any match. If it would have been scored by a Stretford it would be replayed sine die, but it did not even make BBC`s goal of the month. Outrageous!

City simply couldn`t recover. Aguero had time to fire wide, as did Silva, but it was not going to be City`s day and Liverpool easily saw the match out in a way that wouldn`t have happened ahead of Christmas.

Once again Pellegrini had produced a system that didn`t work. If you play four across midfield they all have to contribute both in attack and defence. I even remember Charlton whacking City 4-1 playing 4-4-2 rather like a table football match, holding their shape up and down the field. This City just didn`t do that. City`s four in midfield consist of three attack-minded players and a defensive end who also lacks the discipline not to get drawn forward.

As a result, any team playing with any sort of midfield strength and movement gain results. Liverpool were no exception to this rule and easily dominated the critical areas at key times, pressing City further towards their own goal, heaping pressure on Kompany, clearly low on confidence.

Gone are the De Jongs and Barrys who for three seasons ably protected the back four making it easy for Kompany and co to deal with the odd intrusion. Defending when teams with movement get a free run at you is different. Pellegrini might call it risk-taking football but those of us on the grades call it footballing suicide. And that is what City has committed in both the Champions League against Barcelona and now against a full resurgent Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League.

Ok we can point to a similar result last season and we all know what happened next, but a Chelsea team already holding aloft silverware, five points clear with a game in hand is probably a different proposition. We all know Maureen will be going for the lot and it maybe that when midweek football becomes extinct this season for City there may be points up for grabs but an early adjustment is needed to the tactics.

The Pedmachine has said before that when City had no strikers available and were forced to play 4-2-3-1 they won eight out of nine matches. We need to get back to that system. If any sort of winning momentum and mentality is sacrificed I can foresee the Blues surrendering field position as potential runners-up and joining the bun fight for Champions League places. We have allowed the Stretfords to creep to within two matches of us with the Derby to come. We now need to see both Liverpool and the Stretfords give Chelsea a whacking if there is to be any chance of the title re-appearing at the Etihad as the season draws to a close.

Pellegrini, who is now starting to look like the archetypal “dead man walking” stubbornly believes that 4-4-2 will win the day. This season it won`t with Dzeko in the two and no effective supply line. This formation needs a wide outlet in the shape of Navas. Rodgers uses Ibe and Moreno, one sticks, one twists. Then he moved Sterling out there to accommodate another front man.

There was no real plan B for City as both Nasri and Silva are given licence ot play wherever they like, Yaya gets caught wherever he is and Fernandinho, always a yellow-card-in-waiting get left holding the triplets.

If you deploy 4-4-2 your full backs have to be the “rooks”. They have to control the wide areas. Alba and Alves do this superbly for Barcelona. Moreno and Markovic might not be in the same league but generated the same effect for Liverpool. Zaba and Kolarov all to easily retreat to defensive duties and add to the invitation for the opposition to get at the defence.

If you deploy 4-4-2, on offence it has to be closer to 2-4-4. That is when you are in control. Let`s go back to the 2011 FA Cup Final. City played Kompany and Lescott at the back covered by Nigel De Jong. The full backs played in midfield keeping Stoke`s dangerous wide players on the half way line providing the platform for the victory. Liverpool played a much more fluid system with Allen in front of the back three, Moreno prepared to tuck in, Henderson dropping back when needed to provide not only defensive cover but also a springboard to launch attacks by-passing City`s non-existent midfield to activate Coutinho who despite his poor pass which started the move for City`s goal, was easily man of the match.

Will Pellegrini learn? Will City go for the remaining 33 points? Or will the season now fizzle out as accounts department warm up his P45? This is serious stuff. The Etihad know expects and each one of those sitting on the levels can see what Pellegrini appears blind to, the Pedmachine included.

My misery was complete when Sue and I headed for dinner in Liverpool 1 finding the streets awash with red and white. And then she had the audacity to go into the LFC Superstore to buy some new lounge wear which she proudly donned whilst forcing me to re-watch the match on the well-known host broadcasting station. It was not one of life`s greatest experiences, but what the hell?.she is!

 
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