For a team with one of the most devastating and dazzling attacks the Premier League has ever seen, Manchester City let their poor attacking performance against Liverpool slip to the side.
Erling Holland scored again, Julian Alvarez missed a great chance and Phil Foden came close to scoring, but it was only when Jeremy Doku got the ball that a chilly Saturday lunchtime warmed up. His 11 drops were the most in a Premier League game over two years.
But Toku was flawless. There was the odd trip into the area where Liverpool wanted to send him on and lost possession. At times he looked good to shoot but chose to keep running.
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For most of the second half, City looked like they needed a second goal and Toku looked like the player to deliver it. He created Alvarez’s chance and another close-range chance for Holland, but Liverpool escaped with a point as neither player failed to convert.
Toku’s dynamic wing has been a key difference for City this season, however, in a team accustomed to control and structure under Pep Guardiola, his teammates let the £55million winger run free and create his moments of magic.
„He’s a good signing and he’s been playing well for us. We’ll continue to progress – hopefully continue to learn and improve and help us win titles,” said Bernardo Silva, who recently played in the left-back No.8 role. Pairs well with Doku.
„You can’t give him limits – otherwise he loses his magic. While we know he has a responsibility to help us when we don’t have the ball, we have to let him be himself and do his thing – but I think he really does. Well.”
In another game that threatened to descend into chaos at times – despite City’s 4-4 draw at Chelsea before the international break – it was Bernardo who brought it all together. In his preferred central midfield position, he was everywhere for the Blues, especially in the first half.
The 29-year-old has lined up alongside Alvarez in that midfield role recently, and he has looked to take on some of Toku’s defensive duties to give the Belgium international the freedom to do his thing. For most of Saturday’s first half, Doku and Bernardo will be close on the left, before the game stretches after the break.
Keeping Toku and Foden on the wings is a different approach for City, who won the treble by demanding control from wide areas last season. The shackles have come off in the early stages of this season.
„Last season I was playing on the right and Jack on the left. We are a bit more controlled, not as direct,” said Bernardo.
„It gives you more of a second in counter-attacks, but you lose control of the game a little bit, so sometimes it’s good, sometimes not. But the team as a whole is good.
„If the players change the way they line up, that will change too. But we are doing well and hopefully we can make progress. We need Jack back.
„When our injured players come back, I can play on the right again – so there are a lot of options depending on the game and what the manager wants.”
Guardiola returned to control in the latter stages of last season as City attempted to make a difficult run to the Champions League by pulling ahead of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.
It could be shaping up to be another tight title race, with Arsenal back at the top, a point clear of City, who in turn are a point ahead of Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side looking to bounce back from last season’s defeat.
Bernardo expected a renewed challenge from Liverpool, who twice pushed City so close, but with the neutrals a favorite prospect, the Portuguese will be hoping to build on a lead this season rather than play it late. the season
„We expected [Liverpool to be back] „After a difficult season for them, we knew their energy was going to come back, so it’s going to be tough – not just against them, Arsenal, Spurs – but we’re ready to fight,” he said.
„We enjoy it more when we win, but for the Premier League and the fans it’s nice when it’s tight and emotional. Now we have four teams that are very close.
„We’re going to do everything we can to get a little bit further – it wasn’t good to be behind Arsenal last season. When we come to February, March we want to be on top. We want to win the Premier League again.”
„Całkowity introwertyk. Nieprzejednany specjalista od sieci. Przyjazny fanatyk bekonu. Student ekstremalnych. Miłośnik piwa. Organizator.”