A combination of wastefulness and outright misfortune denied Liverpool the early boost of Community Shield success, but still, they could take heart from their impressive performance against their biggest title rivals. Here are the key stats from the season’s curtain-raiser:
Liverpool the better side
City edged the first-half but Liverpool controlled the second, and ultimately the numbers suggest they were slightly lucky to claim the silverware.
The Reds enjoyed more possession (53%-47%) and played more passes (555-496) than their opponents – regular viewers of the Premier League will tell you that’s no mean feat. They also registered more shots (17 to 8) and three times as many shots on target (9 to 3), with 82% of their efforts coming inside the penalty area and three hitting the woodwork. Moreover, 32% of the match was played inside City’s final third (as opposed to 26% at the Liverpool end).
We shouldn’t look at these numbers in a self-congratulatory manner, though. The lack of ruthlessness will be a concern given that we’ll have to take at least four points off them to win the league, while they could be content with a couple of draws.
Tellingly, we’ve only managed score two goals in our last three games against City after hammering in nine in the preceding three. The nature of these once free-for-all matches may have changed, but this time Liverpool could have put Pep Guardiola’s team to the sword.
Van Dijk confirmed as human?
According to Opta, the neat trickery through which Gabriel Jesus eluded a Virgil van Dijk challenge ended a remarkable run. It was the first time the Dutchman had been dribbled past in 65 competitive games, stretching back to March 2018. Given that this fixture means little in the grand scheme of things, we could just choose not to count it.
Aside from that apocalyptic moment, Van Dijk was characteristically solid. He won three aerial duels, made two clearances, executed six long balls and even managed an assist.
He’ll hope to lead his defence to a clean sheet when City visit Anfield in November.
Hectic on our right
Both teams predominantly looked to attack from the same side of the pitch (our right, their left). We took that route for 40% of our attacks, while City launched 44% of their assaults from that flank. This compares to 29%-21% in the middle and 31%-35% on the left. Forgive the barrage of figures, because these numbers are telling.
First, they illustrate that, unsurprisingly, we missed Sadio Mane. Divock Origi proved himself to be a more than effective goalscorer last season but he lacks the technical subtlety of a winger (he lost the ball through an unsuccessful first touch or a defenders’ challenge on a team-high eight occasions) and so the reliance on Mohamed Salah only increases. Overall, this is to be expected.
But what’s more interesting is the vulnerability City sensed. Raheem Sterling made life very difficult for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has at times been given the run-around by tricky wingers, and the right-back’s attacking involvement left gaps. This is a key issue for Klopp to address (thus far he’s found an effective remedy) given that our full-backs are so integral to our efforts to break teams down.
Attacking sharpness returning
After a fitness-building run-out against Lyon, Salah and Firmino were really thrown in at the deep-end here, but their performances illustrated the effectiveness of the club’s Evian training camp, with both already showing glimpses of their best form less than a week after their return.
Salah tormented his markers in trademark style, completing at least two more dribbles (five) than anybody else on the pitch. His movement was also on-point, leading to ten shooting chances, but the only problem was that he failed to convert. He put four on target and twice struck the post when further down the line he’d have potentially had a hat-trick.
Meanwhile, there were some vintage moments for a tigerish Firmino. Two tackles, two key passes and three successful dribbles make up a supremely well-rounded centre-forward’s performance. In stark contrast to Salah, though, he did only register one-shot, potentially suggesting his positional sense is still one area that needs fine-tuning for that game against Norwich.
Still, on this evidence, we should have little trouble in ensuring a winning start.