If you asked Pep before the game on Sunday if Manchester City should be happy to take a point against Liverpool in Anfield, he would have said yes. With an eye on the title when you are playing against your biggest rival away, sometimes it is important to take at least something from the game.
One could argue that with the missed penalty by Riyad Mahrez, City dropped two points, but in chasing titles, it’s also crucial not to drop points against your rival. In the bigger picture, every point counts. A lot has also been said about Pep’s decision to give the penalty stroke to Mahrez instead of Gabriel Jesus.
Before the game, almost all clubs I’ve played at including Manchester City, nominate the penalty taker. The decision is taken basis player’s past success or how well they execute it in training. So Pep definitely didn’t take the decision on the field.
After the match, he said that Mahrez shoots perfectly in training but sometimes it happens. Pep was right. If Mahrez would have scored, nothing would have been said – he missed and now it’s become news. He’s human, he tried, he missed, the team moves on. Across a season, such things happen, that’s football.
With options to be spoilt with, there is a constant chatter on why Pep doesn’t start with Jesus and Sergio Aguero. But it is the manager who knows what’s best for the team. While some say that great players can make it work together but I’m not overly convinced with that statement. Sometimes players’ styles are too similar or some players don’t quite connect as you might think on the pitch.
Pep can judge the situation better than us and he knows what Manchester City need to win this year. He will be making decisions for achieving the result and if that means playing them together or not, he will either reap the rewards or pay the consequences for those decisions, but he is clearly willing to stick his neck out.
On the other hand, Liverpool’s front three are impressive and they have produced high-level performances for a long time now. The amount of games these guys are playing, the pressure and expectation under which they perform is huge. For sure there will be dips from time to time, the best time to judge them will be over the course of the season if they are good enough to take the season till the last game. If I know them, no one will be putting more pressure on their performances than themselves.
In both the teams, a lot depends on what and how their managers want to bring out the best in their players. Pep and Jurgen Klopp have fantastic reputations. But it is impossible to say who is better than the other. In my career, I worked with managers I thought were going to be incredible and eventually their approach and work with the team was underwhelming and sometimes with little expectations, the managers brought the best out of the team.
For me, modern day management has got a lot to do with man-management. To get the best out of players and looking out for them and ensuring they playing and having an impact, for now, both Klopp and Pep are clearly doing that. Tactically they are playing in different ways, but it is hard to argue who is or will be the better manager before their teams win the league.