Liverpool decline looks to be impacting Man City as Gunners take advantage – Buzz.ie

Liverpool’s unexpected fall may well have taken the edge off Guardiola’s team and he now has to focus fast on a new rival
Sign up to our free email alerts for the best Promotions sent straight to your e-mail
We have more newsletters
The surprise looking back is that they came up against each other so rarely.
John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg locked horns just 14 times. Compare that to the modern rivalries.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had 40 duels. Both men played Novak Djokovic over 50 times each to boot.
READ NEXT – Man United are in Premier League title race but Mikel Arteta's Arsenal are on a roll
READ NEXT – Aaron Ramsdale kicked by Spurs fan in ugly scenes after north London derby
But there are plenty who will still argue that the Borg/McEnroe rivalry was still the greatest that tennis has ever seen.
Maybe that’s because it ended so abruptly. McEnroe beat Borg in the 1981 US Open final, but there was consternation in the aftermath.
The Swede wasn’t to be seen at the post-match ceremony and there was no sign of him at the press conference either.
Borg had left Flushing Meadows straight after his defeat and would never compete in a major tournament again. He had only just turned 25.
McEnroe would go on to win three more Wimbledon titles, as well as two more US Opens, but he felt that he was never the same after Borg retired.
His rival had forced him to dig deeper than anyone else, to find an edge that his game needed.
"To me, it was bittersweet. The way it ended, with a whimper, with him walking out of the court before the ceremony to never play again," said McEnroe.
"So even though it was a tremendous moment for me, winning Wimbledon and the Open back-to-back and taking over the number one ranking, looking back I wish we could have kept playing.
"For years, I would see him and say: ‘When are you coming back? This is ridiculous, let’s go.'
"It just felt like there was a void and it took me a couple of years to accept that. I think it was too bad for the sport as well."
Is there an echo of Borg/McEnroe with what is now happening in the Premier League with Liverpool and Manchester City?
Liverpool’s rapid decline in such a short space of time from a campaign where they went to three finals and ran City to the wire in the Premier League has been extraordinary.
Every week seems to bring another startling statistic that makes this clear. This weekend, we were informed that they have conceded their highest average of goals away from home since the 1964/65 season.
One of Liverpool’s great strengths under Jurgen Klopp was their rapid switches of play. Last season, they averaged 30 per game. Since returning from the World Cup break, that number is down to three.
The familiar Klopp template of manic pressing, energy, vibrancy and imagination has crumbled.
At the halfway point of the season, Liverpool are 19 points behind leaders, Arsenal, and only 13 ahead of bottom placed Southampton.
Given the fact that they’re 10 points adrift, to even make the Champions League spots will be a big ask.
But there’s a different kind of big ask… ask yourself this question, has Liverpool’s decline taken the edge off City?
It goes deeper than back-to-back defeats to Manchester United in the league and Southampton in the Carabao Cup.
On New Year’s Eve, City could only draw 1-1 at home to a dismal Everton side.
Their last game before the World Cup break saw them lose 2-1 — again at home — to Brentford.
A week earlier, they only beat Fulham at the Etihad thanks to an Erling Haaland goal five minutes into injury time.
And, despite Liverpool’s woes this season, they took down City when they went to Anfield in October.
It’s worth going back to something Pep Guardiola said on the eve of that game.
Liverpool were then 10th in the table, 14 points behind Arsenal at the top.
But Guardiola made it clear he still felt they were a bigger threat to the reigning champions than the Gunners.
"They always have been our biggest rivals. Yeah. Because, I know the quality they have," he said.
"If it was like this with 10 games left I would say I don’t think they can catch us but now anything can happen."
Johnny Marr, the iconic guitarist with The Smiths and a lifelong City fan, interviewed Guardiola a couple of years ago for the book A Game of Two Halves.
Marr was particularly thrilled when Guardiola asked him to sign a vinyl copy of his latest album.
The axe-man also gave the Spaniard a plectrum, with Guardiola promising to keep it in his pocket for luck.
But one of the most striking aspects of that interview wasn’t anything either of the men said.
Rather it was a description of something that was on Guardiola’s desk.
A hefty folder with detailed documentation in Spanish. There was one word on the cover, "Liverpool".
The interview didn’t take place at a time when City were getting ready for a game with the Reds but it seems that Liverpool are always on Guardiola’s mind.
And the feeling is mutual. As time has gone on, the rivalry has got spikier too.
Guardiola has aimed a few barbs in Liverpool’s direction, Klopp has sharpened his sword too.
But the spikiness is rooted in respect — it’s nothing like that between Guardiola and Jose Mourinho when both were in Spain.
We haven’t seen much of it lately but, generally, Klopp has a sunny outlook on life, something that became clear when he talked about his admiration for Guardiola’s Barcelona at their peak.
Many managers studied DVDs of the Catalan giants in an attempt to get some idea of how to adopt a tiki-taka style, but Klopp did his own thing.
Instead of showing his players video footage of Barca, he handed them photographs of Lionel Messi and Co celebrating goals.
"I do it very often. I show them photographs of how Barcelona celebrate," he said.
"I don’t use videos because I don’t copy Barca’s style. But you see them celebrate goal number 5,868 like they’ve never scored before.
"This is what you should always feel — until you die."
All of the above makes it clear that there is a mutual obsession.
Guardiola likes to plan for all eventualities, but he never planned for Liverpool’s unexpected fall.
That may well have taken the edge off his team — in the same way as McEnroe felt happened to his game following Borg’s retirement.
Arsenal have come up on the outside, and have built a decent lead. Guardiola has to focus fast on a new horizon, a new rival.
READ NEXT – Arsenal gunning for Premier League glory but in a very different position to Man United's in 1996
READ NEXT – Harry Kane story should be unfolding very differently to how it seems to be
READ NEXT – I wouldn't be holding my breath for next Irish boss to win Premier League Manager of the Month award

source

Leave a Comment