Manchester City were dreadful in defeat to Liverpool, but that shouldn’t detract from the authority of the Reds’ performance.
It was a game which, in truth, few would have expected Liverpool to win but one they never once looked like losing – and it had Jurgen Klopp’s distinctive stamp all over it.
Often, perhaps too often, it’s tempting to go overboard with praise when a new manager produces an impact. The ‘new manager bounce’ has become such a palpable part of the modern game that some clubs appear to genuinely back it alone to catapult them out of a big relegation-shaped hole. Sunderland, I’m looking at you.
It was difficult not get excited about this Liverpool performance, though.
It contained the precision high pressing, relentless running and incisive quick counter-attacks that were the hallmarks of Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund at their brilliant best.
The pressing is something that you always expect of a Klopp side. It’s the bedrock of everything he wants his teams to do, so it’s no real surprise to see it implemented at Liverpool as a matter of priority.
However, what was surprising was the sheer swagger of the performance with the ball.
You can, and should, criticise Man City’s defending as much as you want. There is plenty of blame to go around. In fact, City’s entire back four of Bacary Sagna, Aleksandr Kolarov, Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis only won one tackle between them in the first half.
Despite that, some of Liverpool’s passing in the final third was as slick as it gets, and when Martin Skrtel is attempting scoop-chipped through balls on the edge of the opposition penalty box, you know there has been a serious shift in confidence levels at Anfield.
Like all managers experiencing a fine start in a new job, Klopp’s longevity remains to be seen. However, it’s abundantly clear he’s having no trouble in getting his message across.
City’s soft centre
As good as Liverpool were, Manchester City’s performance will be a huge concern to Manuel Pellegrini.
The Chilean described the performance as “fake” as he admitted he was left baffled by his side’s apparent inability to compete, but you wonder if it goes a little deeper than that.
Without captain Vincent Kompany and with Yaya Toure in distinctly lethargic mood, City just didn’t look like relishing the kind of physical challenge that Liverpool presented, and they were absolutely overran and outplayed in the middle of the pitch in particular.
Mangala and Demichelis never coped with the energy of a vibrant Liverpool attack, while the half time introductions of Fabian Delph and Fernandinho told you everything you needed to know about who was in charge in the centre of midfield.
With their key players fit and motivated, Manchester City boast everything you need to win titles. Without them, serious question marks have arisen about whether they can find the consistency to reclaim the Premier League crown.