City and Liverpool going nowhere with toothless attack
City and Liverpool need better finishers to compete
Pep Guardiola and Juergen Klopp must be familiar with that old English idiom by now.
It should be scrawled across their dressing room walls: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
Heaven knows, both men have tried, dragging their striking thoroughbreds towards the penalty box in the vain hope that someone might knock in the odd goal.
But Manchester City and Liverpool keep bucking their managers' systems.
They're going nowhere until their strikers show more composure than a jittery kid during PSLE week.
Their 1-1 draw at the Etihad yesterday morning (Singapore time) was a veritable feast of counter-attacking football, but their exemplary counter-attacking instincts were again undermined by the absence of an in-form centre forward.
Guardiola suggested a draw against Liverpool was his finest moment in football management, which was the kind of patronising nonsense usually associated with Jose Mourinho, but a second comment offered more insight.
The City manager lamented the absence of Gabriel Jesus, reiterating that another striker wasn't brought in because they had the kid from Sao Paulo.
Jesus' speed and versatility made him a natural fit for Guardiola's fluid game. On top of Sergio Aguero's peerless poaching attributes, Jesus also offered variety.
The Brazilian scored three goals in five games before breaking a metatarsal last month. Aguero spurned that many chances against the Reds.
HIGH AND WIDE
A hat-trick was there for the taking at the Etihad, but it went the same way as a potential brace against Monaco last week - high and wide.
The Argentinian did put away the equaliser, taking him to an impressive 27 for the season, but only 13 of those came in the EPL.
In the current top 10 of EPL goal-scorers, Aguero sneaks in at No. 9. Liverpool's Sadio Mane sits beneath him.
Roberto Firmino, the Reds' nominal centre forward, finds himself in 13th place, beneath Bournemouth's Joshua King and Swansea's Fernando Llorente.
With both Diego Costa and Eden Hazard in the top 10, Chelsea are cantering to the title, thanks in large part to their goal-scoring efficiency.
And Guardiola knows his side lack Chelsea's ruthlessness.
He picks Aguero because he has to. When the striker sprays chances like a magnum of champagne on an F1 podium, it's clear that Guardiola doesn't want to pick Aguero.
Klopp may not feel quite the same about Firmino, but the Brazilian hasn't come close to replicating Luis Suarez's consistency, or even that of Daniel Sturridge, when the hospital outpatient occasionally turns up for a game.
Much was made of Adam Lallana's late miss from three metres, an air-shot so embarrassing in its ineptitude that the midfielder apologised to teammates.
But the ball to Lallana came from Firmino. Klopp might wonder if a reversal of roles in that situation might have enhanced their respective strengths and ensured a different outcome.
Indeed, a further similarity between the two sides was Leroy Sane and Sadio Mane essentially performing the same role on opposite flanks.
Mane cut in from the right to occupy Firmino's position and Sane dashed inside from the left to chase David Silva's clever passes.
Both wingers were essentially minding the gaps of others in a bid to cultivate chances being squandered elsewhere.
But then, a paucity of striking options has been a strangely repetitive theme among the top six this season.
Harry Kane's injury and Alexis Sanchez's personal struggles highlighted Tottenham and Arsenal's lack of depth in the box and Marcus Rashford proved that he's not quite ready to lead the line in Zlatan Ibrahimovic's absence.
But Liverpool do not even boast a reliable centre forward when every Red is fit and available.
At least City still have Aguero until the end of the season, when Guardiola and Klopp must go shopping for a striker. Title winners never leave home without one.
Fast and furious football has little purpose if the finishing is farcical.