Neil Humphreys: Find a settled first XI, Pep
City boss must learn from Klopp and pick a settled side
Being Pep Guardiola is like being the overly indulged kid who gets bought an entire toyshop.
The agony of choice almost overwhelms every decision.
Should the Manchester City manager play with Gabriel Jesus or Sergio Aguero?
He cannot play both at once because then he can't play two wingers.
And he really, really wants to play with two wingers. His Middle Eastern patriarchs have already bought him Bernardo Silva to keep him entertained.
But can he play with Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Raheem Sterling all at the same time?
And then there are the fullbacks, so many fullbacks, sitting on the shelf and itching to be unwrapped and played with like one of those neglected characters in Toy Story.
Guardiola rang up a £226 million (S$397.5m) bill in the summer, but he faces Liverpool tonight with no idea of his first XI, his formation or even a coherent style of play.
All managers crave options, but this is messy. Unconvincing performances against Brighton, Everton and Bournemouth did little to allay concerns among City supporters.
Guardiola's reputation does not let him get away with murder, but he is getting away with maddening inconsistency.
Ironically, his opponents offer an obvious template for improvement. Juergen Klopp's Reds are a warm, security blanket of familiarity.
Whether it's a front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino or a super six that include Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum, the Reds are a no-nonsense 4-3-3 all day long.
But for the most devoted of Guardiola acolytes, Klopp's dashing, counter-pressing is not clever enough. It's too simplistic, too easy.
Guardiola's hallowed principles of possession seem to appeal to those who buy books to show off on their shelves, but never actually read them.
The Spaniard unwittingly panders to a kind of faux-intellectualism in football.
He speaks in abstract terms of possession and control and ridicules second balls and tough tackling in a way that impresses pretentious, chin-stroking types.
Sometimes, a little plain-speaking is required.
City were lucky to beat Bournemouth. Sterling needed a scrappy 97th-minute winner to pinch the points.
And Everton stole a draw with their only attack of the game.
Wayne Rooney bulldozed his way into the box and the City defenders all fell down, probably because Guardiola's £226m bill never included a centre back. In fact, City are a centre back down after Jason Denayer was sent out on loan to Galatasaray.
Guardiola must pick a back three from only five options.
Tosin Adarabioyo is a 19-year-old reserve.
John Stones might not yet be the Second Coming of Bobby Moore and Eliaquim Mangala stands up to the heat as effectively as a bowl of ice cream.
That leaves Nicolas Otamendi and the injury-prone Vincent Kompany.
One sick note from either defender and Guardiola's house of cards topples.
And City fans' worst fears came true when news emerged yesterday that Kompany has returned from international duty with another calf injury, which means he will miss today's game with Liverpool.
Elsewhere, Guardiola is no closer to identifying the key positions and responsibilities of his bloated squad.
Benjamin Mendy and Danilo, the club's new fullbacks, probably have as much chance of guessing who'll be playing ahead of them each week as the average City supporter.
Sterling, de Bruyne, Aguero, Gabriel, Leroy Sane and a couple of Silvas are turning the team sheet into a game of bingo.
There's too many numbers, but rarely a full house, not a settled house at least.
But Guardiola's infallibility is rarely questioned. He's a genius. He moves in mysterious ways. He operates at a rarified level way beyond simple formations and selections.
But there's a spanner in the Spaniard's works.
Chelsea and Leicester City won titles with sides that hardly ever changed, playing a formation that was seldom tweaked.
Two weeks ago, Liverpool decimated Arsenal with a line-up and approach that was obvious to everyone before a ball had been kicked.
The Reds forage between the lines. They dance in the spaces between high-flying full backs and isolated, defensive trios.
Klopp advocates the art of simplicity. He picks familiar players in familiar positions.The Reds know what they're doing and where they're doing it.
The same cannot be said for City, not yet anyway.
Guardiola's many complicated and varied pieces really need to fall into place tonight to allow his side's undoubted pedigree to flourish.
A quarter of a billion pounds buys quality. But it doesn't buy excuses.