Pellegrini must tweak flawed formation or forget about title
Chilean's formation a straitjacket for City's ageing warhorses
(Adam Lallana 34, James Milner 41, Roberto Firmino 57)
MAN CITY 0
Objectively, Manchester City are a difficult team to love.
They are an Abu Dhabi PR exercise masquerading as a major force in football.
When they win silverware, there is begrudging acceptance, but little affection beyond the blue half of Manchester.
When they lose in the abject fashion witnessed at Anfield yesterday morning (Singapore time), sympathy is so hard to come by. They are fading fast and it's difficult to care.
As it stands, Man City can forget about the title. They may not even finish in the top four.
That ship sailed the moment the club foolishly announced Pep Guardiola's appointment.
Since that EQ disaster on Feb 1, City have picked up just a solitary EPL victory. Their three consecutive league defeats makes for the worst run of form since the autumn of 2008.
If Manchester United's ramshackle bunch of callow kids finish above the bumpkin billionaires, then City's humiliation will be complete.
The world's wealthiest club are not only difficult to love, they are also becoming easy to beat.
Manuel Pellegrini's (right) 4-2-3-1 formation once liberated his young bucks. Now, it's a straitjacket for ageing warhorses.
Juergen Klopp's sly, incisive 4-4-1-1 essentially threw a blanket over City, suffocating their creative dynamos and muzzling their enforcers.
Fernandinho and Fernando were overrun in midfield, allowing Adam Lallana and James Milner to surge forward for fun, switching flanks and linking with nifty No. 10 Roberto Firmino.
It's hardly surprising that all three chipped in with goals. City couldn't get anywhere near them.
Despite their title-winning pedigree and recent Champions League improvement, Pellegrini's plodders are alarmingly bereft of pace and movement.
When the ball is recycled quickly on the counter-attack, it's icebergs and the Titanic.
City can't turn slowly enough.
The only member of City's current line-up with genuine acceleration is currently lost to an identity crisis.
At Liverpool, Raheem Sterling displayed the ego and self-confidence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
At City, he displays the speed and mobility of a tractor.
Liverpool booed his every touch in the early stages, but the volume dipped as the first half progressed.
Their services were no longer required. Local lad Jon Flanagan was already making Sterling's life a misery.
The £50-million ($98m) misfit didn't come out for the second half. He didn't really show up in the first half either.
Sterling owed his generous benefactors an uplifting performance, but instead offered further evidence that he's a confused, distracted talent still a long way from the finished article.
Whether City are willing to wait that long remains to be seen.
The club are not renowned for their patience, as Pellegrini discovered on Feb 1.
But the Chilean hardly helps himself. His overriding obsession with the Champions League may prove his undoing.
After needlessly throwing away a viable chance of winning the FA Cup by playing the youth team against Chelsea, Pellegrini has been frustratingly conservative and predictable in the Premier League.
Opponents do not require Dan Brown's decoding capabilities to unlock Pellegrini's tactics.
Once rivals get past City's lofty reputation, the flaws reveal themselves.
Despite attempting to prove otherwise, Jesus Navas is still a one-trick pony, occasionally beating his marker only to send a cross into a near deserted box (which in itself is already an improvement on Sterling's efforts).
Sergio Aguero looked the loneliest man in Liverpool, searching in vain for a friendly face around him.
Once the Argentinian was isolated, Kolo Toure and Dejan Lovren enjoyed a gentle stroll around Anfield.
It really was that easy because the ball seldom reached David Silva.
Fernandinho and Fernando were swamped, leaving spaces on either side for Liverpool's midfield quartet to gobble up like an over-eager Pac-Man.
But City's tactical inertia was surpassed by their lack of industry. Pellegrini blamed fixture fatigue, but both teams played in the League Cup final last Sunday.
Only one team wanted to win.
City haven't resembled anything close to a title-challenging proposition since the Guardiola announcement.
They've scarcely looked like a team, just a cluster of lethargic, listless individuals, barely going through the motions for the dead man walking in the dugout.
Guardiola was hired for his European pedigree.
If City's wretched form continues, his Champions League expertise won't be needed next season.
Have they got the best leader as a manager at the moment? I’m not that sure, I think Pellegrini is just a very nice guy. They had (Roberto) Mancini and then they went to someone a bit like Sven (Goran-Eriksson) — he never really shouts at players.
— Former Man City defender Danny Mills on Manuel Pellegrini
Manuel blames fatigue for sluggish loss
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has demanded an instant improvement from his side to prevent their title bid going up in smoke.
A 3-0 loss at Liverpool at Anfield yesterday morning (Singapore time) was the first time they have lost three successive Premier League matches in over seven years and left them 10 points adrift of leaders Leicester, albeit with a match in hand.
With Manchester United now level on points, West Ham a point behind and Liverpool only six adrift, Pellegrini knows his players have to rouse themselves from their Premier League slump.
But the Chilean insists nothing has changed in their quest for the Premier League title.
"It means the Premier League continues exactly the same all season. Not one team make the difference," he said.
"I am not thinking about the title and not thinking about not to qualify for the Champions League.
"It is important to think in the next game (at home to Aston Villa) we need to win because we lost the last three in the Premier League.
"The most important thing is to recover our performance in the Premier League, (put in) the performance we showed in the last two games in the Champions League and the League Cup, and try to win as many points as we can."
Pellegrini blamed fatigue for his side's sluggish display and even claimed, despite City spending millions more than their opponents building their squad, Liverpool had more options to change things after Sunday's final.
"We didn't deserve to be 2-0 down at half-time but, from the beginning, I saw our team were not fresh," he said.
"We had not recovered from the last week with the Champions League game with the travel from Ukraine and the game on Sunday.
"Liverpool had more energy, they recovered the ball at high pace so we didn't have any chances to score."
For Liverpool, the win was revenge for the League Cup defeat at Wembley to the same opposition.
It kept alive their interest in the league as fourth place remains tantalisingly within their reach still, if they can maintain performances of the level which saw goals from Adam Lallana, James Milner and Roberto Firmino end the contest with an hour gone.
Manager Juergen Klopp said: "The boys did brilliantly.
"They were very angry in a positive way. The pressing situation was brilliant, the counter-pressing was good and then we had to score goals and we did.
"Being tired in this moment of the season is nothing to talk about because everybody could be, it was more about the mental thing.
"We lost on Sunday. We had to show a reaction. The most important moment of the season is now.
"We have to take what we can get. We have to stay angry, to strike back in each game.
"We have no points to waste in our time. Everything can happen."
- PA Sport.