HomePremier LeaguePep Guardiola's best front three may have been confirmed...

Pep Guardiola’s best front three may have been confirmed after the Liverpool experiment backfired

Pep Guardiola’s best front three may have been confirmed after the Liverpool experiment backfired

Following Liverpool’s win over Manchester City, a headline statistic circulated that did not reflect well on Jack Grealish.

It claimed that Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, who assisted Mo Salah’s winner against City, has more assists this season than Grealish, seemingly criticizing the City number ten for his lack of goal involvement this season.

However, while sitting on the bench at Anfield, Grealish may have felt that his long-term City prospects had improved. 

Not because of anything Alisson did, but rather because of the Blues’ inability to balance their attack against Liverpool.

City looked to create an overload against Liverpool’s makeshift right-back James Milner, with Phil Foden preferred to Grealish on the left and Kevin De Bruyne shifted out to the right to accommodate Bernardo Silva.

It was a strategy that worked well during City’s last visit to Anfield, but Liverpool saw it coming and moved three midfielders to the left side to crowd out the City pair.

Even with Ilkay Gundogan and Nathan Ake in support, City struggled to find space on the left flank, despite frequently sending attacks there.

Perhaps the plan was to draw Liverpool in before playing the ball wide to Rodri, De Bruyne, and Joao Cancelo, who were often waiting in acres of space.

When De Bruyne did get that ball, he advanced and picked out Erling Haaland’s head, who could only direct his header into Alisson’s arms.

Guardiola’s decision to change things made little sense while City was competitive in the game.

Any changes would have had to be more direct as the game progressed, with Grealish’s role for City being a slower, possession-based option.

If he had started, City might have passed up the opportunity to put Foden up against Milner, but they would have seen Grealish do what he has done so often this season: draw defenders in before freeing players in space on the opposite flank to create the overload.

That same tactic has seen Foden and De Bruyne form an effective partnership that, in retrospect, may have been effective against Liverpool as they combine to create crossing opportunities for Erling Haaland.

De Bruyne was isolated as Cancelo was pushed back to deal with Mo Salah and Diogo Jota, and City couldn’t send in those quality balls to Haaland.

What worked against Manchester United, with Grealish teasing his right-back before allowing Foden, De Bruyne, and Haaland to run wild, did not work against Liverpool.

In the future, a front three of Grealish, Haaland, and Foden could be the best option in big games. 

So, for any disappointment Grealish may have felt for not playing at Anfield, City’s struggles without him may have strengthened his big game credentials.

He’ll rack up enough assists before long to render those Alisson comparisons moot, but his true value to City is still in the early stages. And that crucial role, which is often overlooked, was sorely missed on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola’s best front three may have been confirmed after the Liverpool experiment backfired

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