Community Shield: Manchester City dominate Liverpool but fail to find finishing touch
Manchester City’s new-look attack posed more threat than Liverpool’s but lacked its clinical touch in the Community Shield, writes Frank Dalleres.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not a mantra by which either Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp appear to abide. Not content with establishing a yawning gap to the rest of the Premier League, Manchester City and Liverpool spent the summer remodelling their already devastating attacks.
We got a first proper glimpse of how they line up in the coming season on Saturday when the title rivals met in the Community Shield. And while the day belonged to Liverpool, who gained an early psychological edge with a 3-1 win, there was plenty to encourage City too.
The English champions had more shots, more shots on target, more corners and more possession than Liverpool. Their 1.6 expected goals was slightly less than Liverpool’s 1.7, but excluding the Reds’ penalty, which alone was worth 0.76, it was far superior, according to data from Sporting Risk.
Breaking down the match by 15-minute intervals, City had a higher xG than Liverpool – in other words, created the better goal chances – in all but two of the periods: 15-30 minutes, when Trent Alexander-Arnold opened the scoring, and the last quarter of an hour, in which they scored twice to clinch victory.
With better finishing, City would have won, and possibly quite comfortably, but it proved a game to forget for the man brought in to spearhead their new-look attack, Erling Haaland. The £50m Norway striker fluffed his lines on several occasions, most conspicuously when he hit the crossbar when the goal was gaping in the closing moments.
Liverpool, on the other hand, reminded everyone how clinical they can be, even now that Sadio Mane has departed for Bayern Munich. They benefited from some lucky breaks – their first goal took a slight deflection off Nathan Ake’s head, while Darwin Nunez’s header was going wide until it hit the arm of Ruben Dias, winning a penalty that swung the match in their favour – but they looked dangerous throughout.
While Guardiola couldn’t wait to blood his new No9 Haaland, Klopp kept his – Nunez – on the bench at first, with Roberto Firmino starting at centre-forward. When the Uruguayan summer signing from Benfica did enter the fray after an hour, however, Liverpool immediately became more dangerous: 1.54 of their 1.7 xG came after that point.
Liverpool’s most potent attacks were evenly distributed between the two flanks, but City favoured the right, with eight of their 12 goal attempts coming from that side. While right winger Riyad Mahrez tested Ederson three times, Jack Grealish did not have a single shot. Of Haaland’s three efforts, only one was on target.
Overall, both teams looked dangerous at times, while still holding something back for when the season proper kicks off at the weekend. City’s new attack functioned well in every aspect apart from the most important one, where Liverpool and Nunez in particular threw down the gauntlet.