The Community Shield game has come and gone. Manchester City emerged victorious on penalties after holding Liverpool to a 1-1 draw in regulation time. The Sky Blues dominated proceedings early on and could have wrapped up the game in the first half. But Jurgen Klopp rewired his side after the break and subsequently took over control.
Although City had good chances that could easily have been converted to put the game to bed, the Reds became the dominant team on the pitch especially towards the end of the game. That resulted in an equaliser in the 77th minute. Later on Kyle Walker averted what could have been a catastrophic end for City. The right-back made a last-ditch goal-line clearance that kept the Sky Blues alive in the tie.
Here are three takeaways from the game as we look forward to the kick off of the new campaign.
Raheem Sterling proves he can lead the line for City
With Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus missing out of the club’s pre-season tour of Asia, the duo could only find a place on the bench. Raheem Sterling was Pep Guardiola’s preferred option at the center of attack. The Englishman did not disappoint as he scored City’s goal in the 12th minute. By so doing, the 24-year-old continued his strong performance in front of goal. His goal tally was only bettered by Aguero last term. It was a performance that earned him the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award.
With a busy season ahead as the Cityzens hope to defend their domestic titles. Going one step further in the Champions League will also be top on Guardiola’s agenda. That will require a lot from the players including being able to function in a variety of positions. Also, unforeseen circumstances like injuries, fitness concerns or the need for rotation could call for a change in the shape of the team. That may require Sterling being deployed as a striker.
So far, he has passed the test in pre-season.
Premier League title race could still go down to the wire
Coming off the back of a season where Liverpool pushed City all the way, the game offered a glimpse into what is to come this time around. After a slow start, the Merseysiders showed they are ready to do it again. In fact, Klopp’s men could have easily emerged victorious on the day. It took a string of saves both from the goalkeeper and the defence to keep the game all squared.
A cursory look at the different teams in the league shows Liverpool could still be the main challengers to City. Chelsea lost their best player in Eden Hazard. With a new manager in charge, Frank Lampard will do well to make the top four. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has added the most expensive defender to the Manchester United squad. But the team still doesn’t look like a serious challenger for the title.
Mauricio Pochettino took Tottenham to the Champions League final. Yet, that was an overachievement. A repeat of such is not expected this term. Just as the team is not expected to win the league. Again, a top four finish will be considered a success. Same will apply to Unai Emery’s Arsenal.
That leaves Liverpool with the tough task of dethroning City as champions.
Rodri is no Fernandinho
The man to replace Fernandinho has had his chance to show what he can do in a City shirt. So far, he has done a good job as his manager has confirmed. He featured throughout the pre-season as the team made a tour of Asia. Against Liverpool, he also proved capable of doing well in front of the back four.
But he is no Fernandinho.
The Spaniard was guilty of giving the ball away on some occasions. That almost proved costly as Mohamed Salah nearly punished City by scoring. Claudio Bravo came to the rescue. Although good with the ball at his feet as well as having a good eye for a pass, he is not an imposing figure like his older teammate. He will need some time and a few lessons from the Brazilian to improve in that regard.
There’s nothing to worry about though as he has all the conditions required to help him settle in. Readjusting to a new league is not easy. But he will most likely get into his groove after a few outings in the new campaign.