Merse Says: Problems on horizon for City

Paul Merson

Football Expert & Columnist @PaulMerse

Former Arsenal and England forward points the finger of blame for City’s Anfield loss at Claudio Bravo

Last Updated: 12/11/19 12:15am

Merse has predicted tough times ahed for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City
Merse has predicted tough times ahed for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City

Paul Merson gets his teeth stuck into the Super Sunday clash at Anfield, telling us if Liverpool will finally now win the league, which player was to blame for Man City’s loss, whether it was a penalty or not and why there is trouble in store for the champions.

Liverpool overcame Pep Guardiola’s side 3-1 in a pulsating clash that produced a number of talking points – and as ever, speaking on The Debate, the former Arsenal and England man has not held back in his views…

If Liverpool don’t win it this year, they never will

Sadio Mane and Fabinho celebrate Liverpool's win over Manchester City
Sadio Mane and Fabinho celebrate Liverpool’s win over Manchester City

Liverpool have lost one game in the last 51 and they have played Man City three times in that time, so I just do not see them losing four or five games ’till the end of the season.

That is what they would have to lose as City would not be able to afford to lose any games if they only lost three.

So for me, I think it is Liverpool’s to throw away – if they do not win it this year, I cannot tell you when they will win it again.

I do not see City catching them, not with their defensive problems at the moment. They are just nowhere near good enough defensively.

And I just think Liverpool are too good and I just do not see them getting beaten by any of the lesser teams. And if they do, they have to score two or three goals, which is not going to happen.

Penalty call a game-changer

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s thrilling victory over Manchester City at Anfield.
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s thrilling victory over Manchester City at Anfield.

I thought it was a penalty and City were very unfortunate – I still think they have to carry on playing and too many of their players stopped. When the ball is cleared out to Fabinho, there is nobody near him. So the players are still arguing with the referee, or they have stopped playing.

But for me, if he [Trent Alexander-Arnold] does not handball it, [Raheem] Sterling scores, or he has a clear chance. You can always tell with a player because he moves his arm away so quickly and you can tell with [Sergio] Aguero, he completely and utterly stops.

It is a game-changer – you do not want to be 1-0 down at Anfield after just six minutes as the name of the game is to get there and try and quieten the fans down for 20 minutes as I do not know any place like Anfield when it gets going.

The fans are phenomenal, so that was a game-changer straight away.

It would have been a big call for the VAR and the ref to cancel the goal, go all the way back up the other end and give a penalty to City and for them to go 1-0 up at Anfield – that would have been a big call.

Because they looked at that handball very quickly for me. I see at Tottenham the other day, nearly four minutes for an offside, which was probably a toe.

That was a handball in a big football match and they looked at probably the worst angle, it just happened quickly. When you look at the other ones, the bird’s eye view, it is as plain as anything.

They were very fortunate, but they took advantage.

Ederson’s absence a massive factor in the result

Ederson's absence at Anfield was huge, says Merse
Ederson’s absence at Anfield was huge, says Merse

The goalie has to save it (Fabinho’s opening goal), that can only go one place that shot.

Ederson is in a different league (to Claudio Bravo). He is one of the best keepers in the world, you would go as far as saying he is in the top 10 goalies of all time.

What can’t he do? He has one of the best left foots in the game, he can hit a ball 60-70 yards, he is comfortable and can probably play central midfield, he is a great shot-stopper, he comes out and makes the right decisions and he plays as a sweeper.

Ederson and Bravo are like chalk and cheese and he was a massive difference in that game as well – Ederson saves the first shot, no question about it, and then that could be a penalty as they have not scored a goal, so it is easier to turn it around.

Liverpool midfield unsung, but it’s the forwards who matter most

Merson thinks Firmino, Mane and Salah are the best front three in the world
Merson thinks Firmino, Mane and Salah are the best front three in the world

I do not think they (Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum) are the Fab Three, I think the forwards are the Fab Three. And you take Virgil van Dijk out of the back four and they are no longer the Fab Four.

That midfield three of Liverpool is a very good hard-working midfield that play to a way that gives the full-backs a great opportunity to bomb forward. They do so much hard work.

I can understand they are unsung heroes and I do not think they get the credit they deserve, but they are not the best three midfielders in the world of football.

You look at the front three and that is the best three as a three in the world of football. That midfield three, in my opinion, is not the best in the world. But they are unsung.

You could put Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in that midfield and not weaken it, but could you put another (attacking) player in that team and take one of them out and you would not weaken it? No chance.

Problems on the horizon for City

Guardiola and City face a tough run of fixtures between now and Christmas
Guardiola and City face a tough run of fixtures between now and Christmas

You have to remember that City have Chelsea at home next who are good going forward and if you are talking about a team who are going to give you problems at the back with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic.

This is going to be a problem game and if they do not win that game and Liverpool win…

They have to get through them games next (Newcastle (a), Burnley (a), Man Utd (h), Arsenal (a), Leicester (h) and Wolves (a)) before they can be title contenders again. That is not a good run, but if they win all them and are still in the title race come Christmas, then I will go fair enough.

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