Only Man City collapse will stop title win now, but I don’t see them cracking – Shearer analysis

Match of the Day 2 analysis

The only thing that can stop Manchester City winning the Premier League now is themselves – if they collapse for any reason. The problem for their rivals is that it does not look like that will happen.

Sunday’s emphatic 4-1 victory over defending champions Liverpool at Anfield was City’s 10th in a row in the league and I just don’t see another team capable of putting together a winning run like that to challenge them.

On this evidence, City are not going to crack either, whatever is thrown at them.

Pep Guardiola’s side are still in all four major competitions so their busy schedule in an already hugely demanding campaign is not going to ease up, but they have a strong squad that has been playing twice a week all season so it is nothing new to them.

Snapshot of the top of the Premier League: 1st Man City, 2nd Man Utd, 3rd Leicester, 4th Liverpool, 5th Chelsea and 6th West Ham

We also don’t know what could happen in terms of injuries to City’s key players but they have already coped without Kevin de Bruyne for the past five games and have been without Sergio Aguero for most of the season – his last league start was in October.

Gabriel Jesus has been sidelined too so there have been long spells where they haven’t had a recognised centre-forward available, but that doesn’t seem to have made any difference.

Not only are City on a record-equalling winning run as an English top-flight side of 14 games in all competitions, they are playing some fantastic football too.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson obviously had a dreadful game on Sunday, and gifted Pep Guardiola’s side two of their goals, but I thought Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan were all magnificent to ensure City ran away with it.

After a great few weeks, it was the perfect weekend for them, clinching such a brilliant win after seeing their nearest rivals Manchester United and Leicester both drop points.

City are already in the final of the Carabao Cup and fifth round of the FA Cup, but their priority for the rest of the season will be regaining their Premier League title and winning the Champions League for the first time.

If they can maintain their current level, then doing both is not beyond them.

Liverpool have to find some form quickly

While City march on, Liverpool have to regroup.

Jurgen Klopp’s side had to win on Sunday to get back in the title race, and it is going to be almost impossible for them to retain their title from here.

Instead, they now have to focus on the Champions League and securing a top-four finish, but they are going to need to find some form quickly because they have some more tough games coming up fast.

They have got a week off to get themselves together but next up is a trip to third-placed Leicester on Saturday, then they play RB Leipzig in the Champions League in Hungary before the Merseyside derby at Anfield in their next home game on 20 February.

It is 22 years since Everton last won there but it is Liverpool who will go into the game with doubts because of their recent record at what was for so long a fortress for them.

After going 68 home league games unbeaten, it was a huge shock to see them lose there to first Burnley and then Brighton, and this latest defeat means they have lost three league games in a row there for the first time since 1963.

Graphic showing Liverpool's starting XI v Man Utd: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Fabinho, Robertson, Jones, Thiago, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane

What’s gone wrong? Well, of course Liverpool have missed Virgil van Dijk at the back. He is one of the best centre-backs in the world, if not the best, and he has been out injured since October.

But the fact they have been without Joe Gomez and Joel Matip too meant they have had to shift people around to cover and that has cost them all over the pitch, especially with Jordan Henderson dropping out of midfield to fill in at the back.

I thought their forwards would keep on scoring to keep getting them results regardless but that has not happened. Their front three have been struggling for form too.

Something needs to change for the team to get its belief back, and putting Henderson back in his proper position would definitely help.

They signed two centre-backs – Preston’s Ben Davies and Schalke’s Ozan Kabak – on deadline day last week, so I would suggest putting at least one of them in there as soon as possible so Henderson can return to the centre of midfield. They need him there.

City have risen to the challenge

Graphic showing Man City's starting XI v Liverpool: Ederson, Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, Sterling, Foden

City have had their own blips this season, right at the start of the campaign, but they have got over them in spectacular fashion.

The way they firstly found their form and then maintained it has been hugely impressive.

Their defence has clearly played a huge part in their success – Ruben Dias gifted Liverpool their goal when his mistake led to Mohamed Salah’s penalty, but that was the only error City made at the back at Anfield and is pretty much the only mistake Dias has made since he joined the club in October.

Not only is Dias an outstanding defender in his own right, he has improved his partner, John Stones, who had another excellent game. Apart from that spot-kick, Liverpool only had one other shot at goal in the second half when they were trying to get back in the game.

At the other end of the pitch, I’ve not heard Guardiola moan about the injuries that have sidelined his strikers. Instead, City have just got on with it and their players have risen to the challenge.

Yes, the likes of Foden and Gundogan are having their best seasons in terms of goals, but everyone is chipping in.

It meant Guardiola was able to leave Jesus on the bench at Anfield and start without a recognised striker, and obviously he deserves credit too. Yet again he got his tactics spot on – and again he has found a way to make City the team to beat.

Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

Around the BBC iPlayer bannerAround the BBC iPlayer footer

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read Original Article