Brilliance and fine margins summed up Kyle Walker’s and Man City’s display against Liverpool

Manchester City played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday, a result that, while keeping them a point clear at the top of the Premier League table, feels slightly less than they deserved.

Pep Guardiola’s side were brilliant for large swathes of the contest, dominating the first-half in particular but failing to make the most of the chances they created. Guardiola adopted a Liverpool-esque direct approach to attack, his side playing far more balls in behind their opponent’s defense than normal.

But against a team as good as Liverpool, fine margins can make all the difference. The performance of Kyle Walker summed that up perfectly and served as a microcosm of City’s general team performance on the day.

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the good

One of Walker’s biggest assets is his pace and ability to make recovery runs, something that was vital in keeping Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane largely quiet in the first-half.

With Liverpool riding a wave after Diogo Jota equalised, Salah lead a counter-attack on the right flank. The Egyptian was one-on-one with Aymeric Laporte – a foot race no City fan ever wants to see – but Walker recognized the danger and decided to act.

As soon as Salah took a heavy touch to knock the ball around Laporte, Walker sprinted over and collected the ball before the attacker could reach it.

Walker spotted the potential for danger…

…and quickly snuffed it out

On the ball, Walker was typically excellent. On Sunday he generally played higher and wider than has usually been the case this season, with Guardiola moving away from his usual full-backs tucking in approach.

On occasion, he did still find himself in a more central position, like when he received a short pass from Bernardo Silva while under pressure. In one smooth motion, he turned and controlled the ball before launching a perfect cross-field ball out to Phil Foden on the left wing.

Walker’s passing under pressure was excellent

When attacking down the wing Walker showcased his speed in attack, latching onto balls in behind the defense as was City’s (uncharacteristic) strategy this game.

On one occasion he did brilliantly to reach a scoring Bernardo ball forward, but Virgil van Dijk did well to intercept his dangerous cross.

Walker offered a threat by playing higher and wider than normal

Fine margins

A team as good as Liverpool will punish you if you let them off the hook or make the slightest of mistakes, and that is exactly what happened.

For Liverpool’s equalizer, which came just 46 seconds into the second-half, Walker switched off. As the play developed on the left side of City’s defense he lost the whereabouts of Mane – who was stood behind him – and when he realized it was too late.

When Salah played a brilliant defense-splitting through-ball Mane had a split-second advantage on the England defender, and that was all he needed. In fairness to Walker, arguably no other opponent would have exploited that slight lapse of concentration. Unfortunately for him and City, Salah and Mane are two of the best in the business.

Walker switches off for a few seconds, losing track of where Mane is

When Salah threads a through ball it’s too late and Mane is through on goal

Six minutes later – with City visibly rattled by Liverpool’s quick-fire equalizer – Walker made another misjudgment, stepping up too late and playing Salah onside. Jota’s subsequent effort was saved by Ederson, but it was another miscalculation that could have cost City.

Walker tries to play the offside trap but Salah is comfortably onside

Overall, Walker’s afternoon was a microcosm of City as a whole. Both were largely brilliant, but fine margins proved the difference between a draw and a win. Against any other team City would have likely won regardless, but Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are not any old team.

When the two sides meet again on Saturday in the FA Cup semi-final, the Blues need to make sure that they don’t fall foul of those fine margins again. If they do then Liverpool will be ready to pounce.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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