By 90Min
October 11, 2018

Not ideal missing a late penalty against your biggest rivals is it? Definitely not in Manchester City's case, and definitely not in the case of Riyad Mahrez.

Yes, it was pretty brave of Mahrez to put his hand up and volunteer to take it - given his dismal recent record from the penalty spot (missing three out of his last five efforts ) - but it was also pretty arrogant. The Algerian was perhaps itching to prove himself with his new club, but you just get the sense that the timing was all wrong.

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He shouldn't have taken the ball away from Gabriel Jesus, and having done so, he shouldn't have missed. He certainly should have hit the target and at least made Alisson make a save in the Liverpool goal. But he didn't and it's all ifs, buts and maybes that we will take forward from a tense afternoon at Anfield.

What we also witnessed was perhaps the first flaw in what has otherwise seemed like a watertight Pep Guardiola tactical manifesto. The Manchester City manager admitted in the aftermath of Sunday's goalless draw that he was unaware of Mahrez's penalty record, and that in all honesty, there wasn't a penalty taking plan B in place after Sergio Aguero had been taken off.

Until now, Guardiola has looked to have all bases covered, outthinking and outmanoeuvring every manager he has come up against. So you start to ask yourself if the pressure of his poor record against Jurgen Klopp had anything to do with it, especially with results between the pair now standing at just five wins in 15 outings for Guardiola - a winning ratio of just 33.33%. 


We won't know for sure, but it's strange for the City boss to make such a catastrophic mistake.

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On the flip side, Liverpool will take great confidence from Sunday's result - but the fact is though, they are not playing as well as last season. The positive news is that the points have been continually picked up, regardless of the poor runs of form shown by Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah in recent weeks.

Their famed front trio only have nine Premier League goals between them - hardly a fearsome record given their extravagant success last season. It's too early to say they're not as good as you think they are, because they actually are very, very good. Something isn't gelling right now though, unquestionably.

One thing we do know is that Sunday's stalemate has opened things up nicely for Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, with the London trio's wins meaning just two points separate the top five. So having an international break to endure (enjoy sorry, it's UEFA Nations League after all) is far from ideal, but it at least gives us some breathing room to assess how things are shaping up.


In Chelsea's case, you'd have to say pretty nicely. Maurizio Sarri's ball-playing style seems perfectly suited to the Premier League, and although the Blues are very much a work in progress, things are looking good. However, Eden Hazard has been sublime and you can't help but think if he's taken out of the equation, the Blues will run into problems. A lack of penetration, genuine oomph and a character to drive the team forward is lacking in the Belgian's absence - despite their glut of positive results.

The same can be said of things over at the Emirates Stadium under Unai Emery, with full smoke and mirrors usage very much on the go. Nine wins in a row sounds mightily impressive, but let's be real - the Gunners lost both of their games to teams in the top six, and haven't played a top quality side since. Diminishing their achievements in recent weeks is not the objective, it's more a case of bringing things back into perspective.

Their midfield is flimsy and the defence is simply not good enough to compete against better sides. And while Alexandre Lacazette is currently enjoying a purple patch up front, it's obvious that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isn't a fan of being bunged out on the left wing - or being left on the bench for that matter. The bubble will burst, it's just a matter of time.

Meanwhile, the final cog in the current top five challenging wheel, Spurs, continue to plod along despite a disappointing start to Champions League life. Results are steadily trending in the right direction and although Harry Kane looks like he has run 37 marathons, wins are being chalked up. 

Truth be told though, they're not playing well. Scraping past a poor, poor Cardiff side is indicative of how things are going, and although disruption through extensive injuries could be blamed, it just doesn't wash. The transfer window in January will be big for Spurs, as simply put, they need to support Kane better. 

There is a stadium to pay for yes, but results on the pitch dictate so many financial variables that it makes absolutely no sense not to make a solid investment. Kane needs help, and without it, results will dip.

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Should they do so, Manchester United are waiting in the wings. Are they really you ask? Yes, they're a million miles off where they need to be right now, and with apparent turmoil all around, it's hard to see where a run of form is coming from. But it's just what they do isn't it? In recent years, not so much - but the notion that United roll over again to have their belly tickled in Europa League obscurity once more doesn't sit right.

Saturday's comeback against Newcastle was stirring, and could be the spark of a Jose Mourinho led rejuvenation. A foregone conclusion it certainly is not, but you wouldn't it past Mourinho finally turning it around when the chips are down - he is the special one after all.

Whatever happens, we at least have title talking points to debate heading into the Autumn. Exciting isn't it?

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