Five Things We Learned: Manchester City 4-0 Liverpool (Premier League)
It's fair to say that City fans were not particularly looking forward to Thursday's match. The prospect of having to give Liverpool, our fiercest rivals in the Guardiola era, a guard of honour, created a sense of apathy. Yet, we all tuned in, hoping for the City side to put in a passionate display and send a message to Liverpool that we will be back next season.
And it was some message. After de Bruyne opened the scoring from the spot, Liverpool were second best all night. Clearly, they were feeling the aftermath of a few days partying. The sense was one of schadenfreude more than anything else. We revelled in watching the Liverpool players suffer on the pitch after the humbling guard of honour. They only had VAR to thank for avoiding a repeat of the 2017/18 season's 5-0 rout.
Here are the five things we learned from Thursday's demolition of Jurgen Klopp's side...
PFA Player of the Year - Kevin de Bruyne
I like Jordan Henderson. He's a very good player and an even better captain. But, the idea that he deserves the PFA Player of the Year is, well, laughable. City have won the league four times now without a single on of our players receiving the award. The unwritten rule that it has to go to a title-winning player apparently only applies when someone other than City wins it. Kevin de Bruyne has being the best player in the league. No one comes close. Tonight, the difference between him and everyone else was impossible not to notice. Frankly, it will be a travesty if he is denied the award.
Who's the Big Man now?
Let's rewind to earlier in the season, a few days shortly after Liverpool defeated City at Anfield. Picture the scene. The England squad is settling down to their lunch at St George's Park. Jordan Pickford has just sat down with his tray of Richmond sausages, chips and baked beans. Harry Maguire is brooding because he recklessly strayed outside the line in his colouring-in book. Then, out of nowhere, Sterling swaggers up to Joe Gomez, demanding to know if he is 'the big man now?' Well, based on Thursday's evidence, it is the City winger. He used his strength and quick-feet to bully Gomez and earn a penalty, and with a goal and two assists he gave the entire Liverpool defence a horrible evening.
This was one of the biggest tests of Foden's fledgling career to date. Up against the league's best defence this season and one of it's most tenacious full-backs in Andrew Robertson, Foden played with the composure of a veteran. He was intelligent in his positioning, tireless in his efforts and silky in possession. He earned an assist for Sterling's second goal and got himself on the score-sheet after an exchange of play with de Bruyne that left Robertson hunting his shadow. A player for the present, not the future, said Micah Richards. Quite right.
Looking for Eric
As with Foden, this was another big test for the teenage defender Eric Garcia. Guardiola clearly wants to see if the Spaniard is ready to play at this level as he makes plans for next season. Garcia demonstrated that he is. Sure, there were a couple of suspect moments with some wayward passing and poor marking. But, on the whole, Garcia often found himself in the right place at the right time to deal with any danger; the hallmark of a good defender. There is no doubt that Garcia has the potential to become a mainstay at the heart of City's defence, and Thursday's performance has brought him one step closer.
I think, collectively, as City fans, we have never truly appreciated how talented a footballer Ilkay Gundogan is. In any other side, we would all recognise what a wonderful player he is. But, because we have a side full of world-class talent to admire, he has gone under the radar. Then, every so often he has a moment that makes you go 'oh yeah, this guy is bloody good'. This time, it was one of the best passes you'll ever see, when in the first-half he found de Bruyne on the volley after a corner was half-cleared. Aside from that, he helped to control the game, got stuck in when needed and pinged the ball about with minimal effort. Ilkay, we appreciate you.
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