Manchester City took full advantage of the incoherence a summer of upheaval has sparked in the Liverpool camp to record a comfortable 3-1 win over the side that finished closest to them in last season’s Premier League.
Defensively disjointed and noticeably blunt up front post sale of last season’s opposition scalpel Luis Suarez, the Reds were comprehensively bested by the reigning champions, who prompted a skyrocket shift in the visitors’ title odds to 16/1.
Brendan Rodgers’ men remain 17/20 to finish in the top-four despite the outcome of this match, but the Merseysiders have much to learn if they are to justify this short price and they must do it quickly.
Lesson 1: Tweaking the personnel alone will not shore up a leaky backline.
Perceived problems at centre-half and left-back in the Reds’ ranks were supposed to have been eradicated following the expensive arrivals of Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno, who cost a combined £32m according to reports.
The pricey pair promptly made a mockery of any such notions, with each at fault for a City strike.
Erudite observers will be aware that flaws in the formation were at the root of Liverpool’s defensive deficiency last term and, until these are amended, no amount of rearguard acquisitions will stem the flow of concessions.
Lesson 2: Daniel Sturridge needs a strike partner
His goals-per-game record in a red shirt is fantastic, but based on the opening exchanges it’s difficult to see how the former Chelsea marksman will be as prolific this season without Suarez in tow.
The threat he posed for England at the World Cup was noticeably reduced after subtracting the Uruguayan from his side and it wasn’t overly vexing for the Citizens’ backline to negate his impact when he was flying solo last night.
Mario Balotelli’s arrival, it would seem, could not be timelier.
Lesson 3: How to get the best out of Raheem Sterling?
The teenager started spritely at the Etihad, but quickly wilted once the going got tough in a performance that mirrored his scintillating opening 20 minutes for England against Italy in the summer.
That day he was pitched in behind the forward line, but moved to the wing once the Azzurri figured out how to handle him.
Last night he started on the right, tasked to take advantage of Gael Clichy’s alleged defensive ineptitude and succeeded for a short while, before Manuel Pellegrini adapted a contingency.
Finding a way to sustain Sterling’s excellence will be key to Liverpool’s success in the long term as they hope to revitalise their frontline in the aftermath of Suarez’s departure and it’s possible that the best way to do this could be to utilise him in an impact-sub capacity.