Gary Neville: "When I watch the application of Liverpool in the game against Arsenal, and the application of Manchester City, it's a different level. And that's the one thing that Pep Guardiola will really need to affect."
Tuesday 29 September 2020 22:29, UK
Gary Neville insists the application Liverpool are showing so far this season is a level above that of Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp's side have started the defence of the Premier League title they won last season with three straight wins, including an impressive victory at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and a 3-1 success at home to Arsenal on Monday Night Football.
Meanwhile, Manchester City started with victory at Wolves but Pep Guardiola's side were left stunned after a 5-2 defeat against Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on Super Sunday.
Gary Neville commentated on both Liverpool's win against Arsenal and City's defeat to Leicester and speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast, the former Manchester United defender was effusive in his praise for Liverpool and gave a title warning to Guardiola and his side...
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I picked Manchester City before the start of the season, when we were asked to make our predictions, just on the basis that they would respond. I thought they would do more in the transfer market, but I'm in the position whereby, and it's only three games in, I'm going to change my mind.
It's not because of Sunday. I was obviously at the Etihad on Sunday to see Leicester beat City 5-2, but just watching Liverpool, even in that first game against Leeds where some people took out of it that they weren't at their best, they were sloppy, and you could get at them.
That was a mad game, the type of which I have been involved in myself and if you come out of those games on top, when you are not at your best, it demonstrates something.
They also signed two players after that game and then they went to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea and they did the business. They then have Arsenal at home, another team near the top of the league, and they've done the business again.
Against Arsenal, the first-half performance was outstanding. When you are up in the gantry, you see more in terms of the shape against on corners. They were really serious about their work. Their reaction to giving the ball away was impeccable all over the pitch.
The front three set the tone for it, but everybody else backs them up. They were absolutely outstanding.
You can take Jordan Henderson and James Milner out, who used to be the workhorses of this team, and they are all workhorses now.
Naby Keita is somebody who has taken a couple of years to get up to speed, but now you see him play and it looks like he's getting there. Fabinho moves through the game and doesn't break sweat. Georginio Wijnaldum is a player that you never really give him the credit, but he does everything really well.
The whole team, from the goalkeeper right the way through to Roberto Firmino at the top of the pitch, is just outstanding.
It was a brilliant performance against Arsenal. You are watching a team that's in sync, together in possession and out of possession. They can control the game, they can counter-attack and they can press. They can mix it with you if needed and can score from set pieces. They can do everything you'd want a good football team to do.
The signings of Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota were big moves because it signalled intent. They needed to strengthen in midfield with somebody who can play, control the game and do something a little bit different to the rest of them, and then Jota up front, who provides a real quality back up to the front three, but doesn't unnerve them to the point where they want to leave. It was a clever signing.
It's a really top team and we know that from what they've achieved over the last couple of years, but it looks like they've come back to do it again.
I talk about the fact that players are missing, and in the past 12 months or so we've mentioned it I don't know how many times. I can mention that they've had a week delay in starting and they might not be up to speed in a fitness point of view. I can mention all of these things.
We know Pep Guardiola doesn't have the team he wants on the pitch at the moment, he's signing another centre-back.
But when I watch the application of Liverpool in the game against Arsenal, and the application of Manchester City, it's a different level. And that's the one thing that Pep Guardiola will really need to affect.
For two seasons, their transition from losing the ball to winning the ball back was off the scale, like we've never seen. He was bringing Barcelona to the Premier League.
They've stepped off it. They stepped off it last season and I think at that point I felt with the levels they'd reached they were always going to go over the edge a little bit. I expected them to start this season really, really at it.
Against Wolves they were good, but Sunday was really worrying because I just didn't see that same urgency and application to the game.
Pep Guardiola is the best coach in the world, his team have been outstanding, and they will get better, no doubt, but he's got to be careful.
They dropped eight points to Liverpool in the first eight games of last season and found they couldn't catch up. They can't afford to do that against this Liverpool team, it's too good.