Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football: "I can see both Liverpool and Man City dropping points"; Sky Sports pundit assesses title rivals and explains why their perceived weaknesses - Liverpool's high line and City's lack of a striker - are actually strengths
Tuesday 26 April 2022 13:25, UK
Jamie Carragher analysed Liverpool and Manchester City's strengths and weaknesses on Monday Night Football and examined the areas which could cause them to drop points as the Premier League title race goes to the wire.
Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp's sides are still separated by a single point at the top of the Premier League table having beaten Watford and Everton respectively at the weekend.
They have five games each left to play, with Liverpool facing what looks like the trickier run-in on paper, but Carragher believes both sides will slip up between now and the end of the campaign.
"We're talking about two brilliant teams," the Sky Sports pundit said on Monday Night Football. "You can't really split them in an area of the game, but I can see both of them dropping points."
Carragher opened his analysis by explaining why Liverpool's firepower may give them an advantage over City.
"Liverpool have the slight edge in attack and in terms of goals per game," he said. "They have scored 85 games, Man City 80.
"We talk about Man City not having a striker, but the goals are still absolutely phenomenal.
"But Man City's top scorer is De Bruyne with 11, and for Liverpool it's Salah with 22. There's a big difference.
"Man City obviously spread the goals out a bit more, but the numbers in terms of their top scorers show Liverpool have a big advantage in attack."
He added: "If Man City are to drop points, it would be down to the fact they could have games where they fail to score.
"Man City have failed to score in four games this season - Liverpool only one - and they have only scored once in seven games too, so that's 11 games where they have scored one goal or zero goals.
"So, you think, if Man City are going to drop points, it must be from a 0-0, there's been evidence of that this season in games that we've seen."
Former striker Robbie Keane, Carragher's guest on Monday Night Football, added: "It's incredible, when you look at the whole season, how well Man City have done without having an out-and-out striker.
"If they had a young Sergio Aguero, from four or five years ago, I think the league would be over by now.
"The football they play is incredible to watch. They get bodies in the box and they do score a lot of goals.
"But these are the times when you need a number nine, a fox in the box. I think that's where they could slip up, especially in tight games."
While City have often dropped points in low-scoring games, Liverpool slip-ups have often been more chaotic affairs.
"We should add that lot of those games where Liverpool dropped points were early on in the season and there has been a change, defensively, in the second half of the season," said Carragher.
"But, if Liverpool drop points, you feel like it wouldn't be a 0-0, it would be a 2-2.
"The perceived weaknesses of the two sides are that City haven't got a striker, and Liverpool's high line. But I think in some ways those are both strengths for them as well.
"The defensive stats show City have the edge.
"Most people would say Liverpool have the best defender in the world in Virgil van Dijk, but as a team, City are better defensively and that might have something to do with not having a striker.
"Maybe having more control of the ball in the game means people can't attack them.
"But again, the numbers are very close. Goals conceded per game, there's nothing in it.
"Where there is a big difference is the xG per game. It's almost a third higher for Liverpool.
"There's nothing in the clean sheets but the big one that stands out is that Manchester City have only conceded one goal from a set-piece, Liverpool seven."
Asked why Liverpool allow their opponents better chances than City, with expected goals data ranking Liverpool 14th in the Premier League for xG per shot faced, Carragher explained: "A lot of those situations through people running through on goal against Alisson.
"I've just mentioned how Man City not having a striker is in some ways a strength, and it's the same with Liverpool's high line.
"The first reason why they play a high line is that they want to press high to keep their team compact.
"In terms of high turnovers ending in shots on goal, they have the highest in the Premier League and have more than double as many goals as any other team from those situations.
"The other reason why they play a high line is the amount of times they catch the opposition offside.
"There's massive difference between Liverpool (131 offsides) compared to Man City, who are the next best (82).
"So, people question the high line, but Liverpool get so much from it.
"When you play this type of style, you need top players to do it and they have the best defender in the world in Van Dijk and for me the best goalkeeper in the world in Alisson.
"It doesn't always go right and sometimes I do question it, but a lot of the time it comes from body positions. When they have problems, it's not about how high they are up the pitch, it's because body positions aren't right. Body positions are everything when you're playing a high line."
Carragher believes Tottenham, in particular, will fancy their chances of exploiting Liverpool's high line given how Harry Kane is able to pick out Heung-Min Son's runs in behind, but he believes Alisson's presence in goal is key to reducing the risk.
"The third reason why they play a high line is that Liverpool have the best goalkeeper in the world in dealing with these situations," added Carragher "You know he's great in those positions.
"For me, the best goalkeeper in the world at one on ones. The stats show Liverpool should have conceded eight more goals than they have through one on ones this season.
"That is the difference. They back their goalkeeper to deal with it every single game because they have the best to deal with it. On top of that, the high line has helped them in terms of going forward, and scoring goals themselves.
"So, when people say this high line is a problem, I go back to what I said about Manchester City's false nine.
"They are perceived weakness - and they only need to go wrong once between now and the end of the season, that could cost either team the title.
"But they are not massive problems for either team, they are actually strengths."