Why do Manchester City struggle so much at Anfield?

By David Mooney, Sat 13 January 2018 13:33

Why do Manchester City struggle so much at Anfield?David Mooney looks into the Blues' abysmal record away at Liverpool

Manchester City simply do not win at Anfield. It seems to be one of the laws of football, set in stone that Pep Guardiola's team will not take maximum points from a trip to Liverpool. It's a game the fans strike off from the moment the fixture list is announced; it's been an age since the team even played well in the red half of Merseyside, let alone got a good result.

The last City team to beat Liverpool on their own patch was managed by Kevin Keegan and featured an attack spearheaded by two of Anfield's alumni. Robbie Fowler had a more illustrious career there than Nicolas Anelka had done, but it was the Frenchman who netted twice late on to give the visitors a 2-1 win. It came less than a season after then Reds boss Gerard Houllier opted not to sign the forward after having had him on loan.

Since then, it's been 15 successive trips to Anfield without victory -- with nine defeats. Roberto Mancini is the last City boss to take anything in this fixture, drawing 2-2 in August 2012. Manuel Pellegrini then went on to lose all three of his trips, before Guardiola failed to get anything on New Year's Eve 2016.

As if to emphasise how woeful City's record there is, they have won just six of their 55 visits since the end of the Second World War (four of which came in 1956 or earlier) and the last City goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at Liverpool is Perry Suckling in 1986.

It's fair to say that history is not on Guardiola's side when he tries to turn around City's fortunes on Merseyside on Sunday.

While pundits are beginning to talk like an unbeaten Premier League season is a real possibility for City, the fans are holding back from such thoughts. There's a very simple reason: Liverpool, along with Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham, have ruined many an away day for the supporters. And they're all to come, starting with a trip to Anfield on Sunday.

No City fan wants to tempt fate by suggesting that matching the Arsenal
2003-04 invincibles campaign is even a remote possibility, knowing the trouble City have had at some of the grounds they're still to visit, with Liverpool perhaps the biggest hurdle to cross.

City have picked up recent (ish) victories at Goodison Park, White Hart Lane or the Emirates, while Anfield remains a stadium where the current league leaders appear to be cursed. It's the only ground they've played regularly at in the top flight and never managed to win at in the Sheikh Mansour era.

Many outsiders will find it odd that City's fans are not more confident heading into the match on Sunday. With a lead at the top of the Premier League that's stretched to 15 points and an unbeaten run of 20 wins and two draws this season, the City supporters should be fearing nobody and should be expecting Guardiola's men to break their duck at Anfield.

But they're not -- thanks to a lifetime of being scarred by daring to dream and getting stung for it, in the various forms that "Typical City"
has taken down the years. It's why few City fans can bring themselves to be arrogant even when their team has spent four-and-a-half months ripping up the rulebook for how to play in the Premier League; they know that if there's any side that can fall from grace spectacularly then it's theirs.

Everyone except City fans will say the title race is over. City fans will tell you that it's not won until Guardiola's team mathematically can't be caught, even if they're 15 points clear heading into the fifth-last game of the season.

Nevertheless, if City are going to improve their record at Anfield, then there's not going to be a better opportunity than this term. This is arguably the best team the top flight has seen in the Premier League era, consistently performing to a level that nobody else has ever achieved, and they're scoring goals for fun. Why couldn't they win at Anfield?

Because they're City.

In the build up to their past meetings, City's offensive players have always been praised, especially in the context of Liverpool's shaky defence -- but the Reds have always managed to keep players like Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva fairly quiet at Anfield.

Having stepped it up a gear this season, though, it should be a new challenge for Jurgen Klopp. Questions over whether Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius are up to task should asked once more -- though the addition of Virgil Van Dijk will no doubt help shore up their rickety back line.

With both teams intent on scoring goals and committed to open matches, Sunday's fixture has the potential to be one of the highlights of the season. If City can't win at Liverpool with the way this campaign has gone so far, then they're probably doomed to a lifetime of draws and defeats at Anfield.