Liverpool were impressive all over the pitch yesterday, but three areas stood out, especially when contrasted with last week's disappointing result at West Brom.
• Midfield Passing
Both Spearing and Lucas were far more influential against City. Some of that was down to Mancini's surprising tactics, with a central midfield of Barry and Toure, but both were vastly improved in their own right. They hunted in tandem, closed down relentlessly, and both looked to get on the ball as much as possible.
Spearing attempted 21 more passes than against West Brom, completing 18 more, with a success rate of 82% compared to 80%. Similar goes for Lucas, who attempted 25 more passes and completed 19 more. Lucas delivered the type of big-game performance we've become accustomed to, but Spearing was a revelation, and his chalkboards were remarkably different: Jay was much more involved and got forward to much greater effect against the far-tougher opponent.
• Integrating the Strikers
No surprise that these two made an enormous difference. Suarez was Liverpool's best player against the Baggies, the only one who appeared able to make the needed difference, but both he and Carroll were isolated and ineffective for long stretches with Liverpool unable to assert dominance. That wasn't the case against City, where both dropped deeper to bring midfield runners into the attack and completed more passes, especially amongst themselves. Despite far more incompletions – usually from flick-ons and knock-downs – Carroll was much busier and stronger against City's backline, and was rewarded with two excellent goals.
• Defending the Flanks
We've rightfully complained about the output from full-back in recent weeks thanks to the increasingly frustrating injury crisis, but that wasn't a problem against City, despite having weapons such as Johnson, Silva, Milner, and Balotelli to punish from those areas. Both Flanagan and Aurelio defended well, mostly unconcerned with getting forward, but each had a lot of help. Both Kuyt and Meireles dropped back to defend excellently, recording a number of key tackles, each with far more stops than in the previous fixture. Kuyt won more tackles than any other Liverpool player; Meireles was joint-third, tied with Carroll and one less than Lucas. Kuyt's work-rate and assistance were undeniably crucial because of Flanagan's inexperience, and the young debutant wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful without the Dutchman.