What a first 15’, eh?
Tottenham had no idea what hit them. Liverpool remained dominant for the opening 30 minutes, then ceded too much control for the final 15 of the first half. You never want to give your opposition a glimmer of hope when you’re so dominant so early; you’ve got to remain horrible to play against. Shame about the complacency (and literal slip, aided by a poor defensive shape) that let them back into it. Full time at 30’ and we all would have had a lovely time.
Though small inroads were made to stem the chaos initially in the second half (and Jordan Henderson coming on calmed things down a bit as well for a time), control was never really retained properly, and good chances for the Reds were few and far between.
Was it all worth it, though?
The ending was truly hilarious and likely the most Spursy thing I’ve seen in my life, but it was Spursy because it was such a gift: Liverpool deserved to drop points at home to one of the worst form teams in the league, and that’s never great. Nonetheless, three points are three points.
Winners and Losers
Winners: Fans of Spursiness; the Anti-Richarlison Brigade; fans of goals. Diogo Jota’s yellow card.
Losers: Anyone with heart issues; Lucas Moura; fans of good Liverpool performances.
Liverpool rotated slightly, with a very young midfield — though Thiago might have been initially marked to start before being seen walking gingerly to the bench pre-match. The difference between the sides in the opening 30 minutes had less to do with a tactical plan and much more to do with the collective: Liverpool were willing to work and willing to press while each Tottenham player too often found themselves isolated.
The starting XI was set up to play effectively in tight areas but to have pace to account for quick counters — though the counter-press would be asked to mitigate these — and to cut Spurs out. We saw this work perfectly in the opening 20 minutes especially, with Liverpool moving the ball well, finding clever spaces, and winning it back quickly when the ball was lost. Unfortunately, mental lapses undid a lot of the good tactical work early on.
While Trent Alexander-Arnold is excelling in his new role, Andy Robertson is struggling a bit when asked to receive the ball in different areas on the pitch. While the left back certainly just had an off day in general, Spurs were also able to predict his next move far too easily, and force him into bad decisions on the ball that he might not make if he were able to take up more comfortable spaces.
Dissecting the Narrative
Curtis Jones is often the victim of line-up furor whenever he finds himself in the starting line-up, but my word he showed us why he deserved to be on the pitch almost immediately. The young Scouser took his goal brilliantly, and was generally industrious throughout. He’s had a run in the side and at his age that’s something worth keeping an eye on.
Of course, the main narrative heading into the match was probably Paul Tierney, who is famously the only referee Jürgen Klopp has an issue with. He didn’t have a great performance, though Liverpool will likely be the happier of the two sides: Oliver Skipp could have seen red for a challenge that saw his studs hit high on Luis Díaz’s ankle, but Skipp himself was the victim of a high boot from Diogo Jota that I’m frankly confused about being a yellow.
There was also argument as to whether Richarlison deserved a penalty with Ibrahima Konaté holding him back late on: though this was thankfully not given, you never want your centerbacks to be so wrong sided that they feel they must make choices that ask the question of the officials. In the end, the officiating left a lot to be desired, but you have to say we came off on top of a Tierney show for once, so onto the next.
What Happens Next
The results elsewhere were a mixed bag, with Newcastle and Manchester United both maintaining their position with wins (albeit the latter taking points from Aston Villa — a side who sit strong on 54 points even if they have played 34 games). These two wins make the top four finish stretch further out of sight for the Reds.
The most worrying result of the weekend is almost certainly Brighton’s, as the Seagulls won decisively to continue their march up the table. They’re in 8th on 52 points despite having played the fewest games (31) in that congested top half. Their match against Manchester United this Thursday is certainly one to keep an eye on, but their run-in is a mixed bag: they face Arsenal, Newcastle, and Manchester City — and have to travel to Aston Villa — but also Everton and Southampton (both at home). We might want them to beat United and/or Newcastle and hope they drop points elsewhere.
Though Liverpool are still chasing Newcastle and Manchester United in the top four, Tottenham and Villa are breathing down our necks, and Brighton look to be the real deal. It won’t be an easy road. Realistically, we’re fighting for the Europa League or Conference League, and while this is altogether disappointing both could be a lot of fun.
Thoughts are with Jürgen Klopp’s hamstring and Diogo Jota’s vocal chords. More on them here: