The Chalkboard: Spurs 2-1 Liverpool
Spurs took on Liverpool at White Hart Lane. A ground where Liverpool have found victories hard to come by. It was an end to end game with both sides attacking at first sight. Two goals in the first 15 minutes of the game set the note for the rest of the match. Spurs chose to sit back rather than take unnecessary risks, a proof that AVB is maturing as a manager. In the end the Lilywhites emerged victorious, putting an end to Liverpool’s unbeaten streak.
Tottenham: Lloris; Walker; Gallas, Dawson, Vertonghen; Lennon, Sandro, Dembele, Bale, Dempsey; Defoe
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Downing; Allen, Gerrard, Sterling, Henderson, Enrique; Suarez
Bale dominated the wings, finding loads of space
One main reason why Spurs were successful in winning the game at the Lane were the exploits of Gareth Bale. His pace was something that Liverpool’s defenders couldn’t contend with. Moreover with Liverpool trying to make this an end to end game, and hence committing men forward (including full-backs), Bale found lots of space to utilise down the flanks.
As seen above here, Liverpool were trying to get back with everyone, including Johnson, watching the man on the ball Defoe. Bale is able to make a run into tons of space and receive the ball. On this occasion he flashed the ball wide of goal but he remained a constant threat for Liverpool. After scoring 2, Spurs sat back a little. Had they wanted more, they could have certainly have fashioned out a few chances, having Gareth Bale down the wings.
Spurs exploiting the wings
It were the wide areas that proved to be Liverpool’s undoing. Full-backs and wingers both stretched the play and Liverpool found it difficult to deal with. As mentioned, Liverpool committed forward that allowed Spurs to take advantage of the gaps.
It was a pretty straight forward approach, and fans, pundits, managers, players, everyone knew before the match that Spurs would exploit the wings and use this to attack Liverpool. Despite this, the sheer pace and efficiency of Bale and Lennon down both flanks, and the advancing runs of the full backs (Verthongen and Walker), made it difficult for Liverpool to contend with.
GOAL! Lennon opened the scoring. Downing at fault.
Firstly, once more it was Bale’s run down the left side and into the box, running at defenders that created this goal. But his run could have definitely been prevented.
Bale played the ball to the far post. Downing showed that he clearly isn’t a suited full-back. A simple error cost Liverpool the goal. Downing was focusing on Bale and failed to block the run of Lennon who was a good few yards behind him when Bale picked up the ball. Once the ball left the Welshman’s feet, Downing didn’t move to the far post but instead just stopped, allowing Lennon to creep in from behind and tap it in.
Dempsey and Defoe found space between the lines.
Both Clint Dempsey and Jermain Defoe found loads of space in between the Liverpool midfield and defence. No one was able to track Dempsey when he dropped deep. The midfielders tried to contest against Spurs’ midfield, while the centre backs marked Defoe. The full-backs too were unable to move into a central spot to mark Dempsey as they had to cover the flanks.
As the picture on the left shows, Dempsey saw a bit of space in midfield and that would have been AVB’s plan as well. Dembele is someone who naturally pushes forward, and Sandro occasionally makes a run as well making it difficult for the Liverpool defence.
Dempsey therefore would have been instructed to just sit there as a second striker, unmarked and dictate the play in the final third. Spurs though were able to get 2 early goals after which they decided to sit back a little.
The picture above shows an instance where Liverpool were pegged back. Dempsey and Defoe were left unmarked and with plenty of space in the center. The Liverpool midfielders were busy with Sandro and Dembele and the central defenders chose to sit deep rather than move out.
Spurs made it difficult for Liverpool to play
Despite having plenty of possession, Liverpool found it hard to create anything meaningful. The pace of Tottenham is not restricted to their attacks exclusively, but their players move into defensive areas quickly as well and close down any possible gaps. Even though they did sit back, they didn’t park the bus around the box but rather kept pressing and preventing any space or time for the Liverpool players in midfield.
The above shows an example of how Tottenham effectively crowded out Liverpool players. Throughout the game it was a case of 2 Spurs players closing down the Liverpool player in possession. Here above as well it was a situation of 3 on 6 in favour of the home side. AVB’s side didn’t give Rodgers’ players any time on the ball making it increasingly difficult to create anything.
Here is another example of Spurs winning the numbers game. Plenty of men marking the Liverpool players. The man in possession is closely watched while his passing options are also tracked. It was due to their pace that Tottenham could get men forward, and back as well, smoothly. Wherever Liverpool turned, there seemed to be a man in white.
Liverpool pushed forward in the second half
After Spurs had a comfortable lead at half time, it was Liverpool who had to do the attacking. The home side had the liberty of just sitting back and absorbing the Liverpool attacks while trying to force them out when on the ball.
Full-backs and midfielders pushed forward, pressing the ball and forcing errors. The below graphic shows Liverpool’s tackles throughout the game. A good number of which were in the oppositions half.
Liverpool pushed forward constantly throughout the second half and dominated possession as well. Unfortunately for the Reds, they were unable to convert this possession into goals. Their idea was right, and intention was to get forward and press but failed to produce anything meaningful.
Over-dependence on Suarez
It is no secret that Liverpool are over-relying on Suarez. In terms of goals, Suarez is Liverpool’s top scorer in the Premier League with 10, the second highest scorer is -own goals- with 3. But Liverpool don’t depend on Suarez only for goals. The Uruguayan is looked upon to even create chances, bring other players into the game, allow others’ movement etc. He is effectively doing 4-5 players job and risks being over-burdened. An injury to him would be disastrous.
The above shows Suarez’ heat map against Tottenham. He was not only dropping deep but was constantly in midfield with no one getting in. Often he drops deep out of frustration due to lack of service, and takes it upon himself to take possession and distribute. Its needless to say come January Liverpool will have to sign a couple of players to ease the burden on Luis Suarez.
KEY PLAYER COMMENTS
Gareth Bale was one of the standout performers of the game setting up one and scoring two. The Welshman did a terrific job at running at the Liverpool defence and the Reds found him difficult to contend with. He has been mocked as the ‘World Greatest’ in the past, but on occasions he really is a very difficult player to play against.
It wouldn’t be fair to not give Aaron Lennon some sort of credit who did a fantastic job on the other flank. But one player whose hard work can go unnoticed is Moussa Dembele. The Belgian was returning from injury and has showed what Spurs need- that extra edge. The former Fulham midfielders is deployed in a deep position but is constantly looking to get forward on the ball rather than play it out. He is quick to get back into defensive zones as well.
A disappointment for Liverpool was the performance of Steven Gerrard. The club skipper has had a very inconsistent season so far with some decent performances, while some have just been horror shows. A question asked by many Liverpool fans- what is the role of Steven Gerrard. Because as it stands and based on evidence of last night, he doesn’t seem to have a distinct role. He looked out of sorts and out of place.
This game was everything it was expected to be. End to end, attacking and a wonderful game of football. Both the managers were the offspring of Mourinho’s backroom staff and displayed their daring character, encouraging numbers in attack.
Spurs will be thrilled with the win as they have now notched up 2 straight wins after a run of 3 consecutive defeats. For Liverpool, it was another disappointing game with more dropped points. They find themselves in the bottom half again and unless signings are made, it is unlikely that this will change.