Jake Livermore was an important player for Andre Villas-Boas at the start of the season for Spurs.
The recently called-up England international played at the base of our midfield alongside Sandro until the arrival of Moussa Dembele. That put paid to most of his first team action, but with Sandro out for the rest of the season, Jake Livermore has suddenly become an important player again.
Although the timely return of Scott Parker will see him back in the midfield in what hopefully will be a return to a 4-3-3 without Emmanuel Adebayor. Jake Livermore will get more of a chance to provide an alternative for Parker, who is yet to play a full 90 minutes since returning from his own long layoff.
Livermore is not a spectacular player, nor does he offer much going forward, but he is efficient at what he does on the defensive side of the ball if utilised correctly.
I’ve talked before about how Andre Villas-Boas wants his deeper lying midfielders to be more aggressive this season, creating quick transitions. Sandro has already shown he is capable of this, as I examined in the post on how the Brazilian is proving he is more than just a defensive machine. Scott Parker will also have to change his game as I looked at earlier this week, but he has played a similar role when at West Ham, so should cope.
That just leaves Livermore. Whilst the offensive side has never been a strong point of Jake’s game, he has shown that he can be efficient in winning the ball and retaining possession when he keeps things simple. It’s when he is asked to do more that he runs in to trouble and Andre Villas-Boas needs to recognise this when using him.
We can see exactly this if we look back at his starts at home to West Brom and Norwich.
Jake Livermore against West Brom
Against West Brom, we can see how Jake struggles when he is asked to change from keeping it simple in a more defensive position to when the game is opened up.
In the first half, Livermore is alongside Sandro in the double pivot and is always available to receive possession and keep recycling the ball from side-to-side. We can see this from how he takes passes on stats zone. Livermore gets the ball when played back inside in to the central channels from the full backs and Aaron Lennon/Gareth Bale when further forward.
In the second half, AVB replaced Rafael van der Vaart with Emmanuel Adebayor and went 4-4-2.
With Livermore now more exposed in midfield and having to cover more ground, he sees less of the ball and across a larger area of the pitch. He now not only has to get back, but also move forward and support his attackers.
This also has a knock-on effect on his passing. In the first half he is able to recycle possession side-to-side, looking for Aaron Lennon down the right and Gareth Bale on the left.
After the interval, as a result of Spurs deciding to go 4-4-2, his passing changes. It becomes much more aggressive and vertical in nature, as he is asked to become more attack minded to feed two strikers. His passes are longer and more purposeful to shift it wide, whilst a number through the middle fail to find their target.
Whilst he is able to play these balls on this occasion, the change removes him from his good work at the defensive end and he sees less of the ball.
West Brom were kept to just one shot from outside the area in the first half, whereas after Spurs went 4-4-2 in the second period, the Baggies had 12 efforts at our goal.
Jake Livermore against Norwich
This match saw the introduction of Moussa Dembele at half time and that had a significant impact on the game of Jake Livermore as well. Sandro went off and the Belgian came on, allowing Andre Villas-Boas to go from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3.
The game again finished 1-1 due to a late Norwich equaliser, but it was a positive move for Jake Livermore after the formation shift this time. It showed that he could be far more effective when alongside a more creative driving player in Dembele when he doesn’t have to force the pace.
Spurs were pretty awful in the first half playing in a 4-2-3-1 with Jake Livermore alongside Sandro and Norwich very much had the upper hand. Jake received the ball very deep, occasionally moving up beyond halfway. He took a lot more passes in to him from the full back and central areas and only a few from the wide players. He is slightly stretched, as he is both release from the defensive zone and backing up the forwards with another defensive player alongside him.
In the second half with Moussa Dembele in the game as part of a midfield three, Jake Livermore is now confined to a much smaller area of where he receives the ball. He now is almost exclusively responsible for recycling the play, as he takes possession from passes moving the ball back inside from the forward positions as Tottenham dominate the game.
His passing also reflects this calming influence of having an attacking player in Dembele alongside him, as opposed to a more defensive player in Sandro. Or when he had to force the pace as part of a midfield four.
In the first half he is trying to move the ball wide, but also plays a number of more aggressive passes, as he attempts to instigate attacks without another creative player alongside.
In the second he is just moving it left and right and letting the more attacking players go to work. The introduction of Moussa Dembele means that he doesn’t have to force the pace like he was doing alongside Sandro.
His only aggressive pass in the half is incomplete, as he makes 25 out of 26 (96%) in the second period, compared to 25 of 30 passes (83%) in the first half.
Jake Livermore needs to fit the system
From these two games earlier this season, the lesson is very much that Jake Livermore needs to fit the system and is not asked to be something he’s not.
The recently capped England international can win the ball and move it to a more creative player. He can occasionally play an aggressive attacking pass, but shouldn’t be relied upon to do this.
Livermore struggled in a 4-2-3-1 alongside Sandro in the pivot, as he had to be more creative. When switched to a 4-3-3 with Moussa Dembele with him, he faired much better as just a ball winner and play recycler. He is not a great facilitator or instigator of attacks.
Playing as part of a duo in the 4-4-2 that we have been using lately may over-extend Livermore. We saw this against West Brom, as he was required to be a lot more aggressive offensively and cover more ground. At the base of a 4-3-3 he will have less attacking responsibility and only needs to get the ball moving in transition. This is a far simpler task for him and one that sits better with his natural game.
Whilst Jake Livermore won’t be thrown in to the first team in the absence of Sandro, he will provide an able back up to Scott Parker. He will gain a few more starts and experience, as let us not forget he is still only 23, but his limitations need to be realised and his natural game given the chance to shine.
Jake Livermore is the kind of player who is having a good game the less he is noticed. This means when he is just recycling play from side-to-side or regaining possession and shifting it to a more attack minded team mate.
Jake Livermore can still be a very good role player for Spurs this season and will excel in the right system that doesn’t overstretch him.