Premier League: 5 keys to Liverpool vs Spurs (a)

Hot on the heels of the North London derby comes Liverpool vs Spurs as we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Brendan Rodgers’ side.

After detonating the Gunners, we face another rival for the top four, as we journey to Anfield for Liverpool vs Spurs. Brendan Rodgers has his side playing some good football of late, as he has struck upon a formation that works well with the talent at his disposal.

So, what can we expect and what tactics should we be on the lookout for in Liverpool vs Spurs this time?

1. Liverpool formation

This will be the key to the whole game. Brendan Rodgers has experimented a lot on his formation this season. Of late, he has settled on a 3-4-2-1 set up, which I’ll get to in a minute. That is because whenever he faces Mauricio Pochettino, Rodgers usually goes back to the 4-4-2 diamond.

The reason that he reverts to this formation is that the first time he played the Argentinean; Rodgers went with a 4-3-3 set up and got burnt in midfield. Pochettino, as we know, likes to get four players in to central midfield to dominate this area. Our head coach can do this in a number of ways, but at the minute he settles for Christian Eriksen drifting in to be the player who overloads the centre.

After losing 1-0 at Anfield last season to Pochettino’s Southampton, Rodgers has switched to 4-4-2 diamond every time he has faced the Argentinean since. This allows him to match up 4v4 in the centre and take away the space that Pochettino’s midfield usually enjoys.


Liverpool’s diamond closes the central space.

The diamond may well be getting a polish up for Liverpool vs Spurs tonight, but Rodgers could be without a number of his key players to run the system. Lucas Leiva, the destroyer at the base of it, is out. Raheem Sterling will miss the game and Daniel Sturridge may not be ready to start just yet after just returning from a long injury layoff. This means that he may not have the personnel to go to this set up.

Recently Rodgers has settled on a 3-4-2-1 formation to get the best out of his side and it is working. The Reds have kept four clean sheets in a row in the Premier League, as well as going on a eight match unbeaten steak. The formation primarily works like this.


Liverpool 3-4-2-1 set up.

There are a number of key players in the set up. Emre Can plays as the right centre back and is used to step out of defence and become an extra midfielder. The right wing back is usually more of a winger, with Jordan Ibe or Lazar Markovic utilised here. Philippe Coutinho plays as an inside forward to the left and behind a central striker that tries to run in-behind. At the other inside forward position, Rodgers can use another adept passer and dribbler in Adam Lallana or can switch it up with an additional attacker to support the centre forward.

It’s a very technical system with the movement of players up a level from where you’d expect them to be e.g. Emre Can moving out from the back three can catch opponents off guard.

2. Libero Emre Can

Liverpool have a number of weapons, but Emre Can is often one of those least spoken about, as people focus on the skill of Coutinho or the speed of Sterling. Emre Can is a converted midfielder, but has an excellent touch and range of passing.

A look at his passes received map against Everton shows just how far up the field he can move to join the attack, as he strides out from defence like an old-school Libero.


Emre Can passes received, Everton 0 Liverpool 0.

He then has the ability to play the ball in-behind, which is how Liverpool are looking to score.


Emre Can passes played, Everton 0 Liverpool 0.

An example from their FA Cup tie with Bolton saw him lob the ball over a packed defence for Raheem Sterling to level the scores.


Emre Can picks out Sterling running in-behind.

Emre Can’s range of passing, but also decent shot that saw him thump an effort against the bar in the same game, makes him a threat to arrive in advanced positions without being tracked.

3. Philippe Coutinho passing

The other main danger is Philippe Coutinho, the Brazilian has had an up and down season, but has come alive since Rodgers’ switch to the new formation.

Coutinho is an excellent dribbler that can rapidly change direction to create space for himself, but recently it is his range of through passing that is being utilised. Drifting from his position as an inside support forward, the Brazilian is looking for the runs of his centre forward in-behind the defence so that he can slide the ball through to him. Nowhere was this more evident than in Liverpool’s last match, away at Everton.


Philippe Coutinho passes played against Everton.

In Liverpool’s previous Premier League match, he opened up West Ham’s defence on both goals. Sliding through balls in for both Sterling and Sturridge to score.


Philippe Coutinho passes played against West Ham.

The forward bursts of Emre Can are Liverpool’s surprise weapon, but Philippe Coutinho is their biggest threat.

The Tottenham tactics for Liverpool vs Spurs should watch for Can’s moves forward, but also need to congest the space between the lines to take away this zone that Coutinho likes to play his through balls from. Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason may well have a busy evening ahead of them.

4. Moving the ball forward quickly

This was a trait of Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers last season. With both Suarez and Sturridge up top, the Reds sought to win the ball back quickly and then look for a direct through pass in-behind the opposition.

With Suarez sold and Sturridge out injured, they went away from doing this. Since the switch in formation to a 3-4-2-1 and moving Raheem Sterling up top, they have gone back to this tactic.

Rodgers needs a centre forward with pace to execute this strategy and without Raheem Sterling, he may well have to go to Daniel Sturridge to start a match earlier than he’d expected.

But it’s not just Liverpool who needs to try to get the ball forward quickly. Spurs will have to do this too in order to unhinge a defence that is difficult to breakdown when it has time to get set.

5. Where Liverpool concede chances

Depending on which formation Brendan Rodgers sets up in, there is a different method required to break it down.

If he goes 4-4-2 diamond, then he uses his full backs to provide the width in the formation. This means that they are susceptible to opponents who can move the ball forward rapidly to get in-behind them. Manchester City did this well in their 3-1 win over Liverpool earlier this season.


Man City chances created against Liverpool.

City scored one goal from getting Samir Nasri in-behind left back Alberto Moreno to square the ball for Stevan Jovetic to score. They also scored another as Moreno was again caught high and Sergio Aguero jetted in to the space behind him.


Aguero jets in to the space behind Moreno.

Aguero’s goal was a perfect example of how you tempt in and then hit a team playing a diamond formation.

If Rodgers decides to play his 3-4-2-1 set up then the area to attack becomes the zones down the outsides of the three centre backs. However, most notably since switching to this formation, the zone around Emre Can has been susceptible, especially when he has gone forward on his surprise attacks.

Chelsea got in-behind Emre Can to earn a penalty in their 1-1 draw in the Capital One Cup semi-final. Leicester also got in and about his zone as they came back to draw 2-2 at Anfield in their recent Premier League match.


Leicester created chances in Emre Can’s zone.

In the Merseyside derby at the weekend, Everton almost stole the three points as Emre Can was caught forward, causing Skrtel and Sakho to have to rotate over. This left space for Seamus Coleman to steal in, take Ross Barkley’s cross-field pass and bring a great save out of Simon Mignolet.


Liverpool’s 3 CBs pulled out of position.

Although the chance wasn’t created on his side, Emre Can being out of position pulled his fellow central defenders across as Barkley had the ball there. This allowed Seamus Coleman in down the other flank to take the cross-field pass and get his shot away.

Emre Can’s zone will be the area to attack if Rodgers goes with the three centre back option in Liverpool vs Spurs tonight.

What was also noticeable in this match was how Everton were pressing up on two of Liverpool’s three centre backs. The Reds like to play the ball out from the back and Everton were going tight on Martin Skrtel and Emre Can so that the ball would go to Mamadou Sakho. The Frenchman is less comfortable on the ball than the other two and can often turn it over or play a bad pass. Leaving him free did cause Liverpool some problems in bringing the ball out and something that Mauricio Pochettino may want to try tonight.

Liverpool vs Spurs outlook

Anfield is one of the hardest places to go in the Premier League right now, especially off the back of an emotional victory against Arsenal where a lot of energy was expended.

On the flip side, playing Liverpool now may not be such a bad thing. Raheem Sterling will miss the game, Daniel Sturridge is not 100% up to speed and the often-underrated Lucas Leiva will also not be suiting up for the Reds. Throw in the fact that Philippe Coutinho is also a doubt with injury and a lot of Liverpool’s weapons will be missing or not at full capacity. This could be a real chance for Spurs.

Liverpool vs Spurs prediction: Liverpool 1 Spurs 2.

Liverpool vs Spurs betting

If you missed out on the 8/1 odds Betfair were offering for NEW accounts on us to beat Arsenal, they are doing the same offer again to defeat Liverpool. Visit Betfair here to sign up before kick off.

Some other bets that could be of interest to you.
Spurs to win 2-1 at 14/1 with BetVictor
Nabil Bentaleb score anytime at 10/1 with 888sport


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2 Responses to Premier League: 5 keys to Liverpool vs Spurs (a)

  1. Mike 10th February 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    You are probably the most informed and perceptive of the Spurs bloggers.

    I am concerned that Spurs are playing away less than 4 full days since playing a hectic match. Statistics indicate that teams in this position tend to play poorer. Given that, I think I’d sprinkle in a few non-starters from the last game – and be ready to substitute out anyone that appears to flag.

    Given Poch is naming an unchanged side though – maybe he is confident the fitness levels are there to grab another win?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 11th February 2015 at 12:24 am #

      Thanks for reading Mike, you are too kind. Yes that was a concern of mine also given the emotional nature of our win against Arsenal and the physical effort the players put in to that match as well. We did look a bit fatigued out there this evening, so hopefully Pochettino will have learnt some more about his players and will make some changes in the future. Especially when we have an important fixture away in the Europa League against Fiorentina followed by the League Cup Final a few days later.