Spurs vs Liverpool preview: tactical strengths and weaknesses

Jurgen Klopp brings his Reds to White Hart Lane for Spurs vs Liverpool so we look at their tactical strengths and weaknesses.

Liverpool have blown hot and cold this season. A seventeen-minute surge saw them blow four past Arsenal. However, 91% possession could not see them break Burnley’s resistance. Jurgen Klopp’s rock and roll football has seen them string together some nice chords, but also miss a few beats. The next venue on the Reds’ away day tour is White Hart Lane for Spurs vs Liverpool. So, we look at some of their tactical strengths and weaknesses.

Where Liverpool concede

This may be a new season and Klopp’s first full one in charge, but old issues remain. Liverpool still concedes chances from three main methods.

Fallible full backs

The first that has been a problem is the zones beyond the full backs. Liverpool plays extremely aggressively, just as we do, with their full backs. This sees them get forward and in to the attack at every opportunity, but also leave space behind.

Opponents that can get at these vacant zones quickly after a turnover have had success.

Arsenal exposed Alberto Moreno on opening weekend. Theo Walcott got in beyond the hapless left back to score. Arsenal also won, and then missed, a penalty from doing the same thing to Moreno.

Arsenal weren’t the only side. Burnley also netted a goal from hitting the left back zone in transition. This time James Milner was caught forward as the Clarets won possession back in their own half. They raced forward and found Andre Gray loitering in the space vacated by Milner to finish.

Exposing the space behind the Reds’ full backs will be a large part of the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool. The full back battle and who comes out on top will be fascinating to watch.

Extracting errors

The second way sides have created chances against Liverpool is through pressing to create errors.

Liverpool had the most errors in the Premier League last season. Only Aston Villa and West Ham conceded more goals (14) than the Reds from their own defensive miscues.

Burnley last weekend showed the perfect way to go about creating them. Pressing Liverpool early in the match, they made it extremely difficult for them to play out.


Burnley press Liverpool trying to bring the ball out.

Nathaniel Clyne passed the ball straight to Andre Gray and a split second later Sam Vokes had lashed a shot past Simon Mignolet.

Trying to play out from the back was a problem for Liverpool last season as they didn’t have the players to do it. Klopp has brought several new signings in to address this, but they haven’t settled with the speed of the Premier League as yet or are out injured. Pressing high and closing down should form part of the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool on Saturday.

Long ball game

The third way teams have created chances is through quick long balls forward. The dump and chase approach has been particularly fruitful for opposing sides. This sees them look to fire balls downfield and then pressure the Liverpool centre backs as they attempt to control or clear the ball.

Burnley was successful in doing this last weekend as they used the height of Sam Vokes and the hounding speed of Andre Gray. Spurs also had particular success in fashioning chances in last season’s match at Anfield. Long clearances over the Liverpool press saw us force their centre backs to have a good first touch. If they didn’t, we pounced on them and had men between the lines then ready to burst forward.


Son wins the ball with numbers ready to break.

If the Reds’ press is aggressive then this should form part of the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool. Having the power, strength and quick closing down of both Harry Kane and Vincent Janssen on the field would make it particularly difficult to stop.

Quick switches

Liverpool’s press looks to box and hem teams in. They want to force the opponent wide, encircle and close. They live off in-decisiveness by the ball carrier. Causing him to pause or think for a moment is what they want to achieve, as this means he’ll be in trouble.


Liverpool’s weight of numbers circle the ball.

The ability of teams to quickly switch the ball from one side to the other in one or two passes has proved the key to navigating this pressure. Players that can accurately switch the ball will find the space on the other side of the field. This creates time and space, but also forces Liverpool to have to run more, thus tiring them and the intensity of their press quicker.

Spurs have the players to carry this out. In both of last season’s Premier League matches, we got going once we started doing this. Toby Alderweireld’s long diagonal out to Christian Eriksen created our goal for Harry Kane in Liverpool 1-1 Spurs at Anfield.


Tottenham pass switches.

Looking for the quick switch has been a trademark of Spurs’ play under Mauricio Pochettino. Toby Alderweireld is a natural, but Danny Rose and Kyle Walker have also been seen pinging the ball to one another. We will need all of them to be at it if the Reds are pressing high during Spurs vs Liverpool on Saturday.

High line hijinx

Both teams like to play with a high defensive line and can often be very aggressive with it. This could well make for an entertaining and high scoring game as both teams look to thread balls through the lines. Us for Harry Kane and Vincent Janssen. Liverpool for their plethora of attacking midfielders.

The game will be won by the side that screens its back four the best. Teams that can stop Liverpool buzzing around between the lines have had success against them. Burnley last weekend played a low block, but taking away this space by being extremely compact and narrow had the same effect.


Narrow and compact Burnley take away space between the lines.

They forced Liverpool out in to the wide areas and made them a crossing team. Without a sizeable centre forward, the Reds were forced in to long-range shots. Anything through the middle, Burnley could hoover up due to their weight of numbers and try to break on. Andre Gray’s goal was a prime example of this.

Low block or high line, the concept of taking away Liverpool’s space between the lines by condensing our team distance is the same. Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier are still working out their partnership and just how it is going to work. The play of the pair will be crucial to determining the result for Spurs vs Liverpool on Saturday. Screening off the zone in front of our centre backs will force Liverpool out wide where they should be less of a threat.

Spurs vs Liverpool overall

Liverpool has enjoyed their recent trips to White Hart Lane in the Premier League. They have won five and drawn two of our last seven encounters in the top division, a cycle that needs breaking.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have blown hot and cold, but we do have to guard against goal sprees. They are primed to score in bunches and two or three quick goals will see the points disappear just as rapidly.

Both teams are set up to play in a remarkably similar way. It will be the side that executes best that will come out on top.

Spurs vs Liverpool prediction: Spurs 2-1 Liverpool.

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7 Responses to Spurs vs Liverpool preview: tactical strengths and weaknesses

  1. David 26th August 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    with dier and wanyama i believe our defensive areas will be fine, all we need to do is hold them off and take our chances well.
    the big decision for Pochettino tomorrow is whether to play Kane as a10 or as the lone striker…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th August 2016 at 6:27 pm #

      Dier and Wanyama should be automatic choice. Whether to include Kane as 10 or striker is difficult one. I would go with him as the striker and have Lamela, Dele and Eriksen behind.

  2. sharkio 26th August 2016 at 7:52 pm #


    Walker Alderweireld Vertonghen Rose


    Lamela Dele Eriksen

    Kane Janssen

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th August 2016 at 8:16 pm #

      4-1-3-2? very bold. like it!

  3. David 26th August 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    Dier. Wanyama to come partner him later to shore things up, especially if we are infront ..

  4. Kin 27th August 2016 at 3:50 am #

    Jannsen’s press would be vital to add the pressure to their CBs, but should we go two up top Poch will likely compensate our midfield with a pairing of Wanyama and Dier putting our transition play to little effect..we seriously need a good passer in the pivot to navigate their press better

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th August 2016 at 11:45 am #

      Good points Kin. I think it’s the type of game where you cannot cover everything eg incorporating a passer in to the pivot (Winks or Mason) means you have to give up physicality and ball recapture (Wanyama). Same for incorporating Janssen. Have to decide which areas to be strong in and those decisions will decide the game.