Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Liverpool preview

After our Europa League victory over Anzhi, next up sees a tough fixture in the Premier League with Spurs vs Liverpool at White Hart Lane.

Like Andre Villas-Boas, Brendan Rodgers is another of the Premier League’s bright young coaches also in to his second year with a top-four contending team. Rodgers’ has his side playing extremely well this season, with even AVB commenting that his side is “magnificent.”

So what should we be looking out for and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool this time?

Liverpool set up and style

Brendan Rodgers has probably been the most versatile coach in terms of setting his side up. We’ve seen him go 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 so far this season, but the one constant has been ball possession.

The team is set up to play out from keeper Simon Mignolet at the back and retain control through Lucas Leiva at the base of the midfield.

In possession, play is swiftly moved to the wide players, predominantly down the right. The role of these players is usually to come inside when he opts for Henderson and Coutinho on the flanks. When he uses Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses, these two play higher up with more width, but still more often than not come inside looking for Luis Suarez.

This inside movement allows Glen Johnson to get forward on the overlap. The England right back is a constant threat to deliver from wide, but this also leaves the back door open, as we’ll see later.

Up top they have arguably the most devastating force in the Premier League. Luis Suarez is not only excellent at pressing the opposition’s centre backs, hounding them in to mistakes and clearances downfield that turn the ball over. He also is excellent at dribbling the ball and working the channels to latch on to through balls.

Without the ball, Liverpool do bring a lot of pressure in order to win it back quickly. This starts with Suarez harassing defenders and the goalkeeper to force turnovers from long clearances downfield. He is backed up by the midfield and full backs squeezing up to restrict space.

Glen Johnson down the right

Similar to our own Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson is Liverpool’s main attacking threat down the right. He operates much higher up than Jon Flanagan over on the left, with the Reds using Johnson to deliver balls in to the box from wide.

Liverpool move the ball to him either directly from the centre of midfield or very aggressively forward up the line, often to him running on to it in deep locations.

Against West Ham he did just that, whilst also showing another trait, which is to drift in to the penalty area at the corner of the box to get a shot away. This is usually hit with his right foot, but if moving inside whilst dribbling with the ball, he can also hit it with his left.


Glen Johnson passes received: Liverpool 4 West Ham 1.

Glen Johnson is a very difficult cover simply because of his pace and good movement. The inside shift of the player in front of him is designed to pull the opposition full back away and then he can burst up the line in to space.

With the Reds attacking predominantly down Johnson’s flank, the choice on our left side will be a key decision in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool. The game may come too early for Danny Rise whose speed, but also assertiveness going forward, would push Johnson back. So, we may see Kyle Naughton once again. He has good pace, but his reluctance to go forward will probbaly invite Liverpool on.

Countering Philippe Coutinho

Brendan Rodgers has used Philippe Coutinho either out on the left as a very narrow midfielder or wide forward. He has recently switched him in to a central position where we will probably see him on Sunday without Steven Gerrard.

Wherever he plays, the Brazilian is a threat to thread through balls in to Luis Suarez, but he can also create off the dribble and score. Only Suarez himself takes more shots per game for the Reds than Coutinho.

When he plays wide, Coutinho is easier to keep track of, but in Liverpool’s last two matches he has played in the middle and is a much more difficult cover.

He drifts across the entire pitch to receive the ball in the opposition half. Norwich were effective at keeping him at arms length and out of the penalty area by setting up a low block. West Ham were not so efficient.


Philippe Coutinho passes received against Norwich and West Ham.

His real threat is to create from his neatly timed through balls that can come from anywhere. He attacked Norwich through the right side of the penalty area. Against West Ham, he went at the left, showing his versatility and ability to attack a defence’s weak spot.


Philippe Coutinho attacks Norwich to the right and West Ham through the left.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool will see Sandro matching up against his Brazilian counterpart. The beast has already been talking about how he needs to get tight to Philippe Coutinho, a player he regards as being like Ronaldinho!

“If midfielders have freedom they can do something to hurt you. I want to be close to him. And tackle him.”

Stopping Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez is a constant menace to opposition defences. He has great energy, can drag defenders around with his movement, then sneak by or burst on to a through ball.

The main key for Suarez is his ability to work the channels, something he does better than anyone in the Premier League right now. This allows his team mates to find him with passes down the inside left and right channels where he can get his shots away.


Luis Suarez passes received: Hull 3 Liverpool 1.

But he’s not just a through ball threat. He can also fire in a viciously curled free kick, just as Everton and Norwich found out. He can create something out of nothing with a mazy dribble or get on the end of a cross from Glen Johnson. West Ham fell victim to this as well as being worked over through the inside channels.


Luis Suarez passes received: Liverpool 4 West Ham 1.

Luis Suarez against our centre backs will be the key match–up for Spurs vs Liverpool on Sunday and containing him is probably more likely than stopping him. Interestingly teams that have pressed Liverpool seem to enjoy more success by restricting his supply line and pushing him further away from goal.

Press for success

Teams that have pressed Liverpool have enjoyed a degree of success.

Woolwich defeated the Reds at the Emirates, whilst Hull did a nice job on them at the KC stadium. Hull used three at the back in order to have extra bodies in midfield, but their twin strike force harassed Liverpool’s back four, backed up by Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore.


Hull and Woolwich ball recoveries against Liverpool.

They also stopped Liverpool playing out from the back by matching up their strikers on the Reds’ centre backs when Simon Mignolet had the ball.

Like a lot of teams are doing right now, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure were splitting wide, but Hull used their two strikers to mark them. They then had Tom Huddlestone matching up on Lucas Leiva who was trying to drop in to make it 3v2 in this area. This meant that Simon Mignolet often didn’t have a pass out and had to kick long with Hull having a better chance to win these clearances.

Although we won’t play with two strikers, the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool would see us do well to try something similar when Mignolet has the ball.

Where Liverpool concede chances

There are two ways to get at the Liverpool defence.

The first is by using through balls that turn their slow centre backs. Both Woolwich and Everton were effective at doing this.


Woolwich and Everton chances created against Liverpool.

The second is through the right back zone. With Glen Johnson getting forward to help the attack, his full back area is often open to chances from quick counters.

Above we can see how both Arsenal and Everton created more chances through the right side of the Liverpool defence. However, Norwich, despite being tonked 5-1, were able to fashion a number of chances from Johnson’s right flank, including a goal.


Norwich chances created against Liverpool.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool here would see us do well to attack Glen Johnson’s right back zone in transition. Andros Townsend may well be a wise selection here after good perfromances on the left in a brief cameo at Sunderland and also in the first half of  Spurs 4 Anzhi 1.

Spurs vs Liverpool outlook

This will be another tough match, but the Reds will be without Steven Gerrard, which will be a major factor. His knack to not only pick out Luis Suarez with through balls, but also his ability to spread the play with extremely accurate long passes will be sorely missed.

However, Liverpool will still have plenty of danger men in Coutinho and Johnson to supply the Uruguayan who doesn’t need a second invitation.

We need to press them and attack quickly in transition when Glen Johnson gets forward.

Forcing them to have to clear long from the back could be an under-rated tactic in order to control the possession and tempo of this game.

Spurs vs Liverpool prediction: Spurs 1 Liverpool 1.

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8 Responses to Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Liverpool preview

  1. John 13th December 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Without Sturridge, Gerrard, and Enrique I wouldn’t expect anything but a convincing home win if I’m being totally honest. It’s the quality of players coming in that’s the main problem for Liverpool. Sterling, Allen, and Flanagan aren’t premier league players in my opinion and weaken Liverpool incredibly so. Rodgers didn’t do a good job in the summer of buying players, mostly due to Liverpool finishing mid-table last season and not being able to attract top quality.
    The supply line you talk about is virtually non-existent without the 3 players I’ve mentioned and Sterling constantly loses possession of the ball which just encourages the team Liverpool are playing and gets their fans behind their team, Moses is similar, and Henderson is good when Liverpool don’t have the ball but when Liverpool need to create something or score a goal he’s useless. My prediction- Suarez will be marked out of the game by 3 Spurs players stuck to him for 90 minutes because they know he’s the only danger man, Sterling will keep losing the ball til his replaced by Moses who does the same, Henderson tries to put some decent crosses into the box and hits the first Spurs player every time, Allen looks a bag of nerves under pressure, Flanagan gets skinned by Lennon and Spurs win 2-0.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th December 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      A very honest assessment, I thought things were much better for Liverpool this season?

    • Ole 13th December 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      That was really funny written. I have been a spurs supporter since i was 10, and I somehow feel I could have written that about Spurs so many times!

    • Adrian 13th December 2013 at 8:17 pm #

      I laughed out load when I read your assessment, seems wildly optimistic but I hope you are right.

  2. Paulo 14th December 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Liverpool have been average for a few years which suggests to me Rodgers has done a remarkable job to get them to 2nd. Anyway, let’s prayer for a convincing home win, although personally I think it’ll be a very close match!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th December 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      Agree with that.

  3. Colin Biggs 15th December 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Can someone tell me what the plan was today? what were the tactics? Rogers talks about the plan which the Liverpool fans have bought into. A.V.B. talks about the unit who is in the unit and what is the aim of the unit.? A.v.b. has blamed the fans, the press and even the players distancing himself from any responsibility for a lack of any cohesive game plan there is no link up between midfield and the wing backs or the strikers it just all looks really disjointed. He’s said tonight that the Paulinho sending off changed the game. I’m sorry but we were being well beaten before that, The tactical change he spoke of was forced on him by two players who were injury doubts before the game breaking down – Naughton and Sandro. if we have such a big squad why are we starting games with injured players and others out of position. The one image that stays on my mind was after Paulinho’s sending off. Kyle Walker and another Spurs player was by the dugout seeking guidance and A.V.B. just stared blankly out at the pitch with no tactical input.

    • henry 15th December 2013 at 11:51 pm #

      lol no credit to liverpool? they were brilliant today in attacking,off the ball movements and pressing. Spurs have too many players that under perform at the same time and it was clear to see, Confidence isn’t there at the moment. Spurs seem to hesitate when making a pass and too many individuals seem unsure where to pass or what movements to make. This trashing won’t help matters in terms of confidence. AVB has to take the blame as well. Tactically, he was poor today. People talk of sturridge and gerrard missing but when you have suarez why worry? besides i feel gerrard holds liverpool back especially away from home when pressing but you understand why he starts (set-pieces, passing). If you back 4 is like that of spurs own today and you play a high line allow midfielders in behind without pressing the opponent, you get a scoreline like that. Also doesn’t help that sandro injured,paulinho red, walker, dawson and holtby booked.
      To be honest i don’t see spurs winning against southampton whose pressing is way worse than liverpool’s pressing today which they couldn’t cope with. Manager doesn’t have very long at the club