Ben Davies is tackled by Sadio Mane during Liverpool 2-0 Spurs in the Premier League at Anfield.

Liverpool 2-0 Spurs: overloading the left

The Reds overloaded our left side and exposed our high defensive line as it finished Liverpool 2-0 Spurs at Anfield.

Giving Liverpool the chance to jet forward off turnovers with space to operate in to is a recipe for disaster. Combine this with a high defensive line and leaving Sadio Mane 1v1 against Ben Davies, or even worse 1v2 as Nathaniel Clyne joined in, and this was a long and punishing evening. It finished Liverpool 2-0 Spurs but could’ve been a whole lot worse.

Overloading the Tottenham left

Our left side was always going to be where the problems were. Without Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen, this side has been severely hampered both going forward and in defence.

Last weekend we saw Toby Alderweireld play at left centre back. This put his cool head and solid positional experience to soften some of the impact. The move also let Eric Dier play on his more natural right side.

For some reason, Mauricio Pochettino switched the pairing to have Eric Dier on the left. It made for a calamitous evening. Dier and Davies were overwhelmed and overrun with little help from Son Heung-Min ahead of them. The South Korean, operating as the wide midfielder on this side rarely offered help. It was tough to know whether Son had been given a brief to cheat forward, as he had been away at Chelsea, or if he was just being lazy in defence.

Liverpool didn’t care as they overran this flank time and again. They were looking to get the ball quickly to Sadio Mane and Nathaniel Clyne to overrun Ben Davies in the space that was being left. We played in to their hands as we tried to build up through the middle of the pitch. Liverpool trapped and pressed with their usual six men in here and then rapidly broke forward down our left as they had space to play in.

Throughout the first half, the focus of their passing after a turnover was Sadio Mane. With Son failing to help, Ben Davies was left with acres to cover. Roberto Firmino was drifting out to occupy Dier, leaving Mane to torch our left back.

Davies was in trouble every time Mane got the ball, but there were errors all over the pitch. Toby Alderweireld was being particularly impetuous. Alderweireld is a front foot defender, but even he was darting out of position to try and make tackles far too often. In midfield, Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama were also being too easily bypassed. They often cover for our full backs going forward. However, having to shrug off two or three pressers saw them out of position and unable to recover with the speed with which Liverpool shifted the ball forward. Our defence was a total mess.

Mane and Firmino get at Davies with Son and Alderweireld out of position during Liverpool 2-0 Spurs in the Premier League at Anfield.

Mane and Firmino get at Davies with Son and Alderweireld out of position.

After several warnings, Liverpool took the lead as all of the above factors combined to unlock us. Victor Wanyama was surrounded on the ball and turned it over. Toby Alderweireld was impetuously drawn in to a needless challenge. Liverpool had surrounded Ben Davies 1v2 against Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Our defensive line was way too high to counteract Liverpool’s speed.

Man and Firmino get on Davies as Alderweireld rushes out during Liverpool 2-0 Spurs in the Premier League at Anfield.

Man and Firmino get on Davies as Alderweireld rushes out.

The result was Sadio Mane running off Ben Davies and in to the space that our high line and Alderweireld’s impetuosity had created. Mane made no mistake to make it 1-0.

Defensive errors

Not heeding the warnings, two minutes later it became Liverpool 2-0 Spurs as we made another error. Eric Dier pondered on the ball and was quickly stripped of it as Liverpool swept forward once again.

Dier didn’t have too many excuses. With us trying to play out through the middle of the pitch using Wanyama and Dembele, he was caught by Liverpool’s central six. The Reds had, as they were doing throughout the match, congested the middle of the park.

Dier gets caught on the ball by the Reds' central six during Liverpool 2-0 Spurs at Anfield.

Dier gets caught on the ball by the Reds’ central six.

James Milner had sent a long ball forward, as he had done often in the match, looking for Sadio Mane. It was off target and Dier neatly brought it down. His pensiveness on the ball as he looked to play out from the back was his undoing. A moment’s pause for thought meant he was in trouble. Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were closing fats and Dier was in caught. Mane relieved him of the ball and Liverpool were off on another counter attack with space to run in and few defenders to beat.

Hugo Lloris made two saves to deny Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino. He couldn’t make a third to prevent Mane finally lashing the ball in to the net to make it Liverpool 2-0 Spurs.

The Reds’ stealing of the ball and transition from defence to attack was good. What was more impressive was their spacing in the box as Lallana, Firmino and Mane hemmed the six-yard area to show good rebound control. Their spacing meant they could be first to every loose ball while we were panic defending.

Liverpool show good spacing to control any rebounds during Liverpool 2-0 Spurs in the Premier League.

Liverpool show good spacing to control any rebounds.

Eric Dier’s error was the mostly costly, but he wasn’t alone. Kyle Walker made an ill-advised pass across our defence that set Sadio Mane in to almost complete his hat trick. Walker had done something similar in our 3-2 loss at Anfield in 2013 under Andre Villas-Boas. That time Stewart Downing ended up scoring to secure the Reds the points.

Like Dier, Hugo Lloris was then also guilty of pondering on the ball, showing that we hadn’t learnt our lesson. Lloris saw his kick charged down, but could fortunately clear the loose ball.

Tottenham formation switch

Seeing us being decimated, Mauricio Pochettino made a switch to our formation. He went to a 4-3-1-2 set up. Christian Eriksen dropped back to be flanked by Wanyama and Dembele so that the two powerhouses could help our full backs. Dele Alli operated ahead of the trio as a number ten with Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane up top.

The switch soon saw us create our best chance of the match. Ben Davies was able to get forward and spring Son running in-behind.

Central trio allows Davies to get forward and find Son during Liverpool 2-0 Spurs in the Premier League at Anfield.

Central trio allows Davies to get forward and find Son.

The South Korean pointed where he wanted the ball as he made the run and Davies found him. The outstretched leg of Simon Mignolet denied Son, as we again failed to find the corners of the net when shooting.

Long ball game

The formation switch helped us gain a foothold and we then started to impose ourselves more on the match. It came from going to the long ball to navigate Liverpool’s central six pressing us.

Harry Kane flicked-on Hugo Lloris’ long kick downfield on as he jumped against Lucas Leiva. Son charged through after the flick and was brought down to earn a free kick on the edge of the box. Curiously, Philippe Coutinho crouched down behind the wall to stop anything under it as Eriksen went over and clipped the roof of the net.

It was an indicator of a successful ploy though. Two minutes later and we went route one again. Toby Alderweireld this time sent the ball over the six pressing Liverpool players and Son once more made the run in-behind. This time he whiffed on the shot as he swung and connected with nothing but air. The move was good and positive though.

Son signals for the ball as Alderweireld goes over the six pressers during Liverpool 2-0 Spurs at Anfield.

Son signals for the ball as Alderweireld goes over the six pressers.

Second half slowdown

Mauricio Pochettino’s formation switch worked so far as it slowed Liverpool down. Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama had a bigger influence defensively helping our full backs. With Christian Eriksen between them they could get out wide easier to shut Liverpool down.

Harry Winks then replaced Eriksen. He got stuck in more defensively, winning possession back and moving the ball with purpose that got us attacking quicker. We still didn’t create any real chances though, which is where the 4-3-1-2 hindered us. A Harry Kane’s shot off the post when offside from a free kick is about as close as we came.

Liverpool also dropped off. Their first half exertions had clearly got to them with their speed to sweep forward affected. However, they were still very quick to close down and stop us playing out. With their central six against our trio in front of the back four, the game became congested. Back and forth turnovers were frequent.

As a result, the match became a yellow card fest. Seven bookings were dished out after the interval as the timing of challenges varied from late to frustrated to cynical.

There was time for one more defensive error as Hugo Lloris charged from his line. Georginio Wijnaldum tried to lob him, but the greatest danger to our goal was not the shot, but Ben Davies’ back pass. With his confidence gone from being abused by Sadio Mane, Davies sent his chested back pass beyond the forward rushing Hugo Lloris. Fortunately, our keeper recovered in time to stop an embarrassing own goal. The differing wavelengths that everybody was on in that passage of play summed up our woeful defensive performance.

It ended Liverpool 2-0 Spurs and it flattered us, as it really should have been more.

Liverpool 2-0 Spurs overall

This was our worst performance of the season. We played right in to Liverpool’s hands. In trying to build up through their press, and then losing the ball, we gave them space to work in.

We didn’t even attempt to patch up our banged up left side. Ben Davies is clearly no match for Sadio Mane and he was hung out to dry. An unnatural left centre back inside him and no help from his left sided midfielder gave Davies no chance. It got the punishment it deserved.

I’m not sure if its arrogance or naivety? We continue to go to our rival’s grounds and expect to play our open power game without respect to our opposition. Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, the Etihad and now Anfield, it continues to be the same. Our approach is rarely adapted in respect of the opponent.

Our Premier League record on the road against Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool under Mauricio Pochettino reads won (1), drawn (6), lost (8). This has to change if we are to make the next step, as does our approach, in the big away games.

Final score: Liverpool 2-0 Spurs.

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28 Responses to Liverpool 2-0 Spurs: overloading the left

  1. Andy B 12th February 2017 at 3:32 pm #

    Great article and spot on analysis. I agree with your conclusions.

    There were only a few positive things to say about that Spurs performance.

    There was a majestic lofted pass, by Alderweireld, into the penalty area, a fantastic pass by Winks to Walker down the wing and some mesmeric dribbling from Dembele.

    Sissoko came on and passed the ball straight back to Liverpool. It looked like he didn’t know what team he was playing for, or which direction he was meant to be running in.

    Recently Sissoko looked out of his depth, when we played Wycombe Wanderers (a league 2 side).

    Spurs are reportedly paying Sissoko £95,000 per week. That apparently makes him the highest earner at Spurs. So, he is getting paid more than Kane, Lloris and Alderweireld.

    It highlights how crazy the world is, when the average annual salary in UK is £26,500, and Sissoko is earning that in about 3.5 days. Spurs must have already paid him about 2.5 million pounds in wages already.

    So how did Sissoko manage to become a highly paid professional footballer, at Newcastle and now Spurs? It must be one of the biggest mysteries in football.

    Who at Spurs made the shocking and baffling decision to recruit him, when he was so poor at Newcastle?

    I just wonder how good this season could have been, if Spurs had actually brought in some top quality players, in the summer transfer window?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th February 2017 at 11:56 pm #

      The Sissoko signing still remains a bit strange to me. I could see some logic behind it as I posted at the time, but I’m still questioning whether Poch really signed off on it. He’s been pretty awful and not like a guy that was quoted as saying he wanted to play champions league. The worst is that he doesn’t seem that bothered even after Poch called him out.

      • YouShubes 14th February 2017 at 2:46 pm #

        Not as bizarre as signing Rodgsters signing Mario Bloody Barmy but up there,,, I still feel that he is best in the middle and not as a winger…

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th February 2017 at 5:30 pm #

          I would like to see him given a go in the middle too, but Poch doesn’t appear to want to try it.

  2. cydtheyid 12th February 2017 at 8:50 pm #

    Another interesting analysis, although for this game not the most difficult to assess. I found it baffling that Poch didn’t change our shape quicker as we were chronically open for every Liverpool attack. It is my one criticism of him that he doesn’t seem to be proactive quickly enough during a game. Unfortunately our back up players are not good enough. Although difficult to criticise Davies on this performance alone as he wasn’t offered any assistance from his team mates, he is just not good enough. And as the previous comment mentioned who is getting paid to sanction a move for Sissoko? I have seen nothing to suggest that there’s a decent player in there somewhere let alone a £30m one. His performance time and again are totally inept. My concern regarding another of our expensive signings Jansen, is that it’s not that he’s missing chances, he’s not even getting into decent enough positions to do so. We totally spunked close to £60m on the two aforementioned players and Nkoudo. We could have got someone quite decent for that amount of cash! And finally it must be time soon to give Master Winks a start in the league on a regular basis. Always looking for the ball, always trying to carry or pass it forward. A quality player unlike the waste of space that is Sissoko.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 12:03 am #

      Good backup players has been a consistent theme this season and maybe the quality of our new recruits has been the reason why our scouting network is getting an overhaul… money has been wasted on transfers but as long as we have a positive net transfer balance Levy won’t mind.

  3. gbogo 12th February 2017 at 10:37 pm #

    Mark, good analysis IMV and as predicted in terms of pressure on Davies. Why do you think Poch didn’t see it coming? or did he, but didn’t have the confidence in having anyone to fill the roles in a back three? I would have thought: Toby, Dier, Wimmer or CCV could have at least started and given us extra cover. Pulling Eriksen back was wrong guy, too late. Perhaps Son didn’t obey orders? but again, wrong guy.. While it was good to see Poch not making excuses, I feel like he was blaming the players rather than the formation or tactics.. Poch is clearly a smart, experienced guy. If you, me and others could see the challenge that Mane was going to provide, surely he could too, so why didn’t he plan accordingly?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 12:18 am #

      When the team sheets were in, everyone could pretty much see it and Im sure Poch did too. It comes down to a stubborn mentality for me. Poch is always going to back us to outgun the opponent. He will always have us play our game and back our strengths to outweigh and overcome an opponent. It works against 90% of teams but our rivals at the top of the table are different. For example neither Chelsea nor Man Utd went to Anfield and attempted to go toe-to-tie and make their games a shoot out or tried to run up and down with Liverpool. To back us to do this, when we even struggled against them at the lane playing open and offfensive, is naive. A different approach and one of more respect for an opposition’s strengths is needed away from home. Our record against the current top 6 is woeful on the road. Their is no embarrassment to make ourselves difficult to break down for 45-60 mins and then get expansive and play to win the game. It’s what the top teams do and the next step we need to take.

      • Chas 13th February 2017 at 3:31 am #

        Couldn’t agree more, Mark. The whole world knew Mane was going to own Davies.
        And I’ve said before… Dyer accelerates to a walk – occasionally. It’s OK to be Mr., Super Cool and look to have minutes to play, but it requires an ability he doesn’t possess, sadly.
        I’m with cydtheyid re Winks. Surely, he HAS to be a better proposition – even playing out of position – than Sissoko,
        Come to think of it, that would apply to just about everyone in the Academy.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 11:32 am #

          I think Dier has suffered this season from being moved around the formation Chas. Defensive midfield, left centre back, right centre back, right back. He’s been used as a utility player as he has the ability but gets caught out occassionally. He and Poch need to decide what he’s going to be and stick with it.

      • cydtheyid 13th February 2017 at 11:02 am #

        I also agree Mark. We allowed Liverpool to find their form by playing into their hands and being open and expansive. They’ve struggled in recent weeks against teams well set up and organized, teams that made it difficult for them to attack at pace. We on the other hand put the welcome mat out for them. We have to be a little cuter when playing against the top teams. Going toe to toe might give you the bragging rights that we don’t change our game for anyone, but equally it rarely give us three points either. We have one of the best defenses in the league and should be quite capable of sitting back and catching teams on the break. We’re becoming very predictable to play against, Poch needs to mix it up a bit and keep the opposition guessing a little. At the moment we’re an open book.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 11:42 am #

          Good point cydtheyid. Pep said we are the best team in the league if allowed to play. That is why City pressed us and Liverpool did too. We need to find another ploy as we can’t show up and expect to be allowed to exert our game for 90 minutes over a top opponent.

  4. Toby4eva 13th February 2017 at 8:25 am #

    As I said the other day – the stats don’t lie.

    Whilst the overall numbers support our position as a consistent top 4 contender – the away results against the top six are simply not good enough – and explain our early exit from the CL.

    We don’t liked getting bossed.

    The players simply aren’t good enough to get “up” for the big away games – or the Gaffer has gotten it wrong. Or both.

    Mark made it pretty clear how we should approach the game.

    But it now appears that Poch’s ego is bigger than we thought.

    I think he is great – but he was given a lesson – again – by the Kloppmeister.

    Missing Verts and Broadway big time.

    Much to do.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 11:38 am #

      We don’t like being dictated to that is for sure. I think we do need to tighten up our formation and tactics away from home vs the top 6. I believe we are very good on the counter attack, especially when we have open field to run in to and have the players to expose teams if we can break on them. We’ve shown it many times that we have the ability to go from one end to the other on a counter attack, so i’m not sure why we don’t put it to good use?!

      • YouShubes 14th February 2017 at 2:49 pm #

        Disagree that we can counter attack as we used to…we don’t have the speed of Bale or Lennon anymore nor do we have the speed of the thought in Luka

        Against mid table sides maybe but not against the top 6 do we have that level of quality anymore IMHO

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th February 2017 at 5:18 pm #

          I didn’t say as we used to. However, I do believe we are effective at counter attacking.

  5. Antonyj7 13th February 2017 at 9:21 am #

    A different perspective

    For several seasons now we seem to lose our mojo at around this point in the season

    We looked tired, Liverpool looked fitter, zippier

    Can it be in addition to the above mentioned comments that our training is not balanced for the demands of a multi game per week season?

    One well known Dutch trainer has looked at our training and labeled it ‘not fit for purpose’.

    I hope I am wrong, but the zip has also gone, and our mojo is missing.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 11:40 am #

      Some good points Antonyj7. We have played many more games than Liverpool that is for sure, plus we play 4 times before they play again in 2 weeks time. The toll that takes on the squad, especially one that doesn’t have massive depth, can’t be underestimated.

    • Carrigbawn 13th February 2017 at 3:20 pm #

      The “well known Dutch trainer” is not that well known otherwise you would have mentioned him by name! Also, by the way, he has made the same criticisms of Klopp’s training methods! And those of other successful managers as well. He comes across as a failure with a chip on his shoulder!

  6. Jerry Ward 13th February 2017 at 11:35 am #

    Thanks Mark, an illuminating piece. It seemed to me at the time that it was just them having a day like ours at home to Chelsea and City. They were superb. But as I see now, they were allowed to be.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 11:51 am #

      We definitely didn’t help ourselves and that is where the frustration is.

  7. Antonyj7 13th February 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    Carrigbawn – It is not that I did not know his name rather that the point I was making was not so much about him as the suggestion that we have a problem at about this time of year for the last few seasons with our fitness, zippiness and mojo.

    For you : Raymond Verheijen is a controversial character who has an impeccable CV but a slightly dodgier recent past. He has made his name from a Twitter perspective by bashing the likes of Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal.

    Whilst Pochettino is in good company here, it is not just Verheijen making these claims about Pochettino and his record at Espanyol, Southampton and now Spurs does suggest that his teams burn out late on in seasons…

    Absolutely he might well be as described above, however that is not the point, which is that we do not have a big enough, talented enough squad to deal with the number of games coming up towards this time every season.

  8. Mark from Virginia 13th February 2017 at 9:44 pm #

    HI Mark,
    Your pregame analysis was spot on – well done! I could see your predictions unfolding in the 1st 10 min of the game. I too was disappointed and thought the line up naive. My gut reaction was to fore go the flanks, have Walker play sweeper in the middle of a back three with Dier and Alde, pack the midfield with Wanyama, Dembele, Winks and Erikson, and have Jansen, Kane and Ali up top. This would have provided an great outlet for the long balls. Experimental for sure, but it sure would have been interesting!!!
    Thanks again for your great musings.
    Mark from Virginia

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 10:10 pm #

      Thanks Mark. I’ve never considered Walker in the middle of a back 3 before, maybe because I’ve always seen this a role for a passer like Alderweireld. Janssen, Kane and Dele would’ve given them problems in the air, especially for Lucas. Not sure why we didn’t play these three up front and try more long balls just to give Liverpool something else to think about?!

      • Mark from Virginia 13th February 2017 at 10:55 pm #

        I never considered Walker there either but he’s the only uninjured player in the 1st team with the speed and defensive skills to fill that role – sweeping up and keeping Mane at bay! I also considered having a back three of Dier, Alde and Wanyama and then having Walker and N’jie wide with Demebele and Erikson in the middle but same top 3 of Kane, Jansen and Ali to give there defense fits dealing with the long balls from Alde, Erikson and Winks. This goes back to your point about bypassing the midfield!

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th February 2017 at 11:44 pm #

          Yes I believe bypassing the Liverpool midfield has been key to a number of teams success against them. My personal choice would’ve been Dier, Wimmer and Alderweireld. Walker and Davies at wing backs. Dembele and Wanyama in defensive midfield. Then Dele ahead as a number ten with Kane and Janssen up top.

  9. shubes 14th February 2017 at 5:42 pm #

    Wish we could have some effective pace back in the attack again

    Is GKN the answer….Maybe?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th February 2017 at 5:57 pm #

      I think GKN has a lot of developing to do. We need Lamela back, as his counter attack goal to put us 3-0 up against Man Utd last season showed.