Lapses on the left side of our defence see us crash out of the EFL Cup as it finished Liverpool 2-1 Spurs at Anfield.
Disjointed team structures are often the result of wholesale changes. Spurs fell victim to it in the EFL Cup up at Anfield. There was a disconnect up top, but more worryingly was what was going on at the back. Time and time again the left side of our defence was exposed, which led to a final score of Liverpool 2-1 Spurs.
Different pressing styles
When Liverpool and Spurs come together its a given that there will be heavy pressing and little time on the ball. Despite the changes by both managers, this game was no different.
Each team is an exponent of the art in a different way. Spurs operate in waves. First in were Vincent Janssen, Josh Onomah and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou. Behind them a second band led by Tom Carroll, along with Harry Winks and Eric Dier.
Spurs sweep in on the opponent, Liverpool do it with numbers getting to the ball, as they swarm and gang tackle. Both teams were effective early on, but also was each side’s method of escape. Spurs did well to play around Liverpool’s numbers. The Reds beat our waves with long crossfield switches of the ball.
Spurs defensive lapses on the left
Liverpool’s success throughout the first half came from attacking our left side. On this flank we had Ben Davies and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou. The pair obviously hasn’t worked together much as they were frequently on different wavelengths. Davies was bombing forward, as was Nkoudou, and it often left the back door open. Davies doesn’t have great recovery speed. Nkoudou didn’t seem switched on early enough to danger behind him. The result was Liverpool chances and goals.
The pair was unlucky, but also at fault for the opening goal. Liverpool escaped our press with a long crossfield switch from Georginio Wijnaldum that was intercepted by Ben Davies. There was little trouble at this point, except for the huge distance between Davies and his centre back Kevin Wimmer. It shouldn’t have been a problem, but suddenly it was.
Davies headed the ball up in the air and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou was first to it. He then slipped and turned possession over, which spelt trouble. Wimmer saw this and realising he was disconnected from his full back, sprinted across. He over-balanced and was in a position of no man’s land with the ball being run at him and Daniel Sturridge drifting in to the newly crerated hole between him and Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Marko Grujic continued his run with the ball, which sucked our defence towards him. This got numbers to the ball, but also left Kieran Trippier with a decision at the far post. Did he track Daniel Sturridge inside or stay with Divock Origi?
As Grujic’s low cross was deflected, Trippier was caught in-between the two Liverpool men. Daniel Sturridge anticipated the deflection better than anyone else, getting to the ball ahead of the hesitant Michel Vorm. Our goalkeeper slipped and then half-heartedly leapt towards the ball but couldn’t stop it, Liverpool 1-0 Spurs.
The goal had come from attacking our left and exposing the disconnection between Davies, Nkoudou and the knock-on affect this had on Kevin Wimmer. Our left-sided centre back didn’t have a good game and wasn’t helped by what was going on outside him.
Minutes after scoring from the left flank and Liverpool were almost two up. Davies and Nkoudou were both caught high up the field. Daniel Sturridge snuck in to the space behind our left back and raced on to the through ball. Jinking at the edge of the area, Kevin Wimmer was no match for his quick feet. However, Michel Vorm partially redeemed himself by tipping over Sturridge’s curling shot as it arced towards the top corner.
Three minutes later and we were in trouble on our left side again. Davies had overlapped Nkoudou from our throw-in. Neither made an attempt to get back as the ball was turned over. Kevin Wimmer was, for some reason, high up in the Liverpool half tracking Divock Origi.
Wimmer inexplicably dived in rather than keep Origi facing the left touchline and the Belgian was away.
Origi surged down the line and towards the penalty area. Daniel Sturridge was up running with him on the opposite side. As our defence was drawn towards Origi to stop him, he squared the ball to a wide-open Daniel Sturridge. Fortunately, Sturridge isn’t as adept with his right and scuffed a tame shot straight at Michel Vorm.
Spurs prosper down the right
The left side of our formation was a mess. The right side, however, was proving an effective avenue of attack. This flank saw Josh Onomah and Kieran Trippier trying to expose Alberto Moreno.
The Liverpool full back’s problems have been well documented and we were getting some joy from attacking him. Onomah and Trippier managed to work several good positions for our full back to cross. The issue was a lack of bodies in the box. Frequently there was only Vincent Janssen to aim for.
Trippier also managed to gain several free kicks from attacking Moreno. One saw him put a ball in for Janssen at the far post, which was headed over. A second fell to Janssen for a driven shot across goal that was pushed away. The rebound was worked back for Trippier to chip in a second cross for a sliding Nkoudou who saw his effort blocked.
However, this avenue would prove crucial to getting back in the match after Erik lamela’s introduction.
Liverpool running in-behind
At half time Spurs made a tactical change to push our defensive line higher in an effort to compact the play and hem Liverpool in. It saw us gain more control of the ball, but also exposed us to counter attacks and runs in-behind that gave Liverpool high-percentage scoring chances.
A through ball from Lucas saw the left side of our defence exposed again, as Divock Origi once more charged in. Again he crossed the ball for Sturridge whose right foot once more let him down. As the ball skidded across, Sturridge swung and missed with his unfavoured foot with the goal gaping. The pass hit his standing left and deflected away to safety.
Three minutes later and Sturridge snuck in-behind our back line once more as Wijnaldum got in down our left this time. His centre to Sturridge found him, but his heavy touch combined with Cameron Carter-Vickers sneaky shirt pull saw the chance evaporate.
Liverpool would add a second as they got in-behind for a third time. Our defence was caught high trying to hem the Reds in by the corner flag. A flick-on took seven of our players out of the game and left Wijnaldum with the ball on our defence.
His perfectly timed pass released Daniel Sturridge who had run between Wimmer and Davies. Through on goal, he made no mistake to put the Reds two up.
We continued to play with a high line and didn’t back down. More chances came Liverpool’s way, including one that saw them release Danny Ings. He didn’t have the foot speed to outrun our back four, but squared to Daniel Sturridge. In confident mood, he feathered an audaciously flicked shot on to our bar via a deflection off Cameron Carter-Vickers and Michel Vorm’s fingertips.
Reconnecting the disconnect
Throughout the game Spurs had a real disconnect up top. Vincent Janssen was playing his usual hold-up game, but had no one to run beyond him. Tom Carroll was floating around playing as a number ten but offered no runs beyond the striker. It didn’t get us numbers in the box or stretch Liverpool’s defence as everything was in front of them.
That changed with the introduction of Erik Lamela. The Argentinean offered more drive, dynamism and direct runs off Janssen. The result was that we got more players in to the Liverpool 18-yard box, won a penalty and should’ve had a second.
The penalty itself was a soft one. However, it did arrive from good work down our right. Kieran Trippier and Josh Onomah had isolated Alberto Moreno 2v1 allowing Onomah to cross.
The ball in was headed out by Ragnar Klavan, but straight at Ovie Ejaria. It bounced back to Erik Lamela who had got himself into the area with Janssen. With Lamela backing in and trying to overpower the smaller Lucas Leiva, he had several hacks at him. Lamela could’ve gone down after the third or fourth swipes by Lucas at the ball that hit his legs, but ended up going over on the fifth, penalty.
Vincent Janssen made no mistake with the spot kick. Plenty of time still to play and we were back in the game at Liverpool 2-1 Spurs.
Three minutes later and we should’ve had a second spot kick. Ben Davies, who was having a nightmare getting back on defence, got himself in to a good position up the pitch. We had numbers in the box and as Erik Lamela fed the ball in to Davies, he sprinted up to and off Vincent Janssen. Davies got the ball to our striker, who laid it off for Lamela’s run.
Lamela somehow managed to get the ball through Alberto Moreno and was goal side. The full back fell backwards in an attempt to con the referee that he had slipped over when he knew what he was doing to take Lamela out. Jonathan Moss bought it and waved play on.
Lamela’s introduction proved vital to us finding a way back in to the contest. He then put on a plate the chance for Shayon Harrison to level the scores up. Harrison had snuck in-behind Alberto Moreno as the right side proved to be our avenue of opportunity once again. However, Harrison miscontrolled with a heavy bounce off his chest as he tried to bring the ball down and the chance was gone. Maybe it was too much time to think and assess the magnitude of the chance and situation for the newly introduced youngster?
Mauricio Pochettino hammered the floor in frustration. The score remained at Liverpool 2-1 Spurs and we were out of this year’s EFL Cup competition.
Liverpool 2-1 Spurs overall
It’s always tough for a re-jigged side with so many changes to be fluid and functional. This is especially true when you rely on speed and co-ordination on both sides of the ball. Throw in an opponent that has also made changes and plays at a high tempo both with and without the ball and there will be chances at both ends.
We had control of possession for large chunks of this game, but Liverpool had more cut and thrust to their attacks as we had issues in two areas.
Firstly, up top we were only getting Vincent Janssen in the area until Erik Lamela came on. We also had no one running beyond the striker when he came short.
Secondly, down the left there was a real disconnect between Ben Davies and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou. This had a knock-on effect on left-sided centre back Kevin Wimmer.
Overall, there are much more pressing concerns and competitions this season. With only four games required to reach Wembley though, it was an opportunity missed for those given the nod and looking to press claims for more involvement with the first team.
Final score: Liverpool 2-1 Spurs.
Spot on, Mark, but I would have thought the ineffectiveness of Carroll was worth more than a couple of lines. He was plain awful and the main reason our attack was so toothless.
It”s interesting, reading all the player’s ratings by the ‘experts’. They cane the midfield for lack of effectiveness, then criticise Janssen for great hold up play but no strike power.
He can’t do much when he doesn’t get the ball, and when he does it’s taken five passes too many and he’s smothered.
Our build up play has been laborious at times this season and this game, with an inexperienced side, was especially so.
Onomah, N’Koudou, Carroll, Wimmer, Davies, were all hugely disappointing.
Hard to win when half the team is playing well below par, isn’t it?
But this game was won by 3 experienced first-teamers, Wyjnaldum, Sturridge and Origi, ripping apart our under-performing and unco-ordinated defence for the first 60 minutes. Thanks to Vorm, we were lucky not to have been down even more, as you’ve pointed out.
When we put on two regulars of our own, the game changed, but too late.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Great comment, Chas. I was really disappointed with Carroll and I don’t think he is going to get many more chances. He was a big hope a few years back but he just hasn’t progressed or kicked on. I imagine he will be on his way in January or definitely next summer.
The ‘experts’ will often do that and it doesn’t make sense. I thought most of our lads had an average game to be fair with a few that were particularly disappointing. Davies, arguably the most experienced of the backups, had a mere. I was hoping to see more from Nkouodou but his confidence looked to have taken a hit when he slipped and gave up the first goal. He seemed terrified of making another error. It wasn’t until Wanyama and Lamela came on that we looked like troubling Mignolet.
Has Charles has put it Mark.Your Spot on once again.T woo thought Carroll was very
ineffective.And some thing that peeved me off during this game.was the Referee’ pulling Tottenham up,for some very soft fouls,.he seemed to react to the liverpool Crowd on a number of occaisions.Which did’nt help our cause.Never mind I thought the youngsters that Poch used
ddone reasonably well.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
The ref definitely bottled the second penalty decision. It was a worse foul than the one that he actually gave!
Out of topic question .. what do you think if we play 4-3-3 or 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 when Kane returns ?
But the best bet will be sticking to the tried and trusted 4-2-3-1
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Good question. I’m a big fan of 4-3-3 and would like to see us give it a try. It has lots of upsides and would get Son in as a wide forward where i believe he is best. The only downside is it would mess with Pochettino’s plethora of midfielders as there wouldn’t be room for Alli, Dembele and Eriksen in the team.
I’m not sure if 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 would suit us as it gives a lot of work to the central midfield pairing, which would mean using two of Dier/Wanyama/Dembele at the expense of others. May be worth a try against teams like WBA or Hull at home though.
4-1-3-2 is the system i’d like to see us try at some point. i think it could give opposition teams, especailly bus parkers, a real headache.