Wrestling for control of the wide areas saw each team on top as our Premier League clash ended Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham at Anfield.
Both Mauricio Pochettino and Jürgen Klopp had the upper hand at points in this match. Each manager tried to exert his system, but ended up having to respond to what was happening in the wide areas of the pitch. It resulted in a back and forth tactical tussle, which saw a final score of Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham at Anfield.
Each team went about pressing the other with a different style. Recognising Tottenham’s three centre backs and wanting to play out through them, Liverpool used their three forwards to force the ball back to Hugo Lloris. Once the ball was with the goalkeeper, the Reds gave him no short options. Lloris was forced in to longer kicks, which he is not accurate at and turnovers ensued.
Spurs were also strategic in their pressing. Mauricio Pochettino lined the side up in a 5-3-2 formation, which saw Lucas Moura and Harry Kane trying to shut down Liverpool’s centre backs and force the ball out wide earlier than Liverpool would have liked.
The problem for Spurs was that there wasn’t enough of a trap behind this. The midfield trio of Moussa Sissoko, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli were playing narrow and compact. The idea was that wingbacks Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier would be left to play Liverpool’s full backs one versus one.
The issue was that the Tottenham players not only had the Liverpool full backs to deal with, but also the wide forwards. Sadio Mane and Mo Salah were drifting out to give Trippier and Rose another problem. The movement of the Liverpool pair also had a knock on effect. It dragged the outside centre backs of Spurs’ three out as well.
Liverpool’s pressing takes the lead
The game quickly had its opening goal. Liverpool’s pressing system, and Spurs’ bad setup, saw the Reds take the lead.
Liverpool used their front three to force the ball back to Hugo Lloris and cut off his short passing options. As a result, the Tottenham keeper played a longer pass over the pressers. A waiting Georginio Wijnaldum easily hovered his clearance up. With the Tottenham midfield trio caught narrow, Jordan Henderson could spray the ball out to Andrew Robertson in acres of space.
The movement of Sadio Mane then also gave Spurs a problem. Kieran Trippier was slow to respond to Robertson coming forward and criminally didn’t stop the cross coming in.
Mane’s movement also dragged Toby Alderweireld out from the back three. Space was thus created as a result between Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez. Roberto Firmino ghosted in to a huge void between Vertonghen and Sanchez to cushion his header home.
Spurs change shape
Liverpool had the lead through not only their press, but also their control of the wide areas. The Reds’ full backs had the time and space through Spurs having a narrow midfield trio along with Kane and Moura trying to stop the ball coming through the centre.
Combine this with Sadio Mane and Mo Salah pulling out wide to drag the centre backs out and give our wingbacks another thing to worry about and Liverpool created more chances. Mane curled two good efforts just past Hugo Lloris’ far post. Trent Alexander-Arnold also fizzed an effort across goal that had Hugo Lloris worried.
Mauricio Pochettino had seen enough and responded with a change of shape. Spurs went 5-4-1 and used a flat midfield four rather than the narrow triangle that had previously been in place.
The quartet of midfielders saw Christian Eriksen on one side with Lucas Moura on the other. The pairing allowed Spurs to cover both the Liverpool full back and wide forward.
This slowed down Liverpool in the wide areas and it also allowed Spurs to break on counter attacks.
Second shape change to control wide areas
The second half saw Spurs adapt with another change of shape. The 5-4-1 became a 4-4-1-1 as Pochettino adjusted to get his twin strikers back in operation. The move maintained the two players in the wide areas to stop Liverpool’s full back and wide forward combination. However, now he had the striker and supporting player that he had plotted for with his initial setup.
The move put Spurs in the ascendency and forced Liverpool back. The only issue was that Jan Vertonghen was playing left back and Danny Rose left midfield. As soon as this was addressed with a substitute, Spurs were instantly on level terms.
Spurs speedy counters
Pochettino had the shape the right but the personnel wrong. His first change addressed all the imbalances. Davinson Sanchez going off returned a left-footed centre back to that side of the defensive pairing. Danny Rose was subsequently moved to left back and the speed of Son Heung-Min could run off Harry Kane.
Instantly Tottenham were on level terms. A quick ball out to Harry Kane won a foul. Kane’s vision and rapid thinking had the ball instantly out to Kieran Trippier against a Liverpool team that was caught narrow.
Whilst Trippier had been a real liability defensively, in attack he had been a threat. What Pochettino’s change in formation also did was get Christian Eriksen in a higher and wider position. The pair combined to take Harry Kane’s pinpoint pass and scuff it across the box for Lucas Moura to arrive from the other wing and level the scores.
Getting Son and Moura on the pitch was key to the goal. Son’s speed and run dragged Joel Matip away. As a result, Lucas Moura could arrive from his new wide left position having left Trent Alexander-Arnold trailing.
The move also highlighted what was happening in wide areas once again. Spurs had shifted players out here to initially contain, but now overran Liverpool. Andrew Robertson was caught narrow and without help against Trippier and Eriksen on one side. Lucas Moura’s quick reactions saw him leave Trent Alexander Arnold behind on the other.
Liverpool’s all-out attacking change
Spurs were taking control of the game and it came from bossing the wide areas. Jürgen Klopp’s response was to go to a 4-2-4 formation to address this. Fabinho came on to give him two holding defensive midfielders. Divock Origi joined the attacking trio up top. Liverpool now had another player in the wide areas as they stretched out the Spurs back four with a quartet of their own.
The move gave Liverpool more attacking firepower. Fabinho became a real influence as he frequently won the ball back with good open field tackling and could instigate more attacks. Spurs were pushed back as a result, but created much more dangerous counter attack opportunities.
When Spurs did break Liverpool’s initial press there was acres of space to run in to. Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk were left one versus one with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.
Spurs one-touch passing to break Liverpool’s press was often exceptional and resulted in some great opportunities to win the match.
Moussa Sissoko had the best of them. Having started the initial move and eaten up the ground, Sissoko couldn’t finish when a calmer and composed side foot was needed.
Danny Rose then found the ball at his feet on another break. A hurried lofted pass ensued that ended up on the roof of the goal when more composure was required.
Dele Alli was then inches away with a curling effort towards the top corner.
Liverpool had been a threat from corners all game. The Reds had initially been surrounding Hugo Lloris with bodies and putting the ball in under his crossbar to overwhelm the keeper. However, a change in tact second half saw them looking to find the heads of Matip and van Dijk.
On ninety minutes Liverpool won anther corner from the pressure of having their front four on the pitch, which frequently had given Tottenham trouble as we continued to try and pass out from the back.
The initial ball was well dealt with well by Harry Kane. Danny Rose was free in his zonal marking role at the near post. Kieran Trippier had Mo Salah at the back.
However, the return ball in by Trent Alexander-Arnold saw a number of defensive errors. Trippier raced back to his right-sided position leaving Salah. Rose crossed towards the left, playing everyone onside.
Toby Alderweireld was equally slow out. Following Hugo Lloris’ catastrophic handling of Salah’s soft header, Alderweireld would deflect the ball in to our net.
Following the fantastic counter attack chances, the score was somehow Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham and three points had been gifted to the Reds.
Such a hammer blow in the ninetieth minute gave Spurs little time to respond. Time ran out and the match ended Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham for another defeat after having the chances to put a game away.
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham overall
This match was all about control and composure. Tottenham gained the former but lacked the latter.
After a sloppy start, Spurs responded well to gain a good foothold in the match. The control of the game swung on which team was bossing the wide areas. Initially it was Liverpool, but Mauricio Pochettino’s formation changes saw Spurs get two players out wide on each side. Tottenham equalised and should’ve taken the lead as a result.
The lack of composure saw chances spurned. A defensive mix-up and routine handling error saw Tottenham’s composure go at both ends. Liverpool were gifted three points as a result.
Final score: Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham.
MOTM: Lucas Moura.
Mark from Virginia says
So glad to see you’re back at it – Welcome back!!! Thoughtful analysis as always – I’ve missed your posts over the past few months. I agree with your points about the wide areas – this was a huge problem early on – too bad the adjustment was made after the goal. I sometimes think it might be useful to move a player like Toby or Davidson into the midfield as a stopper – yesterday’s tactical situation seemed to suit this type of adjustment, but a high profile game is not the time to experiment – what are your thoughts about this? Toby used to play some midfield to great effect when he was at Southampton.
I thought Rose had a good game and his form seems to be coming back – only if he can stay injury free! I liked your comment on Trippier, he has become a liability defensively and after his gaff at Chelsea I have been an advocate of his replacement.
I came across an interesting statistic last week – 41% of Spurs goals against are occurring in the last 15 min of the game (34 goals against / 14 after the 76′). This is very telling – What happened to the defensive resilience of a couple seasons ago? This team seems to loose it’s nerve and crumble in the final minutes. As much of an asset Loris has been for so long, this ship may have sailed. I really like the idea of having a World Cup winning keeper but he is somewhat responsible for both goals in yesterday’s game. This seems to be a recurring theme this season – like the opposition figured out how to take advantage of his weaknesses.
As always I appreciate your time in putting these write ups together.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Mark, I have become a bit of a sceptic of us using a back three. It just doesn’t seem to currently work for us when it looked extremely solid last season. I, like you, have been thinking that Toby would be great in defensive midfield given our current issues there, at least until Dier returns. I really don’t see why Poch couldn’t use him in there and also take advantage of his passing range.
Conceding late on has become an issue and its tough to put a finger on a single factor as for me there seem to be a number of issues. 1). Defensive midfield is not able to protect the back four for a full 90 minutes as we don’t have a stopper in there without Dier or Wanyama. 2). Our full backs are a liability defensively. Rose is the best of a very average bunch without the ball. 3) We are chasing more games now and leaving ourselves open. 4). Lloris is making gaffs, but he is also slower off his line. He’s lost half a yard of speed and its noticeable that he’s not sweeping up like he used to or as much as he used to. This is impacting opposition teams playing more through balls, which are more successful now. He had the errors where he came and missed against City and Barca at Wembley in back-to-back games and he’s been highly hesitant ever since.
Just a few reasons, but I think we need to answer some serious questions about our full backs, defensive midfield and between the sticks this summer.
Sheffield Spur says
Thanks Mark. Good to have you back.
It seems to me that a back three/five is particularly vulnerable against a 4-3-3 as the opponents are able either to press against the centre backs therefore preventing us from having a spare man to drop back and sweep up, or alternatively they can pull the centre backs apart and create spaces in between as happened for the first goal. On the other hand, it can work well against teams which play more defensively as it allows our wing backs to move forward freely without defensive responsibilities leaving our midfield to play narrow and win the battle there.
As soon as it was clear that both Winks and Dier were unfit (and of course Wanyama is not the player he was last season) I was concerned that Poch might go for three/five at the back. Having said that, it was good to see his tactical and formation adjustments: he has certainly added this to his coaching skills over the time he has been with us.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Poch is much quicker to change things nowadays, which is good considering one of the few knocks on him a couple of seasons ago was that he was slow to change or use his subs. I’m pretty sure the back three was a response to what happened in the Wembley game and that Trippier and Rose were told to play a lot deeper and not allow the runners in-behind that we saw at Wembley. The idea was a decent one on paper, but didn’t really work out in practice due to Trippier. He should’ve just been concerned with Robertson and should’ve left the wide forward (Mane) to Alderweireld. Rose and Vertonghen were much better in their application of it.
Tough at the minute without Dier. Wanyama is clearly not going to be the same player. Even having Dembele at this time would’ve been a decent option as a defensive midfield backstop!
Good to see you back and I hope that your comments can find a wider audience because for sure we have issues that are not going away.
Time to give Gazzaniga a run as Loris is not giving our defence any confidence.
Trippier is also not able to defend intelligently, and with Aurier injured time maybe for Kyle Walker-Peters.
For sure in the summer we have to make sensible additions, however until then we have some crucial games we must win in order to preserve our Champions League position.
We can only hope that we really settle in quickly to our new home and that this gives us the needed lift.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I’d like to see Gazzaniga given a run, but that certainly won’t happen this season. There’s no way Poch will drop Lloris for the first game at the new stadium or for a crucial run of matches for CL qualification.
Goalkeeper succession planning is something we’ve talked about for a while on here. With Lloris now at 32 years old i think he’s only got a season or two left in him at the peak of his powers. The club needs to have a proper look at this situation this summer.
nice to see your post again Mark, we missed you.
now… a game of two halves, poor 1st and very good attacking play in the 2nd… I thought the essence of playing a 343 was to have our wingbacks really going at it, but this was not the case, it was more of a 532 and this really hurt us out wide, I’ve never seen us this cautious and I didn’t like it. Eriksen I thought had a poor game, lost a couple of balls in the mid and had some awaful miss-passes too much to the liking, we really missed Winks in there,he would of done a job… Do we still have that many injuries? why Dele in the mid three…(yes, coz we looked like a 532) I’d rather Eriksen be there than Dele, and pull strings from deep, of all the balls Dele came deep to play with the center backs, he didn’t turn with any one of them, all of them were one touch back to the center back.
That Lloris error is an eye sore more ‘sore’ on the close up replay (pun intended)…. I like Lloris a person, great guy, but I think we just have to move on, our playing from the back doesn’t suit that awkward left foot of his… a lot of errors in the past couple a games, and lack of judgment… I wanna see Gazza in that goal, good on his feat and a great shot stopper, any thoughts on Gazza to start as no 1 next season?
All in all a good showing, in the 2nd half and hopefully we can build from that, keep your heads up Boys
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Eriksen is cruising at the minute. His level has really dropped. Probably as he knows he’s off. However, he’s also had a lot of football catching up with him having played constantly with us and Denmark. He’s the talisman for the Danish side and I can imagine that takes its toll. He’s also one of the few that hasn’t been out injured for an extended time to get some World Cup recuperation. And he was a rare world cup player that went on our preseason ICC tour in the USA. I said that was a crazy decision at the time and this is probably that catching up with him. He really has had minimal rest and who knows, maybe that curious stomach injury is still plaguing him?
I’d like to see Gazzaniga given a go. I’m not sure if he’s a week in/week out number one, but until he gets his chance we’ll never know. I’d like to see us bring in a good young keeper like Freddie Woodman and let him and Gazzaniga compete for the job. One thing that is for sure is that if we’re going to play out from the back we need a keeper with good distribution. We need players that fit the philosophy and We know Lloris doesn’t have that and at 32 years old never will.
That was some sabbatical you took, Mark! Glad to see you are back with us.
I’m with you on Gazzaniga and cannot understand why there are always reports we are looking at a goalkeeper to backup Hugo. For mine, Gazz has been excellent whenever called in and his distribution plays Lloris off a break.
Jut a shame that a howler eachj end of the pitch costs us a precious three points.
But having said that, our remaining games are there for the taking with the possible exception of Man C, so with ManU going down to Wolves, all’s looking OK.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Like to see Gazzaniga get some game time. His distribution is excellent and he is a decent shot stopper, but he’s not had a consistent run to assess whether he can be a week-in/week-out number one.
Blue&White Blood says
Hi guys, and welcome back Mark. And as a frequent reader but very infrequent commenter, thanks for all the analysis and good natured, balanced chat below the line over the past seasons – it has been brilliant, and long may it continue.
I’ve no comment on the Liverpool game that couldn’t be summed up with the face-plant emoji, I’m just really hoping the new stadium gives the boys a lift tonight and we start picking up the results again.
I was at the Legends test event at the weekend, so I can say from personal experience that the new ground really does feel like home. In the stands, it is amazing, perfect (perhaps the new higher-level video advertising hoardings are a bit distracting if I was searching for any criticism) – but the noise from the single tier stand – even with the ground only around 40k full, and not a competitive game – was electric, and brought a tear to my eye the first time they fired up! It really is everything we could’ve hoped for. The cockerel sits as proudly as I’ve ever seen it in its new home.
The game was fun if a bit annoying that Inter Forever were taking it seriously; all their players looked fit, and most had retired in the 10s and 00s, whereas we had lots of people from the 90s, plus a greying, bearded Nayim with quite a paunch, Hazard who looked like a doughnut with stumpy legs (still skilful though!) …oh, and another greying player you may know who literally died for several minutes last year but played a large part of the second half! It was great to see Gazza’s cameo too – he was limping as he came *on* to the field, but it was a lovely emotional gesture and the fans gave him a huge ovation. Robbie Keane was amazing and his first goal was sublime. The lads did well to get 4, but they were totally knackered second half and it was a bit mean of Inter to get the late minute winner for 5-4!
I didn’t get to explore inside the stadium as much as I wanted to so I will have to reserve judgement there. Despite several emails encouraging fans to arrive early and stay after for a drink, I think perhaps the staff hadn’t considered the fact that for most of the 40k plus in attendance, it was their first time in the stadium and so *everyone* would want to do that anyway! As such stewards were shutting off certain areas and some fans were a bit frustrated they couldn’t get to the larger communal areas, like the goal line bar, especially after the final whistle. The club will need to be very careful about how to manage this tonight when the stadium is at capacity.
For anyone going tonight my advice would be to use the catering in your own section where the queues will be much smaller, and then you can always try and have a wander if they will let you, without the additional hassle of having to queue for stuff. Pre-match the queues at the goal line bar looked like about 50 lines 35 deep, but the outlet nearest my seating only had about 15 people queueing total.
Like I said though, it really does feel like home and I am really excited for the final push now this season – hope you will be there to guide us through it Mark!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Thanks Blue&White Blood. Very sound advice and thanks for sharing.