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.