A suicidal high line with no pressure on the ball saw our makeshift defence torn apart by through balls and a rampant Luis Suarez, as it finished Spurs 0 Liverpool 5.
Whereas we still looked like a team of strangers, Liverpool highlighted how a season together learning the way the boss wants to play can see a team flourish.
Their high intensity pressing was ferocious in the middle of the park, whilst their neat passing triangles when in possession dragged our backline around. The result was runners jetting in to space on to through ball after through ball.
Suarez lead the merry dance and was involved in all five goals, but the real work started behind him.
Lucas and Allen
Brendan Rodgers lined his side up in a 4-3-3 with the relentless pressing that we talked about in the Tottenham tactics. This started from the front.
Luis Suarez was leading the closing down, but aided by Coutinho and Raheem Sterling operating high up in the wide positions. Rodgers must have looked at our team sheet and seen Etienne Capoue and Kyle Naughton in our back four and decided to target them.
After only a few minutes, Naughton was caught on the ball by Sterling who gave him a torrid time when both in and out of possession.
At the hub of the pressing was the engine room of Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen. The Brazilian was winning the ball back through intercepting passes. The Welshman was making tackle after tackle in high areas of the pitch, as the front three were backed up by this second wave.
The result was the first goal, where Nacer Chadli was dispossessed and Luis Suarez blew past Etienne Capoue to receive the return from Jordan Henderson. Capoue looked like a stand-in centre back as he took up a defensive midfield position, something that he did too often throughout the game.
Whilst Allen was getting through his usual work of winning the ball then giving a short simple pass, Lucas was also being a menace to us in two ways.
Firstly, he winning the ball back through intercepting passes. Secondly, when Liverpool were building from the back, he was dropping in between the wide splitting centre backs in order to move the ball forward.
Liverpool does this regularly as looked at in the Tottenham tactics and a key to stopping them is to bring pressure on both centre backs and Lucas dropping in. This forces the ball back to Simon Mignolet who has to kick downfield, thus increasing the chances of a turnover. Southampton, Hull and Everton all did this well in their good results against Liverpool. However, we only brought two payers to press – Soldado and Paulinho – meaning Lucas could advance the ball quite easily.
This saw play moved quickly in and through the midfield zone, as Liverpool were then able to abuse our high line. With no pressure on the ball up the field, this meant that Liverpool could hit through passes in-behind our makeshift back four, which was all over the place.
High line suicide
Earlier in the week I’d looked at Andre Villas-Boas relaxing the high line against Man Utd, Fulham and Sunderland in “Spurs lying deeper in wait?”
This did two things. First of all, we were less open to being attacked in-behind which many teams have tried to do against us. Secondly, with our opponents sitting deep and trying to hit on the counter, it pulled them out, thus allowing space for us to then attack which wasn’t previously there.
So, it was strange to see him return to the tactic here with Etienne Capoue and Kyle Naughton in the back line. Especially without any pressure on the ball further up the field.
With Liverpool having no trouble advancing play in to the midfield zone through Lucas, this saw them get in-behind our high line over and over again.
The problem for Spurs, as we saw on the first goal, was that the positioning of Etienne Capoue was so out of sync with Michael Dawson that we weren’t even catching them offside.
All of Liverpool’s goals were initiated from a vertical through pass that found a runner in-behind our defence. Michael Dawson’s yellow card for taking out Jordan Henderson was a clear indicator of the confusion in the back line.
Jordan Henderson was the focus for many plaudits and he had a standout game in the absence of Steven Gerrard, but Luis Suarez was the star of the show. The Uruguayan has been virtually unplayable this season and was directly involved in either creating or scoring all of Liverpool’s goals.
His movement to run the channels that we looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Liverpool was highly evident once again to get shooting chances.
Both of his goals came from movement off Etienne Capoue who was drawn to the ball like a defensive midfielder would be, rather than a centre back covering behind.
Spurs creating chances
Despite the mauling, Spurs did create several some chances here, which if we’d taken may have altered the flow of the game.
As looked at before the match, Liverpool are vulnerable to conceding chances from the right back zone when Glen Johnson gets forward. We created a few opportunities through here. The most notable being a couple of Nacer Chadli crosses that went through the area, whilst Lewis Holtby scuffed a pull back from Roberto Soldado.
The other way to create chances is to turn their slow centre backs with through balls. Roberto Soldado had a glorious chance from a Holtby pass at the start of the second half.
The introduction of Andros Townsend was a good move by AVB in order to try and expose the area in-behind Glen Johnson. This decision was spectacularly blown up two minutes later though as Paulinho was red carded.
After having to replace the injured Sandro, then Kyle Naughton who may also have been playing with a knock, AVB had no further changes up his sleeve. Lewis Holtby was paired with Nacer Chadli in central midfield and Liverpool were able to overrun us in that area with their trio of Lucas, Allen and Henderson.
Three more goals followed and the game was well and truely up.
Spurs 0 Liverpool 5 overall
After the capitulation at Man City, this was an extra-ordinary return to the high line with a makeshift back four and no real pressure on the ball.
It resembled Spurs 2 Arsenal 1 last season where we both were pushing up to condense the playing area. In that match we were the ones to break through the Gooners high line as they weren’t pressuring the ball. Here, we spectacularly blew up as Liverpool went through us time and time again.
Whereas our press was ineffective, Liverpool’s saw them win possession back high up the field. They were then in a position to play through ball after through ball, as they abused the lack of co-ordination in our defence.
We enjoyed our best period after the interval. However, AVB using his third change moments before Paulinho’s red card meant that we had play out the remainder of the match with not only a makeshift defence, but a patched up midfield as well. Liverpool’s three goals ran up the score, but we rarely looked like registering.
Final score: Spurs 0 Liverpool 5.