Harry Kane rues a missed chance during Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool in the Premier League.

Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool: formation, full backs and turnovers

A worryingly open formation committed some poor turnovers and was punished, as it ended Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool in our Premier League clash.

Mauricio Pochettino didn’t seem so concerned after the match, but we were worryingly open here and were punished by some poor turnovers. Liverpool weren’t at their best, but they didn’t need to be. The Reds should’ve been more comfortable than the Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool score line suggested.

Diamond vs 4-3-3

In spite of having many players away on international duty, Mauricio Pochettino had two weeks to plan for this match. The boss opted for the diamond formation to try and cut Liverpool off through the middle, whilst getting two versus two against their centre backs.

To compliment, Pochettino had both Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier flying forward in an attempt to push Mo Salah and Sadio Mane back towards their own goal. Whilst it may have seemed like a good plan, Salah and Mane didn’t bite. The pair opted to leave Trippier and Rose. Instead, they held high positions and ran in to the spaces our full backs had left when the ball was turned over.

Salah and Mane didn't track Rose or Trippier during Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool.

Salah and Mane didn’t track Rose or Trippier.

This is where the diamond struggles against a team playing 4-3-3. The wide forwards in 4-3-3 can then create three versus two situations against a pair of exposed centre backs. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld were stretched across the pitch and had a torrid time stopping Liverpool counter attacks.

Spurs were almost behind inside one minute to such an event. As a result of the space left by Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen was dragged out to the touchline, leaving Mane and Firmino to get around Toby Alderweireld. The offside flag came to the rescue and Spurs should’ve learnt from the warning, but we didn’t.

Tottenham turnovers

The issue for us was that we turnover the ball over way too often and in dangerous parts of the pitch when highly exposed.

Eric Dier’s blind back pass that fell to the feet of Mo Salah was an example of our sloppiness when in a highly vulnerable position. However, Dier wasn’t alone in gifting Liverpool’s front three excellent starting positions to attack.

The most criminal example was on Liverpool’s opener. Roberto Firmino blocked Toby Alderweireld’s attempted pass. Christian Eriksen then headed the partial clearance straight to Sadio Mane who won a corner.

We’ve given up far too many goals at set pieces already this season and Liverpool took advantage. The Reds surrounded goalkeeper Michel Vorm.

Goalkeeper Michel Vorm surrounded by red shirts during Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool.

Goalkeeper Michel Vorm surrounded by red shirts.

Vorm flapped at the first effort to punch clear. Eric Dier then didn’t get enough on his clearance. Georginio Wijnaldum headed the ball back at goal, just crossing the line before Vorm could parry. Referee Michael Oliver awarded the goal as the technology showed it clearly crossed the line.

Fallible full backs

Our full backs jetting forward and poor turnovers leaving them out of position had been the constant threat in the first half. Liverpool then added a second as Sadio Mane lit up Kieran Trippier.

Trippier is a much better wingback than he is a full back purely due to his lack of pace not being exposed when deployed in the former role. Playing as a full back here, Trippier didn’t have the speed to go with Mane’s spin and sprint down the line.

Mane races beyond Trippier to tee up a second goal during Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool.

Mane races beyond Trippier to tee up a second goal.

Andrew Robertson found Mane with a sublimely lofted ball over the top. Trippier couldn’t recover and Mane played a dangerous ball through the six-yard box. Jan Vertonghen slid in to stop it, but deflected the ball against the post. Michel Vorm then somehow contrived to let the rebound squirm through his gloves. Roberto Firmino was waiting for a tap in and he was rewarded. Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool.

Energy on the outsides

Chances for Tottenham throughout the match were few and far between. Christian Eriksen’s runs beyond the front two looked our best way to goal. However, it was Lucas Moura and then Erik Lamela, both of whom played with boundless energy attacking down the outsides, which created our best chances after the interval.

Lucas Moura struck the woodwork after a mazy dribbling run. Christian Eriksen found Moura with an inch perfect sweeping pass. Virgil van Dijk was dragged over to the touchline. Moura skipped past him and rung a shot off the foot of the post.

Erik Lamela was then introduced. Lamela and Moura played on the outside of an advanced midfield three in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The pair’s energy gave Liverpool real trouble and pushed their full backs towards their own goal.

Lamela had a decent effort that just skidded just past the post with goalkeeper Alisson Becker beaten.

Lamela then grabbed a late consolation. He was involved in the move that won the corner. Lamela’s cross expertly picked out Danny Rose at the back post. He then converted the ensuing set piece to make the score a more respectable Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool.

The Reds defended the corner with a four-man zone across the six-yard box. However, Tottenham runners got in-between and disrupted them. The ball wound up with Erik Lamela at the back post.

Reds 6-yard box zone defence with Lamela free ahead of scoring to make it Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool.

Reds 6-yard box zone defence with Lamela free ahead of scoring.

Lamela chested and then coolly volleyed in to the far corner as both Daniel Sturridge and Virgil van Dijk stood off and turned their backs.


Lamela’s goal had got us back in to a game that we should’ve been well out of. Sadio Mane then fouled Son Heung-Min in the box for what should have been a penalty.

Danny Rose’s long throw was kept in the box by good Tottenham hustle. Erik Lamela then flicked the ball out to the arriving Son Heung-Min. Son jinked back inside and as he was set to shoot, Sadio Mane took his standing foot from underneath him.

Referee Michael Oliver was unmoved, pointing for a goal kick. Had VAR been in use, he would’ve seen exactly what had happened.

The goal kick brought the final whistle and the score remained Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool.

Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool overall

Tottenham had three problems here. The initial formation; the position of the full backs and poor turnovers when we were at our most vulnerable.

The main issue wasn’t that Tottenham played a diamond and bombed the full backs on, but that we didn’t change once we saw the self-destructive nature of the set up. Salah and Mane weren’t tracking Rose and Trippier and so we needed to adjust. We didn’t change and could’ve been burned for five or six goals had Liverpool’s attack been more clinical.

Final score: Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool.
MOTM: Roberto Firmino.

If you enjoyed this post, please share:

, ,

20 Responses to Tottenham 1-2 Liverpool: formation, full backs and turnovers

  1. Andy B 15th September 2018 at 9:17 pm #

    Great article on the game.

    This was similar to the Watford match in that Spurs were outplayed for most of the second half (until the last few minutes).

    I think a big issue was the poor form of Kane and Dier. Both of them looked way off the pace.

    When you play a top team like Liverpool, you need to be at full strength. When Spurs are carrying two passengers, then it makes life very difficult.

    When Kane is this bad, he should be taken off and replaced. The problem is Spurs don’t have a replacement. Still, bringing Lamela or Son on earlier for Kane would have made sense in this situation.

    On top of this, Eriksen was poor and Winks was in his first game back. No wonder Liverpool dominated the midfield.

    Just like against Watford, the Spurs players seemed to be outnumbered. Just like Watford, the Liverpool players had more energy in the second half than the Spurs players.

    Lamela and Moura were the exception to this. I was impressed with Lamela when he came on and wish that he had been brought on sooner. His goal was brilliant.

    I also think that if it wasn’t for Alderweireld, Liverpool would have scored more goals. He defended very well considering the little protection he got from the midfield players.

    This lethargic display once again highlights the big mistake of not bringing in any new players, to freshen things up.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th September 2018 at 10:42 am #

      I thought Dier made way too many mistakes, but Harry is quiet at the minute as I don’t think playing with Moura like this in a partnership suits him. I think we’d be much better playing 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 with Moura in a wide forward position. We looked much better after we went 4-2-3-1 with Moura and Son on the outsides of the advanced midfield trio and Kane as a central striker.

      • Andy B 16th September 2018 at 11:27 am #

        Do you think that Pochettino is maybe experimenting too much with players playing in different positions?

        In this game, Dembele was playing in Dier’s position, like he did against Watford. I find this bizarre, because he is much better when free to roam with the ball.

        Dier was on the right of midfield, which I cannot recall him playing there before.

        Winks was on the left, which I don’t think brings the best out of him. Winks like Dembele should be central.

        I don’t even think that Rose and Trippier knew where to position themselves during the game.

        So it is not just up front where things are being screwed.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th September 2018 at 11:40 am #

          Yes i think it has gone a bit too much tinkering. I think Dembele is at the base as he doesn’t have the legs to shuttle out from a position on the edge of the diamond to help the full back. This has knock on effects on other players as Dier was forced out to an edge position and Winks as well. I don’t like Winks in this position either as he is more of a hub passer from a pivot.

          Dembele can play in a pivot with Dier or Wanyama, as he has protection and can go execute his dribbles. He is not a player that can hold a base of midfield position on his own anymore. Same for Winks. Really needs a Dier or Wanyama alongside him in a pivot or trio so that he can be central and a hub passer rather than on the edge of a diamond where he really needs to cover one side of the pitch only.

          As for Rose and Trippier, i think they were just carrying out instructions. This formation needs width from the full backs, but with Salah and Mane cheating, they needed to be smarter about when they provided width and when the held their position. Both were just bombing on as that is what they had been told to do to force Salah and Mane back. Its a tough system to run when a team like Liverpool is gambling like this. The way the game was going we needed to be real and admit it wasn’t working early, at least by half time, and change it.

          • YouShubes 17th September 2018 at 1:14 pm #

            A player like Busquets make the diamond workable…we just don’t have the players to make it work for the demands liverpool were going to place on us

            I think Poch made a boo boo… this is part of his evolution…

            Would love to see Wanyama and Wink in the two versus inter… we saw a fit Winks hold his own TWICE against the best of RM I think if we give him a “minder” he could really flourish

  2. T Steedman 15th September 2018 at 10:01 pm #

    I do agree, in the cold light of day it was difficult to pick any of the eleven chosen that had even a creditable game. All the ‘Internationals’ were poor, maybe due to their efforts over the past spell on internationals. If we are to allow our players to represent their country there has to be a larger squad. Spurs last few seasons were far fitter than their opponents, and closed down very quickly. None of this is evident this season, also we cannot even keep the ball any more. There are big signs here that for whatever reason the commitment and effort is now missing. Last year the manager at half time would make sensible changes either in players of format at half time and it often changed the whole game and the eventual outcome. This isn’t happening so far, and we’ve lost against a bullying type of team, where we couldn’t’t compete (Watford), and we lost today with Liverpool targeting our keeper without protection by his own team, and then defending like schoolboys for both goals. No plan no thoughts of how to change things around. These are not good signs with just a month or so into this season. Beware Spurs, you are looking like Spurs of old, NOT the new Spurs that has shown so much polish and promise by a group of layers that were young and keen by a management that showed a different way of play AND behaviour. Please don’t lets fail again.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th September 2018 at 10:53 am #

      I haven’t seen us be bullied under Pochettino like Watford did, usually we are the ones being physical. I don’t think Liverpool bullied us, but we didn’t assert ourselves enough. Maybe that is due to fatigue from the World Cup and recent international duty, but the squad is at the limit of allowed number of foreign players, so the only way to increase its size is either to sell some of them or increase the home grown quota for which we can have as many as we want.

      Overall, I think the biggest problem is Lucas Moura. He is playing really well, arguably our best player this season. However, using him up top in a pair is really hindering Kane and stifling a team that likes to overrun central midfield by removing a player from this zone and putting him up top. The 4-4-2 diamond works against some teams, but City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all destroy it with their aggressive use of 4-3-3. I think we need to return to either 4-2-3-1, 3-4-2-1 or go 4-3-3 and use Moura in a wider role to give Kane the space he needs to operate. He is being stifled at the minute by not only Moura’s presence, but also more opposition defenders being attracted in to the area due to their being two Spurs strikers in there.

  3. Ilikespurs 15th September 2018 at 10:49 pm #

    Hi Mark, great article, as always. Here’s my question-if you see that the formation is leaving us deathly exposed, and I see it ( without a fraction of your expertise), how does Poch not see it and react? On occasion he makes brilliant adjustments, sometime more than once in a game. But today he allowed us to get outgunned all over the pitch without making any adjustments to our tactics/formation. What gives?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th September 2018 at 11:02 am #

      Hi Ilikespurs, great question. I found Poch’s comments after the game very strange that he didn’t see a problem with the formation or the way we played. I don’t know if this was to not admit it was wrong to the media and he will keep the truth for behind closed doors or if he really would do the same again if the match was replayed. He has made quite a few good game changing formation changes and tactical moves, so here it was strange to see him almost stick his head in the sand. He did change to 4-2-3-1 with the Son sub but this was way too late and we should have done something at half time.

      Hopefully this is a big learning exercise. Klopp said afterwards in his post match interview that they had prepared for Spurs to flood the central spaces between the lines, but us playing a 4-4-2 diamond didn’t really do this. It was only when we added the extra player in 4-2-3-1 that we gained a foothold in the match and played more in the Liverpool half.

      As said in other replies here, i think the real problem is Lucas Moura. He has been our most on form player, but using him like this in a strike pairing is hurting the overall balance of the team. We need to use him as a wide forward in 4-3-3, out wide in the advanced trio in 4-2-3-1 or just off the striker in 3-4-2-1. This may take him out of the attack slightly, but it will allow Kane the space he needs to be effective. It will also allow Eriksen and Dele to exert themselves some more. We have overachieved the last few seasons as we have been more than the sum of our parts. Playing Moura like this doesn’t allow the other parts to work together fluidly like they have been.

  4. Matt 16th September 2018 at 11:21 am #

    Agree 100% on the 433. Moura has played well on the right (his natural position). It’d also give us the opportunity to burn people with pace using Som and Moura or use more guile using Lamela Alli combinations. We’re blessed with AMs.

    Question Mark; in a 433 who would your starting 3-3’s be?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th September 2018 at 11:33 am #

      My 4-3-3 if everyone fit would be:
      – Lloris –
      – Trippier Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies –
      – Dier –
      – Eriksen, Dele –
      – Son, Kane, Moura –

      • YouShubes 17th September 2018 at 2:06 pm #

        I think for tomorrow I would start Lamela as he has played in the San Siro before…and I think aside from Lucas was the only player to come out from that game that could hold his head high

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th September 2018 at 10:25 am #

          Interested to see if Poch starts Lamela or Son against Inter. I think we need one of them in the team with Lucas Moura to stretch the field, but out wide rather than congesting the space around Harry Kane.

  5. Chas 16th September 2018 at 11:08 pm #

    Hi Mark. I’m with you almost totally on your 4-3-3 but I just can’t have Dier any more. For me, his lack of energy, careless turnovers and uninventive passing is stilting the tempo. (Add to that his near fatal error he puts in almost every game!).
    But finding the right man is the problem though, isn’t it?
    Maybe Winks or Wanyama for 45 or so, then Dembele when the opposition is tiring.
    I know you’re a Dier fan, Mark, but until he can show at training that he is anything but battleship speed, he should be benched. Then he can ask himself the same question that many others are.
    How in heaven’s name did he ever get to captain England?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th September 2018 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Chas. For that position in a 4-3-3 where we are very offensively minded we need a highly combative player. Wanyama or Dier are both that player and both are interchangeable. I think we miss Dier when he’s out, as he brings a real toughness and his ability to win the ball back is excellent. He does have an error in him, but he does a lot of unheralded work that i’m prepared to live with it.

      I’m also happy with a healthy, fit and firing Wanyama in there. The issue at the minute is that Wanyama has really struggled with injuries and fitness. He looked incredibly rusty for the brief time he was on the pitch against Liverpool. Hopefully more training sessions and some run outs against lesser teams or in the reserves will get him up to speed.

      So, at the minute its Dier for me, but if Wanyama is healthy then both are equally interchangeable. Winks needs either of the pair alongside him so really he would have to either come in for either Eriksen or Dele in the 4-3-3 I named above or we go to a 4-2-3-1 to accommodate him.

  6. brian 17th September 2018 at 3:32 am #

    Hi Mark,

    Yet anather very good asessment on your part.
    I also thought that we gave them far too much space,,not that i particularly thought that Liverpool played that brilliantly..But they certainly outplayed us,particualy in the first half..
    Dier to me is looking more like passenger,and what with the mistakes coming from him,Its a bloody shame wayama is not fully fit as of yet..Plus although Vorm made some good 2nd half saves,,he is open too big errors,and appears to mke errors in just about every game he plays flor us.Still on wards and upwards as they same.

    many Regards Brian

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th September 2018 at 10:23 am #

      Hi Brian, I’m quite nervous anytime Vorm needs to make a save as he never looks comfortable and quite a few shots were parried and he had to grab the second ball. I do wonder how confident the players are in him as it must affect our defence if they are also thinking the same thing. I really would start to bring Gazzaniga in as he needs to get more experience before Hugo is back and starts again and this is probably Vorm’s last season anyway.

      I would really like to see us bring in Freddie Woodman from Newcastle as Hugo’s understudy as we really need to start goalkeeper succession planning with a good prospect. His current deal runs out next summer so there is a good chance he could be tempted away.

  7. toby4eva 18th September 2018 at 1:13 pm #

    Thanks Mark

    Great analysis as usual.

    My take.

    1. Lucas is our new signing – love him.
    2. Is Lamela an impact player or a starter?
    3. Was it Dele out that caused the uncertainty of the collective?
    4. Why were so many players so poor?
    5. Why aren’t contributors here hailing clearly our best player on the pitch? Toby was sublime.
    6. Klopp is a great man manager and football brain
    7. Liverpool looked liked us at our best
    8. We looked like Hamilton Academicals on a bad day
    9. We can still finish fourth (behind Citeh/Scouse/Chelski obviously)
    10. We will very likely struggle in the Champions League unless Harry Kane can reinvent himself pronto. He’s gone from WC Golden Boot to Sandra Redknapp in two months.

    I think I’ve just guzzled my glass half full.



    • Andy B 18th September 2018 at 4:08 pm #

      I praised Toby in my comments. Apart from the one mistake (where his crossfield pass got intercepted), he was easily our best player in this game and is world class in my opinion.

      Let’s hope we don’t miss him tonight.

      I am concerned about what Aurier is going to do tonight.

  8. Toby4eva 20th September 2018 at 1:26 pm #

    Sincere apologies Andy!

    I shouldn’t have skipped those three chapters of my sped reading course…

    As a square up I’ve given your number to my salon for a free, millimetre perfect style cut appointment and three tubs of my araldite strength no. 4 hair gum.

    We are good.