Liverpool 3 Tottenham 2: Story Of A Match
Blogger, philosopher, lifelong mate, never wants a passer-by to pass him by. Blogging at www.holtamania.com on all things Norwich and here with monthly Story of a Match pieces, bre...
Liverpool kept their quiet top 4 hopes alive with a home win over Tottenham yesterday as a Steven Gerrard penalty in the 82nd minute secures the 3 points. Today on the blog Matt Wallace from Holtamania tells us just how they did it.
On a quiet weekend of Premier League action, the standout game was at Anfield where Liverpool played host to Gareth Bale and 10 other guys.
Liverpool were able to start with the dangerous partnership of Suarez and Sturridge, and gave them ample support with Coutinho out left while Gerrard partnered Lucas deep in midfield.
For Spurs, the injury to Lennon meant Dembele played in a slightly unfamiliar role out on the right, while Livermore partnered Parker in the middle. Bale supported Defoe up front.
Dealing With Bale
With so much of the focus pre-match on the outstanding form of Gareth Bale, the key for Liverpool was how to defend his particular threat. The answer was in Lucas, who pretty much stuck to the Welshman throughout and was excellent in his job.
He was partnered by Gerrard who played a similarly disciplined role, the sort of game that Rodgers craves out of him. He picked his moments going forward but he was far more impressive holding in midfield, protecting the back four, making key tackles and interceptions.
Gerrard has proved this season that he is more than capable of playing the team role that Rodgers needs rather than the all action midfielder role that he may have done in his younger days. It was another case of leadership by example.
The result of Liverpool’s solidity in defensive midfield and the restriction on Bale was pretty clear, as Spurs often struggled to build attacks through him. While he did provide the cross for Vertonghen’s equaliser, Bale was often quiet. His method of attack is pretty straightforward; he runs with the ball as fast as he can, as far as he can, before hitting at the goal as hard as he can.
So there are a basically two ways of dealing with it – you stop him getting into his run, or you block the inevitable shot. Liverpool did well at the first, with only 3 of his ‘take-ons’ being successful (the yellow dots above), while he was a bit wasteful in shooting, often blasting over.
The result of this was that Spurs, for all their exciting and dynamic forward play, were hit and miss in the final third. For every excellent Dembele run there was a Defoe miscue. In the end they were relying on the aerial prowess of Vertonghen and a set piece threat to cause any real damage.
A Difference Of Approach
The differing styles can be summarised below. Spurs had all the pace, and built their game around bursting runs from midfield – lots of pace and power, especially from Bale and Dembele. These came overwhelmingly down the middle of the pitch, where Gerrard and Lucas did their best to sweep up any danger before it reached the danger zone, and left the fullbacks plenty of space to get forward and support attacks.
Liverpool knew they weren’t going to beat Spurs for pace – in Coutinho and Downing they had creative threats but not a lot of pace. Their attacks were based around intricate passing play and the good linkups between the strikers. This was demonstrated brilliantly in the opening goal, with Coutinho playing a huge part and Suarez putting away a smart finish. They aimed to take advantage of Spurs’ high line by playing smart passes into the final third rather than rushing into it like a steam train.
Downing, in particular, had a good game. He made the most passes into the final third of any player on the pitch, and was 100% successful in them. He frequently found an overlapping Johnson or a lively Suarez and played smart balls, creating chances and finding space. Downing has, along with Henderson, rehabilitated his reputation somewhat this season and is beginning to find a role within the Rodgers setup after seemingly being told he was free to leave the club.
Coutinho and Allen
After Spurs went 2-1 ahead they were beginning to take control of the game, and this came through numbers in midfield. In Sigurdsson and Dembele they had two wide players more comfortable in the middle, and thus they were increasingly outnumbering and outpassing Liverpool in the middle third.
While Lucas and Gerrard coped well, the force of numbers was beginning to show. Rodgers responded with a smart substitution, replacing Coutinho for Allen. Now, Coutinho hadn’t been poor, nor was Allen particularly great when he came on, but it addressed a balance problem.
Aside from his contribution to the goal, Coutinho was a bit isolated and was looking tired. In bringing on Allen, Suarez was moved to the left and Allen gave them the extra man in midfield to get more of a foothold on the game. While his contribution was limited, it gave Liverpool more defensive solidity, stopped Spurs from running away with the game and put Suarez up against Kyle Walker – who about 5 minutes later hit back a horrendous backpass which ended up in the back of the net, via Downing.
Despite the interesting tactical match-ups and changes that occurred during this game, it is ultimately defined by Spurs taking aim squarely at their foot and pulling the trigger. After Kyle Walker contributed to that goal, Spurs had a couple of chances of their own to get back in the lead, but it was a situation they never should have been in. At 2-1 they were looking comfortable. This was compounded by Defoe who inexplicably headed the ball back into the box while defending a corner, put Assou-Ekotto under pressure and the result was a penalty. Without the dumb contributions of Walker and Defoe, Spurs are likely leaving Anfield with three points.
The Final Word
It was a tough result on Spurs who coped with their main man being taken out of the game (mostly) and deservedly led. Yet it showed good character from Liverpool to take advantage of mistakes and drag themselves back. Rodgers showed tactical nous in switching things up and there were excellent performances from Gerrard, Lucas and Downing to give them more hope going forward.
For Spurs, it’s a harsh result – but they need to figure out a more nuanced version of running very fast at the defence for a main tactic. Bale and Dembele are excellent players, but when man marked, they don’t have the attacking threat to worry top teams. Defoe was anonymous. They need to address this.
The Odds: Liverpool are now best priced at odds of 10.00 with Bet365 to complete a top 4 finish this season, while Spurs remain short at odds of 1.36 with Ladbrokes to remain in the top 4 come season's end.
To read more of Matt's work, visit his blog Holtamania.com
Also dont forget to follow him on Twitter : @Holtamania
And to do your own match analysis visit FourFourTwo.com StatsZone and download their StatsZone App today.
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