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Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective
That was a lot more like what we have grown to expect from a Liverpool side under Jurgen Klopp’s management. The intensity and drive was much more noticeable than in the last few weeks. It did help facing a Mourinho side, as Klopp does have the edge over the Portugese, but you would normally expect one of his teams to make more of a fist of things. This was a very one-sided match, Liverpool smothered Spurs, in the way they can, and reduced the Londoners to just clipping balls over the top in the hope of the extra pace of Son being able to get there first.
The marriage of Jose Mourinho and Spurs is one of the most unsuited in history. While there was some talk of Mourinho having his mojo back not so long ago, it is clear that he has lost his way and is out of touch with the modern game. The game has moved past his Sam Allardyce with money style of football and he has yet to realise it. To make matters worse, his team selections have become bizarre.
To leave out the best, by a mile, centre-back and then play a left-back in central defence and a right back at left wing-back, makes absolutely no sense. So, where on earth was Toby Alderweireld? There has been no suggestion of an injury, so why leave out the only top class defender at the club?
As usual with Mourinho, he is the architect of his own downfall by sending out his team to sit deep and soak up pressure. Gone are the days when his teams bullied the opponents into submission through brute force through power and pace with players like Essien. Now they have a poor facsimile in Hojbjerg, who is a half-yard off the pace and offered nothing other than a great strike for the goal.
Instead it was him being bullied by a 35 year old Milner, who overran him completely. The rest of the midfield were unable to impose themselves on the game and did not seem to know what their roles actually were. However it must be said that Spurs biggest problems were at the back, as Davies is not a centre-back, Dier is not good enough and Rodon is young and learning. Added to confusion from a keeper that has never been the same since winning the World Cup a few years back, and you have a recipe for a disaster.
It is all the more galling for Spurs fans when you consider the early part of the game, when Spurs went on the front foot and attempted to smother Liverpool on the ball, saw them looking up for it. Then they just got overrun in midfield and backed off gradually as the first half went on. They never got back onto the front foot in the entire game.
Klopp – the minor reshuffle in midfield to allow Thiago to have the freedom to get forward, rather than tying him down to a defensive role he is unsuited to, made a huge difference. Questions do have to be asked over his reluctance to start with Phillips, as he once again let no one down after coming on at half-time.
Alisson – he was very quick to sweep up any loose balls, which was an important part of ensuring Spurs could not get a foothold in the match.
Alexander-Arnold – this was an Alexander-Arnold able to play the way he wanted to and it showed. With the midfield providing much better protection, he was freed up to get forward at will and played some beautiful passes and crosses into the box. He also got back well to break up attacks when needed.
Matip – he started off looking sluggish and was caught on the offside goal, plus he turned over the ball a couple of times far too easily. However his game was improving as he got going. However his usual injury hit and he only managed a half before needing to be replaced.
Henderson – it was the 11th different centre-back pairing, Henderson and Matip, that started and it did take a few minutes before they began to find their feet as a partnership. Henderson has actually been surprisingly effective in defence, his reading of the game has allowed him to be in the right place more often than not. He is also less prone to committing himself needlessly to going to ground than Fabinho. The second half saw him impress even more in dealing with the ball in behind, he was always there to cover Phillips when needed.
Robertson – struggled to have as much impact on the game as Alexander-Arnold on the other side. It was not that he did anything wrong, but, in my opinion, it was down to the fact that Mane was having a mare in front of him. On of the biggest strengths of his game is the wonderful link up play with Mane, which was impossible for him to do in this game.
Thiago – looks so much better in a more attacking role and was very good, though he needs to learn to stay on his feet as he keeps picking up silly bookings. I still do not understand this talk of him slowing down the play, it is nonsense from what I have seen. Quite the opposite. Each time I watch him, Thiago immediately looks to play the ball forward, either by running with it or playing a forward pass.
Milner – brought energy, drive and won the physical battle in the midfield. He was immense and probably the best player on the pitch. At times it felt like there were two or three of him out there as he was everywhere. If only he was 25 rather than 35!
Wijnaldum – for most of the game he was, at best, anonymous. He provided little protection to the defence, getting caught too far forward to help out on breaks. The worst was the Spurs goal, he was strolling in the penalty box instead of racing out to close down Hojbjerg. When he did get the ball, there were a few times Wijnaldum was far too casual and lost it. However, when it came to running the clock down at the end he came into his own. His strength and ability to shield the ball, then turn away from multiple opponents is truly exceptional. Wijnaldum’s levels have dipped markedly from the early part of the season, when he was excellent, and Liverpool could do with him returning to that form.
Mane – never mind boots on the wrong feet, there were times when he played like he had his feet on the wrong legs! I lost count of the number of times he tackled himself and lost the ball. But he still was there to score and seal the victory. It was worrying to see how much he struggled to keep the ball under control, it is just not what we have come to expect from Mane.
Salah – his touch was loose today and it was not one of his better games, but he did have a goal ruled out for a handball by Firmino, which was a good finish. Just having his threat there enabled Alexander-Arnold to run into acres of space all game.
Firmino – had a few good moment, including scoring the opener, but was bizarrely given a free-kick against for handball, which ruled out Salah’s goal. It is yet another bizarre VAR decision, as it was not ‘immediately’ before the goal was scored, which is when they are meant to step in on those. There is no argument that he definitely handled the ball, but he was clearly being blatantly fouled by Dier before, during and after the handball. So Dier not only got away with the foul, but he was then handed a free-kick for the handball. It made no sense. The usage of VAR just constantly leaves me scratching my head trying to figure out what on earth is the point.
Phillips – replaced the injured Matip at half-time. Took a few minutes to settle in and picked up a needless booking trying too hard to get to a ball that he was never getting to. After that though he put in an impressive performance, good enough to suggest he deserves to stay in the side even if Fabinho and Matip were both fit.
Jones – came on in place of Thiago in the 78th minute. Added a bit more energy to the team just as it looked to be flagging a little.
Origi – was brought on in place of Firmino in the 87th minute. Never really got involved in the limited time he had.
Written by Tris Burke January 29 2021 22:06:09