A win is a win, but Liverpool FC were lucky against Spurs.
We are often told that playing poorly and winning is the sign of a good team; it’s certainly a habit we haven’t had over the last few seasons, so when we do exactly that against a very good team in Spurs then it is to be commended and not excessively criticised.
However that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.
We played well in parts, particularly in the first-half, but Spurs for me were the better team. It was the first time we have beaten a well regarded opponent all season, but yet again the tactics that Brendan Rodgers began the game with didn’t help.
Having seen Sturridge and Suarez combine so well in recent games, and the good form of new signing Coutinho and rejuvenated Downing, Rodgers went for a bold attacking line-up.
However Lucas and Gerrard were too often overrun and on the backfoot in midfield, and with an out of sorts Sturridge flitting in and out of the game, by the second-half Tottenham were deservedly 2-1 up and in complete control. It didn’t look like we would get back into it.
Rodgers, to his credit, did eventually notice this imbalance and changed the formation, bringing on an additional midfielder for Coutinho and moving Suarez to the left. He has been lauded for this in the press, but for me, why is it that so often he gets the starting selection wrong?
Allen did okay, but it was the change in formation, rather than the player, that helped the team. I feel somewhat sorry for Henderson, who having played very well in his recent performances, including some stunning goals, is still overlooked in favour of Allen who isn’t justifying his place.
We won the Spurs game primarily due to two very rare Spurs errors that we capitalised upon, and due to the brilliance of Luis Suarez. As AVB rightly pointed out, if Sigurdsson’s ricocheted shot hadn’t hit the post we’d have been dead and buried at 3-1.
Downing played well yet again, showing excellent anticipation for the interception, but even here his finish owed a lot to fortune. Rather than adding a touch of height to the shot and placing, or even blasting it, into space, he hit a daisy cutter straight at Vertonghen – the easiest type of shot to block! Lucky for us it went straight through the despairing defenders legs. We had 4 shots on target and scored 3 goals. For those who feel possession statistics should be paramount when analysing a game, we had just 46.5% possession.
On a connected issue, something that has concerned me this season, and on which I’ve written about before, has been our defensive frailties.
For me this has been the biggest theme running throughout this campaign and it continues to haunt us. Gareth Bale certainly put in two excellent deliveries for both goals, but defending such deliveries should not cause the frantic panic that it so often causes in our defence. Spurs fortunately did not target this weakness as much as they could have, and perhaps if Lennon had been fit we’d have had to have dealt with a lot more crosses.
This weakness is why we’re often biting our nails against Stoke, or indeed in the West Ham away game where I’m still not sure how we won (a rare Joe Cole goal and Jonjo Shelvey’s ghost-goal completing a fortuitous comeback).
Watching the recent U21 game against West Ham last Monday, where Sterling, Suso, Shelvey and Wisdom are now playing again, it was disappointing that this weakness seems to be prevalent even at lower age groups. We dominated this game, with the young foursome showing that they are clearly above this level. Suso in particular was outstanding scoring an excellent brace, working hard and passing with the type of incisiveness I rarely see in Joe Allen, but we conceded 3 goals all from corners and the game ended 3-3.
No doubt with Carra’s retirement we will be in the market for a new centre-back. At Liverpool we like our centre-backs to be able to pass the ball, but my hope is we sign a centre-back who can actually win physical and aerial battles against the likes of Grant Holt or Kenwyne Jones. It’ll be tough replacing Carra, especially as we still haven’t been able to replace Sami Hyypia.
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