27 August 2016

Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham

Milner 43' [pen]
Rose 72'

There's surprisingly not a whole lot to take from that. We didn't learn much we didn't already know, and we'll all end up picking our favorite narrative.

- Two teams that usually cancel each other out ended up canceling each other out, for the third consecutive draw between Klopp and Pochettino's sides.

- Liverpool should've won but didn't, unable to take their better chances until Milner's 43rd-minute penalty, then unable to stretch or hold onto a 1-0 lead. And it's not as if that's a new phenomenon.

- Liverpool were a lot better than against Burnley and, aside from that 20-minute miraculous stretch which won the match, arguably against Arsenal. Obviously less potent, but much more cohesive and secure in midfield and defense.

- But, again, as said after the win at Arsenal, these aren't the matches where Liverpool play poorly or underwhelm. These matches are most assuredly not the problem.

- Liverpool remain kind of bananas, and still look likely to kill us all before the end of the season.

So be it.

After a frightening end-to-end opening 10 minutes, Liverpool settled into control. If not for Michel Vorm, they could have been three up by the half-hour mark: a smart kick-save on Coutinho's poorly-placed clear-cut chance, then twice quick off his line to deny the blistering pace of an in-behind Sadio Mané.

Liverpool were pressing exceptionally well – today is the best evidence of why Klopp's persisting with Firmino as the #9 as you'll get. Liverpool were controlling tenor and tempo. Liverpool were exploiting Tottenham's high back line, against a defense that's usually excellent at limiting opportunities. Liverpool denied Tottenham any true chances, the defense and midfield much more solid than we'd seen, with Jöel Matip a clear improvement.

Liverpool just couldn't get the ball into the net, until Firmino won a soft penalty (but still a penalty!) three minutes before halftime, which Milner coolly converted.

It was little surprise to see Tottenham better in the second half. It took 10 minutes – 10 minutes where Liverpool could have extended its lead, only to see Matip head a corner off the crossbar and Lallana maybe an inch offside maybe an inch onside on a blitzkrieg counter from Dier's giveaway – but it was inevitable, exactly as happened when these sides met at Anfield a little less than four months ago.

Increasingly pushed back, Liverpool needed Mignolet to save two set play efforts, first from Lamela then brilliantly on Alderweireld's header. Milner's last ditch tackle stifled an unnecessary Tottenham counter.

But then the bad happened. Dier, in behind Milner on a ball over the top (and barely onside) after a long spell of mostly painless Tottenham possession, with time to cross. Lamela's outstandingly won flicked header over both Clyne and Lallana, Rose in space with those two players both marking Lamela and Mané slow to track back, well-taken at the near post. A few Liverpool defenders could have done better, but it's a good goal featuring good play from good players. It happens.

There were frights, but Liverpool, as they're prone to do, did decently to shut up shop after conceding. Tottenham had a mountain more possession, but I'm struggling to think of chances aside from Alderweireld's not-close set play header and Wanyama's very not-close shot from very far away.

Liverpool, once again, had the better opportunities, all from counter-attacks or pressing: Firmino well blocked by Dier in the 80th minute, Wijnaldum's effort deflected into a save for Vorm in the 90th, a slightly-too-slow counter from pressing ending with Lallana denied by Alderweireld. Regrettable, but again, it happens. We all have a tendency to forget when Liverpool impress but don't take all three points, but Tottenham are a good team, especially at the back.

My only real complaint, and it's a hindsight complaint, is the handling of substitutions. Coutinho, doubtful leading up the match, probably had to come off; it's unfortunate coincidence that Tottenham's goal came less than three minutes later. We've seen Origi preferred off the bench before. Klopp seems to prefer his pace when Liverpool are resigned to or forced to play on the counter. But you're not taking your chances and you've got an elite goalscorer on the bench. Don't over-think it.

Use Daniel Sturridge much more than you're using Daniel Sturridge.

So here we are, back where we started. Liverpool can play well, but sometimes Liverpool don't get the results that their play "deserves." Liverpool's midfield might actually coalesce. Liverpool's defense looks a lot better when Jöel Matip plays, and goal aside, Milner did pretty well at left-back. Liverpool can create chances, and sometimes Liverpool are utterly ruthless – see: Arsenal, Burton – but Liverpool still don't take their chances enough. Liverpool still struggle to hold onto a lead. Liverpool should have more points than they do after three matches.

We knew all of these things. It's the third league match, and Liverpool's shown promise in two of them. Liverpool can get a lot better. Liverpool need to get a lot better. But Liverpool need to prove more against the Burnleys of the world than the Tottenhams.


@AnfieldAwaits said...

Agree with your assessment about needing to prove ourselves against the lesser teams more than the top teams. Just to point out - you've got Moreno and Milner mixed up in your graphic ;-)

nate said...

stupid early matches and using previous matches as templates. it's fixed now, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Liverpool's defense looks a lot better when Joel Matip plays. Liverpool's defense also looks a lot better when Emre Can plays. So hopefully when Can, Matip, Lovren and Karius regularly start, we'll accumulate a bunch of clean sheets.

We have one of the premier attacking talents in the league with Sadio Mané. When he and Firmino start scoring we should be in a good place. Phil has to work on his finishing and maybe also his final ball decision making. He needs to be aware of our open attacking players in a better position to score before he cracks that shot.

We were very good at getting 5 and 6 players in the box against Spurs during our attacking play.

3 away league games. 4 points against Arsenal and Spurs is a pretty decent return. And we're annoyed that it should have been 6. We blew Burton off the field. The only big disappointment is losing to Burnley after controlling the game. Chelsea destroyed them at The Bridge by sitting back at the beginning and then hitting them on the counter. After Hazard scored, Chelsea controlled the game and attacked then in waves. We have to learn to be more clinical with our attack against the league's "smaller teams".