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Spurs 2-1 Reds: Tactical analysis

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Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane yesterday was not the start to the season we were looking for and there were problems all over the pitch. Here, we step into Rafa Benitez’s shoes to analyse what problems the Reds’ experienced tactically on Sunday afternoon.

Throughout the game, Liverpool lacked the cutting edge going forward which resulted in a lack of chances and that horrible all-too-familiar feeling that ‘œit’s just one of those days’ as they game looked completely beyond the Reds.

The answer is obvious ‘“ we missed Xabi Alonso’s forward thinking and playmaking. Alonso’s absence in the midfield meant our attacking players were dropping deeper to his position and not supplying those killer balls we had last season. Take this example in the first half:

noservice

Mascherano supplies Kuyt on the centre circle who has space to play a killer ball forward if he thinks quickly. He has a great opportunity to play Torres in, who has begun his run forward as illustrated.

But Kuyt doesn’t have the same vision we enjoyed from Alonso last season and dawdles on the ball, allowing the Spurs defence to get back and reducing his options dramatically.

The result of the extra two seconds thinking time results in Kuyt being forced to play the ball deeper and shorter, keeping the ball in midfield and losing the momentum of a great attack.

But then that’s not Kuyt’s job. He doesn’t claim to be a chance-spotting playmaker, and we can’t continue to rely on other player filling that important, but vacated, position.

Later on in the first half we have a similar situation but with Torres, and is also a perfect example of the tiredness and lack of confidence he showed today.

noservice2

The Spaniard picks the ball up half way inside the Spurs half and drives forward. As he approaches the penalty area, other than going for goal from distance himself, he has two clear options to tear the Spurs defence in two.

Gerrard is making a run to his right ‘“ a quick flick through into his path and Gerrard is away, through on goal, albeit from an increasingly accute angle. But we all know what Gerrard can do from those situations.

To his left, Kuyt is making a superb run ahead of his marker into the penalty area. An accurate ball now from Torres would meet the flying Dutchman’s run and put him through on goal ahead of Gomes.

But again there’s a delay in decision making and Torres takes an extra touch to asses his options before sliding a tired and lazy ball somewhere in Kuyt’s direction. The Spurs defence have a chance to come forward, take the ball and clear up what was a potentially dangerous situation.

Again, it’s the extra second or two of decision making that cost Liverpool again. Alonso had the ability to spot these runs instantly and trigger an automatic path for fancy, freeflowing and successful football.

His absence means in this situation, Torres was playing further back, trying to connect the midfield to attack. As a striker, he should have been one of the players running off the playmaker’s run, not the playmaker himself.

But there’s no point in dwelling on the past. Alonso’s gone, but the system remains the same and it showed in this game that it doesn’t work. Lucas is not a subsitute for Alonso, so Benitez needs to change things around ‘“ perhaps utilise the wings more if creative aspects of central midfield are going to be a problem.

johnsonpen

Glen Johnson did fantastically in winning Liverpool’s penalty in the second half. From picking the ball up on the right side, he knew exactly what he was doing as he cut between two Spurs defenders at lightning pace, enticing Gomes out of his goal.

As Gomes approached him, Johnson showed intelligence and experience to toe poke the ball away from the keeper and going down under his challenge. Fantastic to see from the new right-back and a glimpse of what he can achieve out of nothing down the right side for us this season.

And finally, let’s go back to an incident in the first half and look at an incident which looks comical to the rest of the Premier League.

carraskrtel

Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel both take the initiative to jump to clear after an initial mistake by Mascherano. They both clash heads resulting in a few minutes of Liverpool playing without both central defenders.

What were they thinking? Was there no communication as they both lept to nut each other? Not impressed, lads. As you can see there’s acres of space for them to be organized and get the situation under control. It’s great to see such determination by both players, but if they have a voice they need to use it.

The incident later forced Skrtel to withdraw from the game, replaced by 18-year-old Daniel Ayala. So we’re missing Alonso and, in this situation, Sami Hyypia ‘“ the two players who have departed Anfield this summer that haven’t been replaced.

Benitez will need to go back to the drawing board after this one ‘“ and probably the transfer market too.

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Max is the Co-Editor of This Is Anfield and Liverpool season ticket holder. Follow Max on Twitter:

  • mattdelfcfanatic

    Rafa..should have recognised that Xabi has his strength and that is his passing ability and also the ability to split defences from long range…This now sadly is missing from the team..Lucas is not in the Xabi moid..so do not illusion himself on that..Lucas is a one two passer..Different kind of animal..This goes to say the same with Aquillani…Liverpool needs someone who can pass with vision…Maybe van der Vaart can fill that…So if you are a smart manager..Rafa..look at the options now Real has who are deemed as surplus..It is time to do real business with them..Do go for van der Vaart and Wesley..Otherwise, do not dream of finishing in the top 3..Do not give excuse that this is too early to start worrying…EPL title is lost in just one game..Learn from last year’s lesson..Or have u?

  • SmallTownRockstar

    Hi guys 1st post

    I would put yesterdays result down to more than simply the Alonso factor. Ok he was good get over it he’s gone.

    We should be starting Benny(oun) and kicking Babel back to the reserves for a couple months until he proves he is ready. Best Idea is to pair Benayoun with Gerrard in attcking Midfield, Riera (ok he’s injured let Babel play) left wing, kuyt on Right, Masch holds down midfield and Torres up front, in a 4-1-4-1 style setup. Anyone see the sense in that? Benayoun is a playmaker, Gerrard is a playmaker. Get them working together providing torres, masch can hold it down in front of back four.

    Seriously tho author of above article loves Alonso way too much… Its like fantasising about signing Silva and writing an article about how he would have won the game… pointless and irrelevant.

    I would like to see that 4-1-4-1 with Benny and Gerrard (like the Ice-cream lol) switching around when useful.

    At least just start Benayoun Rafa!!! Babel has had too many chances and only delivers as a sub!

  • SmallTownRockstar

    Hi guys 1st post

    I would put yesterdays result down to more than simply the Alonso factor. Ok he was good get over it he’s gone.

    We should be starting Benny(oun) and kicking Babel back to the reserves for a couple months until he proves he is ready. Best Idea is to pair Benayoun with Gerrard in attcking Midfield, Riera (ok he’s injured let Babel play) left wing, kuyt on Right, Masch holds down midfield and Torres up front, in a 4-1-4-1 style setup. Anyone see the sense in that? Benayoun is a playmaker, Gerrard is a playmaker. Get them working together providing torres, masch can hold it down in front of back four.

    Seriously tho author of above article loves Alonso way too much… Its like fantasising about signing Silva and writing an article about how he would have won the game… pointless and irrelevant.

    I would like to see that 4-1-4-1 with Benny and Gerrard (like the Ice-cream lol) switching around when useful.

    At least just start Benayoun Rafa!!! Babel has had too many chances and only delivers as a sub!

  • SmallTownRockstar

    Hi guys 1st post

    I would put yesterdays result down to more than simply the Alonso factor. Ok he was good get over it he’s gone.

    We should be starting Benny(oun) and kicking Babel back to the reserves for a couple months until he proves he is ready. Best Idea is to pair Benayoun with Gerrard in attcking Midfield, Riera (ok he’s injured let Babel play) left wing, kuyt on Right, Masch holds down midfield and Torres up front, in a 4-1-4-1 style setup. Anyone see the sense in that? Benayoun is a playmaker, Gerrard is a playmaker. Get them working together providing torres, masch can hold it down in front of back four.

    Seriously tho author of above article loves Alonso way too much… Its like fantasising about signing Silva and writing an article about how he would have won the game… pointless and irrelevant.

    I would like to see that 4-1-4-1 with Benny and Gerrard (like the Ice-cream lol) switching around when useful.

    At least just start Benayoun Rafa!!! Babel has had too many chances and only delivers as a sub!

  • mike ormsby

    Nice article, Max, although if as you say ‘there is no point dwelling in the past’, why did you soend the first half of it lamenting Xabi? Nor should we forget his tendency to commit daft fouls around the 18 yard line (see Athens, for one of his most costly errors). A regards the present, my concern is not the lack of Alonso, but Rafa’s decision to start with Babel over Yossi. Mid-week, the boss had demanded that Liverpool ‘be ruthless’ at Spurs. Babel may be many things, but ruthless is not one of them. Yossi’s mischievous runs and neat passes soon made a difference and in my humble pie, he’s more useful (then again, I only saw 15 mins on lfc.tv). Secondly, about the head-clash, the replay from behind the goal shows that Carra looks in Skrtel’s direction just BEFORE he jumps; point being, why did he then do so? We will not win the PL on current form, that much was obvious from the dopey displays pre-season. Our defence is ropey and, not froe the first time, I wonder whether we let Sami go too soon. Then again, who’s gone is gone…

  • mike ormsby

    Nice article, Max, although if as you say ‘there is no point dwelling in the past’, why did you soend the first half of it lamenting Xabi? Nor should we forget his tendency to commit daft fouls around the 18 yard line (see Athens, for one of his most costly errors). A regards the present, my concern is not the lack of Alonso, but Rafa’s decision to start with Babel over Yossi. Mid-week, the boss had demanded that Liverpool ‘be ruthless’ at Spurs. Babel may be many things, but ruthless is not one of them. Yossi’s mischievous runs and neat passes soon made a difference and in my humble pie, he’s more useful (then again, I only saw 15 mins on lfc.tv). Secondly, about the head-clash, the replay from behind the goal shows that Carra looks in Skrtel’s direction just BEFORE he jumps; point being, why did he then do so? We will not win the PL on current form, that much was obvious from the dopey displays pre-season. Our defence is ropey and, not froe the first time, I wonder whether we let Sami go too soon. Then again, who’s gone is gone…

  • mike ormsby

    Nice article, Max, although if as you say ‘there is no point dwelling in the past’, why did you soend the first half of it lamenting Xabi? Nor should we forget his tendency to commit daft fouls around the 18 yard line (see Athens, for one of his most costly errors). A regards the present, my concern is not the lack of Alonso, but Rafa’s decision to start with Babel over Yossi. Mid-week, the boss had demanded that Liverpool ‘be ruthless’ at Spurs. Babel may be many things, but ruthless is not one of them. Yossi’s mischievous runs and neat passes soon made a difference and in my humble pie, he’s more useful (then again, I only saw 15 mins on lfc.tv). Secondly, about the head-clash, the replay from behind the goal shows that Carra looks in Skrtel’s direction just BEFORE he jumps; point being, why did he then do so? We will not win the PL on current form, that much was obvious from the dopey displays pre-season. Our defence is ropey and, not froe the first time, I wonder whether we let Sami go too soon. Then again, who’s gone is gone…

  • momoz

    truly speaking i think its better that Rafa is fired nw rather later coz we wont win the league or anything ths season. it does not take a rocket scientist to tell that Lucas does not fit in the Liverpool squad at all no matter in wat position. the lad is simply not Liverpool material n it boggles my mind y Rafa has faith in the lad. The squad is simply depleted n there is nt enough depth for us to challebge for the league. to pay 20 million for a lad whse gonna start playing after three months is also ridiculous. Rafa is failing us n is doing so big time. We have several positions where we have no cover at all. right back Johnson n Degen is always injured, left back Insua coz Aurelio is always injured, Central midfield Aquillani is out for three months n no one to fill that role, right midfield-we simply dnt have quality there, n a replacement for Torres. i actually wonder y we nt busy in the transfer market. it really boggles my mind. am sori bt for as long as Rafa is the coach we will lose live in pain each n everyday. its really frustrating. Chances are we might not finish in the top four n mark my words!!!!!. Of all the players at liverpool Yossi is getting a raw deal from Rafa . He deserves to be in the starting 11 of the team. Drop Stevie back to midfield n let Yossi occupy the position behind Torres. i seriously thot that would be the team for the first game bt anyway i was not shocked coz the gaffer is clueless. i am disappointed n nw sick n tired of being a Liverpool fan coz everywhere i go i am always mocked for the love of my team. Rafa please GO GO n leave us alone coz u have really failed.

  • momoz

    truly speaking i think its better that Rafa is fired nw rather later coz we wont win the league or anything ths season. it does not take a rocket scientist to tell that Lucas does not fit in the Liverpool squad at all no matter in wat position. the lad is simply not Liverpool material n it boggles my mind y Rafa has faith in the lad. The squad is simply depleted n there is nt enough depth for us to challebge for the league. to pay 20 million for a lad whse gonna start playing after three months is also ridiculous. Rafa is failing us n is doing so big time. We have several positions where we have no cover at all. right back Johnson n Degen is always injured, left back Insua coz Aurelio is always injured, Central midfield Aquillani is out for three months n no one to fill that role, right midfield-we simply dnt have quality there, n a replacement for Torres. i actually wonder y we nt busy in the transfer market. it really boggles my mind. am sori bt for as long as Rafa is the coach we will lose live in pain each n everyday. its really frustrating. Chances are we might not finish in the top four n mark my words!!!!!. Of all the players at liverpool Yossi is getting a raw deal from Rafa . He deserves to be in the starting 11 of the team. Drop Stevie back to midfield n let Yossi occupy the position behind Torres. i seriously thot that would be the team for the first game bt anyway i was not shocked coz the gaffer is clueless. i am disappointed n nw sick n tired of being a Liverpool fan coz everywhere i go i am always mocked for the love of my team. Rafa please GO GO n leave us alone coz u have really failed.

  • momoz

    truly speaking i think its better that Rafa is fired nw rather later coz we wont win the league or anything ths season. it does not take a rocket scientist to tell that Lucas does not fit in the Liverpool squad at all no matter in wat position. the lad is simply not Liverpool material n it boggles my mind y Rafa has faith in the lad. The squad is simply depleted n there is nt enough depth for us to challebge for the league. to pay 20 million for a lad whse gonna start playing after three months is also ridiculous. Rafa is failing us n is doing so big time. We have several positions where we have no cover at all. right back Johnson n Degen is always injured, left back Insua coz Aurelio is always injured, Central midfield Aquillani is out for three months n no one to fill that role, right midfield-we simply dnt have quality there, n a replacement for Torres. i actually wonder y we nt busy in the transfer market. it really boggles my mind. am sori bt for as long as Rafa is the coach we will lose live in pain each n everyday. its really frustrating. Chances are we might not finish in the top four n mark my words!!!!!. Of all the players at liverpool Yossi is getting a raw deal from Rafa . He deserves to be in the starting 11 of the team. Drop Stevie back to midfield n let Yossi occupy the position behind Torres. i seriously thot that would be the team for the first game bt anyway i was not shocked coz the gaffer is clueless. i am disappointed n nw sick n tired of being a Liverpool fan coz everywhere i go i am always mocked for the love of my team. Rafa please GO GO n leave us alone coz u have really failed.

  • Sam Wanjere

    Lay off the coach, Vijay, and not because he didn’t “get his tactics right”. Neither does it help to bring up the money issue, even though you’re acknowledgedly as disappointed as the rest of us.

    One concern my friend Wycliffe and I had was how deep our players were. Kuyt didn’t play on the right as always, and there were times they were even on the same parallel line as GJ. There was hardly any linkup play between our #s 8 and 9. There was also diminished crosses from our flanks, with too much cutting in.

    I still saw some positives, notably Babel playing with more commitment, including defensively. That said, he can surely improve his: 1) Ball control, 2) Use of height, pace and strength to both take on defenders and just prove a nuisance to the opponents; 3) Crossing. He battled for loose balls though so that’s a plus in my book.

    Another positive was Lucas who kept plodding on and never lost his head much (ok, there was a poor tackle or two and his intervention when Torres was manhandled, in the second half, showed utter commitment to mates).

    Benayoun was lively when introduced in the second half, with Ayala blooded and that can augur well for those who think Liverpool doesn’t have any youth policy.

    I think a midweek friendly’s result was very evident for all to see – assuming the seers are fair. We had Torres, Reina, Riera, Kuyt, Babel, Masche and GJ all having participated in that “friendly” with Holland, while Spurs had Defoe, Keane and Crouch in a similar position. None of those players showed up in the match. Then we had our walking wounded, Carra, Skrtel and Gerrard. No excuses, just facts for fairness.

    We all saw and there’s no use flogging a dead horse. It’s game one and another positive can be seen. Last time round we went for so long without losing that it made us edgy everytime we played – wanting to maintain our “perfect” record. Well, guess what, the feared has come to pass. Let’s move on to Stoke then Villa.

    Let’s not turn on the team this early. Please.

  • Sam Wanjere

    Lay off the coach, Vijay, and not because he didn’t “get his tactics right”. Neither does it help to bring up the money issue, even though you’re acknowledgedly as disappointed as the rest of us.

    One concern my friend Wycliffe and I had was how deep our players were. Kuyt didn’t play on the right as always, and there were times they were even on the same parallel line as GJ. There was hardly any linkup play between our #s 8 and 9. There was also diminished crosses from our flanks, with too much cutting in.

    I still saw some positives, notably Babel playing with more commitment, including defensively. That said, he can surely improve his: 1) Ball control, 2) Use of height, pace and strength to both take on defenders and just prove a nuisance to the opponents; 3) Crossing. He battled for loose balls though so that’s a plus in my book.

    Another positive was Lucas who kept plodding on and never lost his head much (ok, there was a poor tackle or two and his intervention when Torres was manhandled, in the second half, showed utter commitment to mates).

    Benayoun was lively when introduced in the second half, with Ayala blooded and that can augur well for those who think Liverpool doesn’t have any youth policy.

    I think a midweek friendly’s result was very evident for all to see – assuming the seers are fair. We had Torres, Reina, Riera, Kuyt, Babel, Masche and GJ all having participated in that “friendly” with Holland, while Spurs had Defoe, Keane and Crouch in a similar position. None of those players showed up in the match. Then we had our walking wounded, Carra, Skrtel and Gerrard. No excuses, just facts for fairness.

    We all saw and there’s no use flogging a dead horse. It’s game one and another positive can be seen. Last time round we went for so long without losing that it made us edgy everytime we played – wanting to maintain our “perfect” record. Well, guess what, the feared has come to pass. Let’s move on to Stoke then Villa.

    Let’s not turn on the team this early. Please.

  • vijay

    a lot of lfc fans agree with benayoun being given a more regular role..he can pass, play midfield, wide, drible, scored out of nothing 3-4times..creative instincts..

    i believe we already have 11 players to win the league with..stev, torres n benayoun the most creative in all..manage them right

  • vijay

    a lot of lfc fans agree with benayoun being given a more regular role..he can pass, play midfield, wide, drible, scored out of nothing 3-4times..creative instincts..

    i believe we already have 11 players to win the league with..stev, torres n benayoun the most creative in all..manage them right

  • http://www.thisisanfield.com Max Munton

    Mike, thnaks for your feedback. I spend a lot of the article “lamenting Xabi” because I’m demonstrating the point that although Alonso’s gone now, Benitez hasn’t changed the system at all. He’s merely brought in Lucas as if he’s a like-for-like swap for Alonso. Yeah there were other problems out there on Sunday, but tactically we need a new system, a post-Alonso system. But there were games Alonso didn’t start last season, so I’m sure Rafa has that system up his sleeves somewhere.

  • http://www.thisisanfield.com Max Munton

    Mike, thnaks for your feedback. I spend a lot of the article “lamenting Xabi” because I’m demonstrating the point that although Alonso’s gone now, Benitez hasn’t changed the system at all. He’s merely brought in Lucas as if he’s a like-for-like swap for Alonso. Yeah there were other problems out there on Sunday, but tactically we need a new system, a post-Alonso system. But there were games Alonso didn’t start last season, so I’m sure Rafa has that system up his sleeves somewhere.

  • Damon

    A good point of view, but regarding the 1st situation. You’re trying to tell us that Kuyt doesn’t have the same vision and it took more than 2 seconds from him to choose where he wants to pass it. Alonso couldn’t receive ball at that position where Kuyt is – because its not his natural position. Alonso was never a supporting player in our counterattacks – he was too slow to make a runs forward. The truth is that Alonso can pass it straight to Torres or Gerrard making runs, excluding that simple pass to Mascherano or Kuyt which makes our attack a bit slower. Thats we’re lacking right now. Mascherano is 1st choice DM and its obvious that he can’t pass 50m forward after winning tackle – nobody int the world can’t do it. So he passes it to nearest partner – Lucas. But Lucas is playing too close to our back 4 and he lacks that Alonso vision – I haven’t seen him switching balls to other flanks or pass balls on distance more than 20-30 m. He plays very simple.
    But i agree with you that til Aquilani fit we should drop Gerrard into midfield and play Yossi just behind Torres. Against Stoke we certainly don’t need Lucas/Mascherano at midfield.

  • Damon

    A good point of view, but regarding the 1st situation. You’re trying to tell us that Kuyt doesn’t have the same vision and it took more than 2 seconds from him to choose where he wants to pass it. Alonso couldn’t receive ball at that position where Kuyt is – because its not his natural position. Alonso was never a supporting player in our counterattacks – he was too slow to make a runs forward. The truth is that Alonso can pass it straight to Torres or Gerrard making runs, excluding that simple pass to Mascherano or Kuyt which makes our attack a bit slower. Thats we’re lacking right now. Mascherano is 1st choice DM and its obvious that he can’t pass 50m forward after winning tackle – nobody int the world can’t do it. So he passes it to nearest partner – Lucas. But Lucas is playing too close to our back 4 and he lacks that Alonso vision – I haven’t seen him switching balls to other flanks or pass balls on distance more than 20-30 m. He plays very simple.
    But i agree with you that til Aquilani fit we should drop Gerrard into midfield and play Yossi just behind Torres. Against Stoke we certainly don’t need Lucas/Mascherano at midfield.

  • thomastan1978

    Well, the shape to the midfield was not right for me.

    The gap between attack and defense was far too big for me. Lucas is never the man to be the link between the defensive 5 (include Masch) and the font duo of Stevie G and Torres.

    Alonso used to do that very well and i think Pool are missing him big time now.

    ===
    Pls follow my soccer blog.

    http://lets-talk-soccer.blogspot.com

  • thomastan1978

    Well, the shape to the midfield was not right for me.

    The gap between attack and defense was far too big for me. Lucas is never the man to be the link between the defensive 5 (include Masch) and the font duo of Stevie G and Torres.

    Alonso used to do that very well and i think Pool are missing him big time now.

    ===
    Pls follow my soccer blog.

    http://lets-talk-soccer.blogspot.com