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Off ball excellence & an ever-increasing lead – 5 talking points from Tottenham 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool’s Saturday evening trip to north London ended in a narrow win for the Reds, seeing off Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham by a goal to nil.

Tottenham 0-1 Liverpool

Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
11 January, 2020

Goals: Firmino 36′.

Attack, defence, it’s all the same

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 11, 2020: Liverpool's Sadio Mané is pulled back by Tottenham Hotspur's Japhet Tanganga during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Reds weren’t anywhere near as clinical as they might have been in this game.

In fact, just with great chances, not even decent ones, it could have been at least 3-0 at the break; Virgil van Dijk should have done better with a header, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the post and Roberto Firmino then did score, later on.

But there’s another side to the game for the Reds’ attack: their off-the-ball work.

This was an exhibition display in terms of Jurgen Klopp‘s desire for his attack to be the first line of defence, in how forwards must contribute out of possession just as much as when they sense the chance to score.

Sadio Mane was without question the lead in this regard, tracking back to vital effect in midfield time after time, but both Salah and Firmino played their part too.

Mane actually made twice as many tackles (four) than shots (two) in the game, highlighting his team-first approach, while as a trio they made as many interceptions and tackles as they did have shots (seven each).


Ox chance for third spot

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 14, 2019: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was almost a midfield three by default on this occasion: Henderson, Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain started, largely as they were fit. There was perhaps a question over starting Adam Lallana after a good derby performance, but he hasn’t been a league regular in the XI.

With Fabinho, James Milner and Naby Keita all out injured, this was a big opportunity for fit-again Ox to make his case to be the regular third starter.

He showed some good bursts early on: driving runs into the right channel, the surge into the box in the opening minutes which resulted in his shot against the woodwork and a few searching switches of play.

But, by and large, he was a little off the pace in terms of his use of the vast midfield spaces that Spurs allowed, and with his passing in the final third.

Away to Spurs, it can be argued that the more important aspect of the game was positional discipline and work rate, and there he did well at times, but was outshone by Gini Wijnaldum in this regard.

Ox will get more chances, but the return of Fabinho is likely against Man United and it wouldn’t be a massive surprise to see the No. 15 make way. Even if the Brazilian isn’t in the lineup, Lallana impressing off the bench might still give Klopp a decision to make.

After all, it was the No. 20 who scored the equaliser against United last time, ensuring we’re still unbeaten this season…


Rare sloppy side of the defence

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 2, 2020: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Sheffield United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Spurs didn’t really create much of their own accord during the match, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t moments of danger—it just all came, strangely, after Liverpool themselves had gifted possession or space in dangerous areas.

Gomez mistimed a clearance or two in the first half, then almost collided with Trent Alexander-Arnold to give Spurs another opportunity.

Jordan Henderson lost possession in a bad area for one sight of goal, then Alisson almost allowed himself to be closed down—it was a succession of near-misses which should have fired their concentration levels into overdrive, only being a goal up.

The big chance of the second half came on 75 minutes: Wijnaldym caught in possession, Moura teeing up Son…and the Korean forward blazing over from 12 yards.

It was a let-off for the Reds and they still sat back after it, leading to the best chance Spurs created, coming 10 minutes from time: Aurier’s cross, smashed wide by Lo Celso.


Alisson racking them up

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 11, 2020: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After all the talk earlier in the season that the Reds weren’t keeping clean sheets—Alisson, in fact, didn’t have any until December—we seem to be doing rather fine once more.

It’s six clean sheets in a row in Premier League action, meaning 585 minutes of league play without anybody scoring.

Add in clean sheets in cup competitions against Everton, Salzburg and Flamengo and the Reds are making sure we do enough to shut teams out with regularity once more—even with the aforementioned lapses on this occasion.

Alisson deserves credit on the day for making several saves which he made look routine, but he made sure there were no loose balls, no rebounds, no hope of an easy equaliser on his part.

There were also moments of intelligent sweeping-up, thanks to his great starting position and aggressive play.

Another one next week would be nice!


Next up, put the record straight

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 11, 2020: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s now officially the best-ever start to a Premier League season by any club: 21 games, 20 wins, one draw. Oh, and 16 points clear of second place.

The Reds keep finding a way, keep being better, keep doing enough and keep showing why they are the best.

Next week we’re back at Anfield and it’s time to put in a massive performance, lay down a marker to show the size of the gap, between the Reds and Man United. Liverpool are 27 points ahead of them, and as they’re the only team so far this season to deny the Reds all three after 90 minutes, a crushing win would be the best way to not allow any hint of that being a foot-note to the season.

Another week’s training and preparation should suit the Reds well, while getting a body or two back from injury will also be a boost.

One more game down, one more game closer to ending the long wait for a Premier League title.

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