A game that epitomised Liverpool’s season, and perhaps Tottenham‘s too, ended with triumphant Jurgen Klopp fist-pumps and a pulled hamstring.
Liverpool 4-3 Tottenham
Premier League (33), Anfield
April 30, 2023
Goals: Jones 3′, Díaz 5′, Salah pen 15′, Jota 90+4′; Kane 40′, Son 77′, Richarlison 90+2′
Diaz delivers on return
This was Luis Diaz‘s first start for Liverpool since October.
The team he rejoined at the end of this season was in a much different situation to the one he arrived at in January 2022, which was mounting a title challenge to Man City.
It goes without saying that his return to the fold is one that is much welcome.
He adds a directness, quickness and trickery that few players have, and he managed to net one of those early goals in the first 15 minutes that helped Liverpool beat Spurs – just about.
Klopp now has a range of attacking options, and can even use different players with different strengths depending on the opponent.
There won’t be many games, though, where having Diaz in the team won’t provide a useful attacking threat.
Defensive frailty but Van Dijk not to blame
Trent-Alexander Arnold has adapted brilliantly to the new system which sees him take up a position in midfield.
But the rest of the players still seem to be working out what happens in the gap left by Trent when defending.
The main issue for the first Spurs goal was Ibrahima Konate stepping into midfield to deal with the attack at the source, and as a result, leaving an even bigger space in behind on the right of the Liverpool defence.
Once Konate was bypassed and Spurs were in this position, even they would struggle not to make the most of it.
Van Dijk appears to have been blamed, but he and Andy Robertson are fighting a losing battle as the opposition had a three-on-two situation in their favour.
It shows that though some facets of this new system are working well in possession, the players still need to work out what to do about the space left by Trent.
Maybe some bolstering of the midfield is required to prevent Konate being tempted into stepping up, or maybe the central defender just needs to be more reactive and cover the space.
Either way, weaknesses were exposed during the win for Klopp and the players to work on.
As he shouted angrily from the touchline after that first goal, it appeared he knew what went wrong, which is encouraging. He may be at a loss for the other two, though.
A crazy game brings an important win
This Liverpool may not be very good, but they were certainly entertaining on this occasion – not always in a good way.
Fans suffered a rollercoaster ride of emotions ending in jubilation as Diogo Jota scored the winner after it looked like Richarlison had snatched a point for the visitors.
Anfield had been fairly quiet as Liverpool eased to a 3-0 lead, it was perhaps too easy, leading to complacency.
As Tottenham made a game of it, and as Liverpool let them, the volume and the nervousness increased.
In the end, it was a struggle, and an easy three points turned into a vital three points amid the prospect of dropping two.
Klopp epitomised this, and may be lucky to escape punishment with his celebration in front of the fourth official. Though a pulled hamstring may be punishment enough.
At the end of the game the manager gave his trademark fist-pumps in front of the Kop which only appear after an important win.
Had Liverpool cruised to victory they may not have appeared, but as they won in dramatic fashion, the celebrations were more intense.
Lineup from local to global
Liverpool’s team lineup against Spurs is what every football club should be striving for.
A combination of homegrown and academy talent, including some local players, plus a collection of the best players scouted from around the world.
It keeps a team’s identity and keeps them competitive. It keeps a connection with the local supporters as well as the global fanbase.
Alexander-Arnold grew up in West Derby and Jones in Toxteth — both are from the city and came through the academy.
Though Harvey Elliott was identified by the club’s scouts as a generational English talent at Fulham, he was a Liverpool fan growing up and will be classed as a homegrown player with the club itself given the young age at which he joined.
It’s easy to praise such a lineup as the right way to do things after they perform as they did in the opening stages of this game.
But the combination of local prodigies combined with world-class talents is one way to maintain a club’s character and identity in a world where football is beginning to lose its connection to fans.
It’s difficult to believe that this Spurs team have been hanging around above Liverpool, above Brighton and Villa too, in the league table.
You would think they’d be down lower in midtable with Chelsea by now, but somehow they were still reasonably close to the top four until recently.
The table is now starting to reflect their downfall along with Liverpool’s latest mini-resurgence – as well as the quality shown by Brighton and Villa in recent times.
As a result of Spurs’ downfall, Liverpool are likely to qualify for the Europa League ahead of the new season.
You wouldn’t bet against them reaching the final in Dublin, a very Liverpudlian city that is just a reasonably short ferry ride away.