Liverpool’s win against Spurs was Jurgen Klopp’s men putting the league on notice.
The Reds went into the evening kick-off on Saturday having not won a game since the turn of the year. Swansea City, Wolves, Plymouth and Southampton had all turned to Anfield, frustrated the hosts and walked away with something to show for it. Fortress Anfield was in ruins. Liverpool were a wounded animal and Spurs could have taken full advantage of it had they been smart.
They weren’t though.
Instead they played right in the hands of Liverpool and it was a reminder to the rest of the league; attack us at your own peril.
Play a high line and you’ll regret it. Give Sadio Mane space to attack and he’ll punish you.
Liverpool dismantled the team sitting in second position in the league table without breaking a sweat. It finished 2-0 but it could have been four, five or even six. Spurs arrived on Merseyside with the best defensive record in the league but were made to look average and were put to the sword by a rampant attack. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was Spurs with the question marks hanging over their defence after watching the opening 45 minutes.
What Liverpool did well against Spurs
In recent weeks Liverpool have been accused of being lacklustre and playing on their heels. Against Spurs though it was the complete opposite. In the picture above you see both Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum looking to win the ball back before Victor Wanyama has even had time to bring the ball down. Liverpool wanted to win the second ball before Spurs had even thought about what to do with the first one.
They cut off passing lanes and rushed the former Southampton man. He’s brilliant at what he does but passing under pressure isn’t at the top of his CV.
The Reds stop Wanyama from playing the ball and as it bounces loose Firmino drops from his attacking position to regain possession ahead of Toby Alderweireld. The Brazilian is quicker off the mark and is able to get to the ball before the Belgian.
Firmino plays the ball back to Wijnaldum and the Dutch midfielder makes the most of the disjointed Spurs defence to thread the ball through the area Alderweireld would usually be patrolling. It’s quick football fuelled by quick thinking and capped off by the fact they have a player in Mane with electric pace who is capable of getting on the end of such a pass.
This was Liverpool at their destructive best.
The second goal arrives after aggressive positioning from the Liverpool midfield and attack. It was clearly a ploy for the entire game for Liverpool to get the ball forward as quickly as possible. In the picture above Eric Dier is looking to bring down a long ball forward. Mane is already off the mark to ensure the former Sporting Libson player has no time to ready himself to pick out a pass to the Spurs left.
The rest of the Liverpool players are all in positions to block passes down the right hand side. They’re effectively forcing Spurs to do one of two things. Rush, go long and lose the ball or play through the press and risk getting caught with the ball in their own half.
Nobody knows what Dier intended because Mane gave him no time to anything. He won the ball back and drove forward before playing the ball to Lallana. Lloris made two good saves before the Senegalese attacker fired home emphatically. It all stemmed from the Liverpool press.
In the picture above you see Spurs in possession in the final third. Both of their full-backs are advanced, as are the holding midfielders. Liverpool have eight outfield players behind the ball. Wanyama is in possession and there are passes on. However, Lallana rushes him and he attempts to play a square ball to Davies which Mane intercepts with ease.
This is when you get to see how frightening the Reds can be on the attack. Mane plays the pass to Lallana before continuing his run into the acres of space ahead of him down the Liverpool right. Lallana then draws three Spurs players onto him before working the ball back out to Mane with a clever outside of the boot pass.
Mane attacks Dier, Firmino cuts in from the left side position he’s taken up initially to keep Alderweireld occupied, and Coutinho looks to attack the vacant space on the Liverpool left. Just the eight seconds separate the first picture and the third but Klopp’s men manage to go from having numbers being the ball to having the man over in an attack just like that. They break with speed and they commit men to the cause.
It was a destructive performance which all but assures no team comes to Anfield looking to attack again this season. But all it takes is for a team to switch off for just a moment and Liverpool can turn defence into attack, put the ball in the back of the net and it forces them to attack.