Monday, June 27, 2022

Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Talking points as Merseysiders blink first in Premier League title race

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Liverpool failed to beat Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Saturday; there’s really no better way to say it, with all due respect to the North Londoners. Son Heung-min silenced the majority of the stadium by finishing off a great team move for the visitors in the 56th minute, and a deflected shot from Luis Diaz left Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal rooted to the spot as it found its way into the bottom corner in the 74th to set the final score at 1-1.

The title race

The main talking point after this match is unsurprisingly the title race and the way the outcome will end up affecting it. Liverpool were one point behind Manchester City going into the clash, and even though they’ve moved ahead of the defending champions on goal-difference, it will feel like a defeat. City now need to beat Newcastle at the Etihad on Sunday to move three points clear with both teams to play three matches before the end.

Ever since Liverpool caught up with City to make the race interesting, this match felt like a potential danger of dropping points for them, and the feeling simply proved true. Now Jurgen Klopp’s men need City to lose a match and maintain a better goal-difference to finish on top, or to at least draw twice. Both feel like a big ask at this point, especially with City keen to put the latest Champions League heartbreak behind them and throw everything they’ve got at defending the title in England.

Liverpool certainly shouldn’t give up until the final whistle on the final day. City have been known to slip up unexpectedly this season, so there is still a chance. But Liverpool are now far likelier to with both the FA Cup (final against Chelsea on May 14th) and the Champions League (final against Real Madrid on May 22nd) than equal the record of 20 league titles in England, still held by Manchester United.

As for Spurs, they may take pride from the fact they avoided defeat at Anfield, but like Liverpool, their goal for the season (top four placement) now seems further away than before. They trail arch-rival Arsenal by a point, but the Gunners will have a good chance of moving four clear on Sunday when they face Leeds United at the Emirates.

All in all, both Liverpool and Spurs need their direct rivals to fumble while they maintain a perfect record to the end. Will it happen for either of them? That’s the big question right now, but let’s take a brief look at what actually happened in this match.

Liverpool

As is their custom, Liverpool dominated possession with the ball under their control for 65% of the time, and took 22 shots compared to Spurs’ eight. Both teams, however, had just three on target.

Fatigue, the exhaustion, both physical and mental, after the exciting exploits in the Champions League semifinal against Villarreal, can go a long way in explaining Liverpool’s lack of efficiency against Spurs. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane weren’t on top of their game. Diogo Jota made very little difference after coming on off the bench in in the 65th minute, though his introduction instead of Jordan Henderson represented a tactical change from 4-3-3 to 4-2-4 to boost the attack.

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Andy Robertson was withdrawn from the game at that point as well, having failed to make impact from the left flank. The fact that teams are still allowed only three substitutions in the Premier League (five from next season) was probably the main reason why Trent Alexander-Arnold, who sent an unusually high number of inaccurate crosses, remained on for the full game.

Klopp eventually opted not to reduce the number of midfielders on the pitch for the final few minutes and replaced Fabinho with Naby Keita, instead of for example, Divock Origi.

Spurs

Klopp is always annoyed when his team fails to beat a defensive setup such as the visitors applied in this game, and he afterwards said he could never coach that way. Nonetheless, it has come in very handy over the years for Antonio Conte, who won titles both in Italy and England before arriving to North London.

Spurs defended extremely well, putting everything they had on the line for the ball anywhere within 30 yards from their goal. The 3-4-3 shape was what their team was officially supposed to look like, but for the 95% of the time it was simply 5-4-1. It obviously made Liverpool’s domination of the ball easier, but scoring past Hugo Lloris only proved possible with a fair bit of luck.

Ben Davies and Cristian Romero had a very good game in the back line. Emerson Royal and Ryan Sessegnon can be said to have won the battles on the flanks against Alexander-Arnold and Robertson – a remarkable feat indeed. Harry Kane was mostly well taken care of by the Liverpool centre-backs, but the one time he was left in a little more space, he organized the attack which ended with Sessegnon finding Son unmarked at six yards in the 56th minute. Son and Dejan Kulusevski threatened relatively frequently on the counter, and had they been more composed in certain moments, maybe their team could’ve walked away with the whole prize.

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All in all, on another day, neither team would’ve been too unhappy with this result, Spurs with the fact against whom they were playing in mind, Liverpool fresh from the Champions League challenges in midweek. But as it is, neither side will be satisfied with the look at the Premier League table right now, especially if Manchester City and Arsenal emerge victorious from their respective games on Sunday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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