Tottenham 4-0 Liverpool: Tottenham dominate

September 18, 2011

The starting line-ups

A wondergoal got them going and the rest came when Liverpool had a numerical disadvantage, but Tottenham were clearly the better side in this match.

Harry Redknapp used his 4-4-2, with Niko Kranjcar out on the right – Rafael van der Vaart was half-fit, and on the bench.

Kenny Dalglish seemed to begin with a very narrow system – Charlie Adam very narrow on the left and Stewart Downing out on the right – perhaps to counteract Tottenham’s wing threat, which would come from the left through Bale, rather than the right through Kranjcar.

Tottenham began brightly, pressing Liverpool in midfield and keeping possession well themselves. Charlie Adam, in particular, was given no time on the ball to spray passes across the pitch – as a result, he ended with his second-lowest pass completion rate in his Premier League career, according to Opta. Perhaps this frustration also contributed towards his red card midway through the first half.

Possession

Tottenham kept the ball particularly well (even at 11 v 11), which was impressive considering Liverpool tried to pack the centre of the pitch early on. Luka Modric played passes to the flanks, Scott Parker also provided distribution from deeper, and Kranjcar came into the middle of the pitch, and enjoyed the fact that he had space down that side.

The front two, who dovetailed well at Wolves last week, again had a good game together. Jermain Defoe dropped into intelligent positions between the lines, whilst Adebayor often worked the channels and brought the Liverpool centre-backs out of the back. They both came deep, offered another passing option, and finished with impressive passing stats – Adebayor for how often he was involved, Defoe because he didn’t once give the ball away.


by Guardian Chalkboards

The most obvious theme from the first half was Liverpool’s indiscipline. They continually gave away free-kicks, particularly just outside of the box to (their) left, and the poor tackling brought various separate problems. Most obviously, it resulted in two of their players getting sent off, but it also gave Tottenham good shooting opportunities from dead ball situations.

11 v 10

The real tactical excitement came after Liverpool went down to ten, with Charlie Adam dismissed. Dalglish kept the same ten players on the pitch, and made the surprising decision to stick Andy Carroll out on the left. Maybe Dalglish wanted to cause Kyle Walker problems in the air, but Carroll looked uncomfortable and didn’t have the energy to track Walker when Liverpool didn’t have the ball (which was the majority of the time). Putting Suarez out wide would have made more sense, or alternatively Liverpool had two players on the bench – Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy – who naturally shuttle from a wide role to a support striker position.

Tottenham played the 11 v 10 well – they kept width, kept the ball and tired Liverpool. That said, they didn’t produce too many clear-cut chances, and had to wait until Liverpool got Martin Skrtel sent off for their second goal.

11  v 9

It’s difficult to argue that Dalglish could have done anything to get Liverpool back in the game here. Competing with nine men is vaguely possible if you’re at 0-0 and can grind out a draw – but since Liverpool needed to get back into the game, it was hopeless.

Conclusion

This could have been an extremely interesting game. For the first few minutes it was – Tottenham pressed brilliantly, and Adam’s problems summed up Liverpool as a whole: unable to find space, unable to play the ball forward. The narrowness can help retain possession, but it does mean the opposition have to cover less space and do less work to close down.

Dalglish was in a difficult situation with ten men, but using Carroll on the flank was a strange decision that didn’t seem to bring any benefits – Liverpool couldn’t get the ball forward, and Carroll didn’t offer much defensively. A change was needed when Liverpool had ten – when it was nine, it was game over.