Liverpool hosted Tottenham Hotspur in a crucial encounter on Tuesday and grabbed all the three points in what was a spectacular evening in a match of equals. The Reds needed the win more badly as a loss would have left them seven points behind their opponents and a draw wouldn’t stop their top 4 challenge, but certainly curb the momentum after the stalemate against Everton. Lazar Markovic, Steven Gerrard (pen) and Mario Balotelli (yes, you read that correctly) were on the scoresheet for the Reds, while Harry Kane (who else?) and Moussa Dembele netted for the visitors.
Here are four things we learnt from the game
FSG model doesn’t look as stupid now
When Liverpool finished second last season, a lot was expected from the summer transfer window. Finally, the Reds wouldn’t have the excuse of not doing well for lack of ambition in the window. However, Liverpool owners decided to go ahead with their model and invest in young talents who showed talent and potential for the future. While that approach looked to have massively failed in the opening months of the season, it looks like John W Henry and co. did a smart thing by getting players who could become world-class in three-four years. Emre Can is proving to be more indispensible by the minute. The young Turkish-German can do everything. He started the game in the defence and after Gerrard’s substitution, moved in the midfield. The player was awarded man of the match for a solid display in both the roles. Reports emerge every day, as to who the Reds are lining up to replace Steven Gerrard. Liverpool might not need to do that as Emre Can could be that player for them. With a good defensive midfielder within their ranks, Can can perform in a box-to-box role and for the versatile 21 year old, this role looks most natural for his style of play. For now, he is performing well as a defender and is a huge part of the side’s recent defensive strength. But his future surely lies in the midfield and it would be very exciting when he is operated there. Jordan Ibe looks a better player than Raheem Sterling did at his age. Granted, it is very preemptive to say this but the youngster could go on to be a huge player for Liverpool and England in the future. Recalling him from a successful loan spell was a good decision by the Reds’ management as he has reinforced the attack and looks mature beyond his years. The 19 year old played as the right wing-back and regularly linked with attackers to get the momentum forward. He was also not afraid to take on Spurs’ defenders and darted into the box and attempted a few shots himself. Finally, he left a mark on the game as he was huge in creating the winning goal for Mario Balotelli, as he set up Adam Lallana cleverly, who eventually laid a low cross into the box which the Italian tapped in. Alberto Moreno had a decent outing himself and is definitely going to be Liverpool’s future left-back. He has areas to improve at, but he is maturing with every game and his defensive contribution is getting better as well. Lazar Markovic scored his first Anfield goal and played behind Daniel Sturridge due to Ibe playing on the wings. The Serbian also looks to be improving in every game and has a lot of potential. He can link play, knit clever passes, has skills on the ball, and can clearly score. He does have to work on certain areas, like holding the ball better under pressure.
Important of Lucas and Simon Mignolet is a goalkeeper reborn
The Belgian has experienced the lows this season like no one can imagine. However, since returning to the team as a substitute against Burnley, he has continuously and gradually improved. The introduction of a backline comprising three defenders has definitely helped Mignolet’s form, as has Lucas Leiva (now out with injury) coming back and being the “proper defensive midfielder” Liverpool need. But against Spurs, there was no Lucas and it certainly showed as the Reds lost the midfield battle for large parts of the game. That meant that there was more pressure on the defenders and the goalkeeper as Mason and Bentaleb kept the momentum with their side and started attacks which Eriksen, Lamela and Dembele gladly continued. Brendan Rodgers needs to sort out the midfield issue and address Lucas’s absence. Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were easily outdone by the visitors and couldn’t dominate the pitch. The option to get one of Kolo Toure, Lovren or Glen Johnson in the back three and move Emre Can in the midfield makes most sense at the moment as the German could do a great job in a more suited role. But Brendan Rodgers has said that he doesn’t want to shuffle with the back-line that looks so solid at the moment, which to be fair, does make sense. So what will he do? Get Joe Allen and hope the Welshman fills the void well or persist with Steven Gerrard? We’ll wait and see.
Mignolet was mostly solid against Spurs. He made an astounding save against a Lamela effort that looked like it was definitely going in. He was also good in corner situations and punched the ball to safety on number of occasions. There was a blunder that didn’t cost his side where he bizarrely came against Kane and could have given a penalty away. Barring that, he was mostly confident and effective. Questions have been asked about Mignolet’s distribution but apparently, he has one of the best passing accuracies of a goalkeeper in the league. Not only that, Mignolet played a role in the first goal where he quickly released his the ball long and accurately to Sturridge from a goal-kick, and the striker’s attempts to control were diverted by Vertonghen to Markovic, who went on and scored the game’s first and his first at Anfield. He has also become more vocal, which is very important in modern day football.
Race for top 4 is as exciting as it gets
This game illustrated the tussle that there is for Champions League berths next season. The top 2 spots seem to have been decided two months back: Chelsea will probably win the league by a good margin and City will comfortably finish second. But the other two spots seem to be up for grabs and five teams – Southampton, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool – are going to give in everything in a race that is impossible to call.
Spurs are genuine top 4 quality, but need to stop self-destructing
Tottenham Hotspur look very genuinely like a side that can finish in the top 4 spots. Mauricio Pochettino’s efforts are clearly paying dividends and Spurs have plenty of energy and excitement about their game. Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason are as a good a midfield partnership as there is in the league. Christian Eriksen, Moussa Dembele. Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli are all in good form and offer the side a lot of creativity and threat in the attack, and there is no stopping the hurricane that is Harry Kane. The back-line is the side’s weak spot but the real weakness is the team’s self-destructing habits. There were plenty of passes that were misdirected from their side, a lot of defensive errors (including for the first goal), and Liverpool could have easily been three or four goals up before the half-time. Ryan Mason sent Sturridge clear in the ninth minute and if Sturridge was fully fit and had been playing regularly, there was not a chance he was missing the goal. Jan Vertonghen and Eric Dier were hardly a composed centre-half duo, even though Dier made some good challenges in the box. Finally, their recklessness was illustrated when Danny Rose, who Jordan Ibe tired throughout the game, gifted Liverpool a 53rd minute penalty for tripping Sturridge. Pochettino spoke about this in his post match comments and for his side to finish in the top 4, which is possible considering their form at the moment and the potential this young side has, they have got to do better in this aspect. Because if they don’t, they might just be giving away their spot to someone else.
Top Image Courtesy www.odt.co.nz