Liverpool's trip to White Hart Lane proved to be the last game of André Villas-Boas as the head coach of Tottenham Hotspur. The game was a very interesting one from a tactical point of view. Brendan Rodgers selected a team of quick young players, who's quick passing troubled Spurs. The home team were forced to make two substitutions before the second half, while they had to react to Liverpool's strategy.
Tottenham started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. AVB had to field a makeshift defence. Jan Vertonghen was injured, which allowed Naughton to start in the left-back position. Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiricheş were also injured. This resulted in Etienne Capoue and Michael Dawson starting in the centre of defence.
Liverpool started in a 4-3-3 formation. Brendan Rodgers selected a surprisingly young team. Raheem Sterling started on the right wing, while John Flanagan started as the left-back. The trio of Lucas, Allen and Henderson started in midfield, with Philippe Coutinho playing on the left wing.
Tottenham's defence, Liverpool quick passing
Tottenham started the game brightly. Tottenham have not been pressing very aggressively this season, which wasn't the case at all against Liverpool. Soldado was chasing down Mignolet whenever he could, almost dispossessing him once, forcing him to clear the ball off the pitch in another instance.
Tottenham's defence was shaky at best. Capoue was uncomfortable in the central defender position. He failed to hold the defensive line on multiple occasions, which allowed Liverpool to play through balls behind Tottenham. It didn't help that Dawson had a very poor game. He looked unsure, even failing at tasks that are considered his strengths. He allowed the ball to bounce behind him in the second minute, which led to confusion in the Tottenham defence, and Coutinho's first shot of the game.
Naughton didn't have a good game either. He was visibly slower than Sterling, who had plenty of success one-on-one, winning both of his take-ons against the full-back. This forced Dembélé to drop behind Naughton as an additional cover whenever Liverpool had the ball on Tottenham's left wing. This meant that Dembélé had to cover even more space, even though he was already overwhelmed in midfield.
Lucas was playing as the deep-lying playmaker, dropping between Sakho and Škrtel in possession. Allen was searching for space a little bit further up than Lucas, behind Soldado and Paulinho, but deeper than Sandro and Dembélé. At the same time either Henderson or Coutinho dropped deeper, searching for space in similar areas to where Allen did. Allen also drifted towards the right wing to support Sterling. This created space for Suárez to move away from the defenders. Such movement created Liverpool's first goal.
|Lucas' movement in the first half.|
(Image taken from Squawka.com)
|Allen's movement in the first half.|
(Image taken from Squawka.com)
Dembélé and Sandro were overwhelmed by the movement around them. Liverpool were moving the ball fast, they rarely took more than two touches on the ball. Tottenham's defending players had to adjust their positioning constantly. This is very tiring for any player, and it made a major part in Tottenham conceding three goals in the last fifteen minutes of the match.
Tottenham were playing a high line. They rarely dropped deeper than 25 yards aways from goal if the ball was in front of them. Liverpool's free-flowing passing allowed the visitors to play through balls behind the Tottenham defence.
|Liverpool's short passes in the first half.|
(Image taken from Squawka.com)
Chadli was the liveliest attacking player of Tottenham. His crosses from the left created multiple chances for Soldado.
The Spanish striker often dropped towards the dominant side with Paulinho, to play one-twos with Chadli. He was making runs into the channels as well. However, his supply was cut out as Allen payed attention to double up with Johnson on Chadli after the 35th minute.
Early second half
Kyle Naughton was withdrawn at half-time, Ezekiel Fryers was introduced in his place. Fryers provided width on the left wing in attack, which allowed Chadli to cut inside.
Tottenham stretched the pitch horizontally. This was an attempt to maximise the space around their wingers - Lennon, Waker, Chadli and Fryers - in order to create as many one-on-one situations for them as possible.
Allen continued to help out against Chadli, while Lucas covered for Flanagan against Lennon. However, this created a lack of bodies in central midfield. Tottenham failed to capitalise on this as Holtby drifted to the left too many times, while Dembélé didn't join the attacks as he would have left the defence completely exposed.
As Tottenham stretched horizontally, the space between their players grew. If Tottenham lost the ball, they were too far from each other to apply pressure on the Liverpool player who had just won it.
Tottenham down to ten men
Paulinho was sent off in the 63rd minute. Tottenham's fate was sealed. Townsend came on only three minutes earlier, so AVB had no substitutions left. Tottenham were two goals and a man down, with attacking players on the pitch against the team with the second best goal difference in the league.
Chadli and Holtby played in central midfield in a 4-4-1 formation. Fryers and Walker continued to push very high on the pitch. Tottenham didn't have the players to stop Liverpool from playing through the centre, while they continued to play a high line, and the full-backs left space exposed on the wings. It wasn't a surprise that Liverpool scored three more goals.
ConclusionLiverpool outplayed Tottenham and deserved to win the game. Tottenham had similar problems like they had in their previous games. Their attacks lacked imagination, while the defence was exposed. However, multiple key players were injured.
I think AVB has lost his job mainly because of the two heavy defeats suffered in recent weeks. @WhoScored tweeted that Tottenham have more points - 27 vs. 26 - than they had after sixteen league games last season. It also seems a bit premature to fire him only five points away from the top four.
Brendan Rodgers deserves praise for taking the risk of fielding a team with multiple players who had not been key players so far. He would have had to take a lot of criticism had Liverpool lost this game.
Liverpool continue to impress. They have every reason to be optimistic ahead of the difficult holiday fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea.