Reds Held to a Draw at White Hart Lane
In what was billed as the game of the round, Liverpool drew with Tottenham. If asked before the game, most Liverpool fans would’ve been pleased with walking away with a point. Those same fans could be forgiven after the game for being a bit disappointed that after dominating for long stretches of the game Liverpool were unable to seal a victory.
Simon Mignolet – 7: Unlike the mid-week game against Burton Albion, Mignolet faced a busy afternoon. A handful of good saves throughout kept Liverpool’s lead intact including some confident efforts defending set-pieces, and one brilliant save to deny Toby Alderweireld. He will however have felt disappointed to be beaten at the near post by Danny Rose, but was well within his rights to rush forward and put pressure on the ball, having been short-changed by his defenders.
Nathaniel Clyne – 6: This was an improvement for Clyne from his display at Burnley, but was still arguably at fault for Tottenham’s equaliser. Apart from that he generally provided stability in defence alongside Matip and overlapped well on Mane’s flank. One can’t help but wonder though, with Mane causing havoc against every team he’s faced, would a more attacking-minded fullback be better able to take advantage of the space he creates and transform Liverpool’s right flank into one of the most potent in the league.
Joel Matip – 8: A very solid Premier League debut from Matip, powerful and dominant in the air as expected. His willingness to venture forward deep into the opposition half was on display again which, given the right service, could be a useful outlet in the future. Had a couple of chances to score from corners and hit the bar from a Milner cross, Liverpool now finally have a consistent threat to aim for from set-pieces; expect the big centre-back to get on the score sheet a few times this season.
Dejan Lovren – 7: Came under criticism for being bullied off the ball by Harry Kane a couple of times, but overall he dealt with the dangerous striker competently for most of the game. This was evidenced by Mauricio Pochettino being forced to sub-off Kane after being unable to influence the game. Lovren was also able to deal with Vincent Janssen comfortably, regularly winning the ball in the air and on the ground. Arguably could’ve done better in the air for Spurs’ goal and was also booked for foolishly kicking the ball away.
James Milner – 7: Was a surprise candidate for penalty-taker, but he expertly sent the otherwise flawless Michel Vorm the wrong way to tuck the ball away in the bottom-left corner. Another solid performance in an unfamiliar role for Milner, demonstrating the ability to defend well whilst providing another attacking outlet down the left flank. He was however another player who could’ve done better for Tottenham’s equaliser, misjudging the flight of the ball in the build up. However, occasional minor errors are to be expected from a player who is not a defender by nature being forced to play left-back.
Jordan Henderson – 7: Finally some signs of life from the Liverpool captain, although it wasn’t the swashbuckling display most were hoping for, it was by far his best performance of the season. He showed far greater composure in his holding role, contributing soundly with his defensive duties. However despite improvement in his own game, his performance as captain was still questionable. As a unit, Liverpool failed to recover after seeing their second goal disallowed, and a vocal, inspiring leader could’ve potentially stopped the rot that led to Spurs’ eventual equaliser.
Adam Lallana – 6: A highly energetic display from Lallana, but not a particularly productive one. A regular problem are for the midfielder, Lallana slowed down counter attacks and turned the ball over by being caught in possession after taking some unnecessary touches. Was unfortunate however to not get his name on the scoreboard after being harshly ruled offside following a delayed pass from Wijnaldum. An interesting stat to come out of the game was the 12.5 kilometres covered by Lallana during the game was the most distance covered by anyone in the Premier League this season.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 5: Another disappointing game for the former Newcastle midfielder. Opted to take the safe option with simple passes and reserved positioning, rather than taking chances and venturing forward to offer another attacking option. There were some minor signs of improvement though, a couple of decent shots and a near-assist for Lallana, but ironically Wijnaldum took too many unnecessary touches and released Lallana too late, meaning the goal was ruled out for offside.
Sadio Mane – 7: This was probably Mane’s worst game so far for Liverpool, and given the fact that he was still quite good, it shows how inspired a signing he’s been. Far more dangerous in the first half, he was able to find space regularly and would’ve scored a couple of goals if not for a brilliant performance by Michel Vorm. As the second half wore on, he became less effective, found less space and generally was unable to link up with Origi. Hopefully this is a partnership that will improve in the future.
Philippe Coutinho – 6: A frustrating afternoon for the Brazilian in a game that he arguably should have been rested after being in doubt through injury. He could’ve scored twice, and despite being denied by some brilliant saves, he undoubtedly should’ve done a lot better with the chances that were presented to him. Faded badly as the game went on, further suggesting he may not have been ready to return to action.
Roberto Firmino – 8 (Man of the Match): An understated, but not unnoticed performance from Firmino. He was involved in just about every attack when Liverpool were able to break, and produced some clever movement to draw the penalty from Erik Lamela, which Milner converted. He also spearheaded Liverpool’s pressing game and drifted into space, providing the Reds with a highly effective outlet in the final third.
Divock Origi – 6: Failed to influence the game at all as his supporting players were unable to pick him out. Disappointing cameo, but not entirely his fault.
Daniel Sturridge – N/A: Many were mystified when they discovered that Sturridge wouldn’t be starting the match, and this confusion was compounded when he didn’t feature until the 88th minute. Unsurprisingly this was not nearly enough time for Sturridge to make an impact, much less win the game for the Reds.
Kevin Stewart – N/A: Also had no time to influence the game, but it is interesting to note that he has appeared regularly off the bench this season. Klopp clearly sees Stewart as having a role to play this season and possibly beyond.
Jurgen Klopp – 7: A good day overall for the manager. He was able to mastermind a dominate performance and get a sound performance out of an out of form midfield. Liverpool were able to regularly put pressure on Tottenham’s midfield pair and break on the counter after reclaiming the ball. His decision to start Firmino up top paid dividends, but he was unable to effectively implement Origi when he came on, and bizarrely waited until the 88th minute to bring on Sturridge.
One Costly Mistake
Liverpool fans are by now all but used to games like these. A dominant performance undone by one of two series of errors that lead to a draw or loss. This is a mentality issue that needs to be stamped out if the Reds are ever to win the Premier League or another Champions League. To an extent, this issue has been lessened in frequency but is still present. When looking at the top European clubs and even the tops clubs in the league, teams like Juventus and Chelsea, it is rare to see them give up leads or concede soft goals. Of course Liverpool’s style of play leaves them more open to these dangers, but in simple defensive situations it is clear that Liverpool player’s panic more and are more nervy in general than players from the aforementioned clubs.
Reds Rue Missed Chances
Similarly Liverpool fans have become accustomed to seeing their team dominate in attack and create many chances, but fail to convert them regularly. Coutinho will bear much of the blame after this particular game, but he is not alone in his guilt. It is a problem that has been present for years, and again can only be attributed to mentality problems. It simply cannot be a coincidence that Liverpool have to be outstanding in attack and convert most of their chances to win games, whereas opposition teams can convert one of their very few chances in a game to win or draw.
First of Three Tough Games
The first hurdle has been cleared, and whilst it wasn’t ideal, taking home one point from White Hart Lane is nothing to be sniffed at. However, after this result and the loss to Burnley, Liverpool’s next game against Leicester in the first home fixture of the season, becomes crucial. Anything less than a win has to be seen as two or three points dropped as it is imperative for Liverpool to stay within striking distance of early front-runners Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. This game precedes an away game against Chelsea, which will be an incredibly difficult fixture to walk away with any points at all. Hopefully Liverpool will return from the international break with a relatively bill of health in order to give them the best chance of emerging from the next two games in a good position.
Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 02/09/2016.