Given how hatefully consistent Liverpool have been these past few seasons, it seems crazy that they visit us so soon after Firmino’s header gave them a three point cushion over us at the top of the table, yet they’re now only a single point to the good having played a game more.
Even more so when you consider we’ve only taken eight points from the fifteen we could have had since that narrow Anfield reverse.
What a pity Manchester City, Manchester United and Leicester (well, up until last night for the last two, anyway) haven’t also been as inconsistent as Klopp’s men and us. City, especially, are really starting to hit form now, having won their last seven Premier League games and looking more like the team who won consecutive titles ahead of Liverpool finally dethroning them last time out.
Even so, where tonight’s opponents are concerned, this is probably the first time since we beat them 4-1 at Wembley in October 2017 where we face them as the form team, Liverpool having played five games since they annihilated Palace in the game that followed their win over us and only managing a 1-1 draw against West Brom, goalless draws against Newcastle and Manchester United, and one-nil losses to Southampton and Burnley.
They’ve just lost to United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup as well. Even we’re still in that.
If only our displays weren’t looking generally unconvincing, I’d almost be looking forwards to tonight, but our most recent wins over Sheffield United and Wycombe Wanderers haven’t really convinced me that we have a coherent game plan other than hoping not to concede while also hoping Ndombele, Kane and Son combine to do something special, as they variously did against Sheffield United, Son delivering yet another great corner for Aurier’s opener, Kane producing yet another great finish for our second, and Tanguy just generally being sublime, even before he came up with that beautiful third.
Despite the fact our displays have generally been unconvincing, even before last night’s win for Sheffield United at Old Trafford, I was never in the ‘it’s only Sheffield United’ camp I’m sure some people greeted our last Premier League win with – they might be bottom and possibly on track to have the worst ever points total across a Premier League season, but we’re still only the fourth Premier League team to have beaten them by two clear goals so far this season and, despite allowing ourselves to be pegged back from a comfortable position yet again, we only took three minutes to reassert our two goal margin after McGoldrick’s too easy goal.
Given what happened to us against Newcastle, West Ham, Palace, Liverpool, Wolves and Fulham, plus the fact we hadn’t won at Bramall Lane since the seventies, I expected us to go on to draw or lose once Hugo’s goal was breached.
I’m also still not quite in the ‘Spurs sitting back on a lead’ camp I’m sure some people greeted McGoldrick’s goal with. Performances are far from what we all want them to be, and we never seem to be completely in control of proceedings, but I’m just not seeing an ultra defensive game-plan play out. As examples:
When Kane scores our second, it’s an aggressive high press from Hojbjerg which wins the ball back on 1.13 of the above highlights reel and sets the move in motion.
When Kane then breaks on 1:35 of the same reel, we’re 0-2 up in the second-half and still adventurous enough to create a 3-4 overload on the counter, with, I think, Reguilon being the furthest forward supporting player behind Kane on the far left.
Then, with our third, despite the fact we’ve just conceded and still have a 1-2 lead to protect, we have seven players deep into Sheffield United’s half when Reguilon wins the ball back almost in a number ten role ahead of feeding Ndombele who feeds Bergwijn who feeds Ndombele who scores.
I loved Bergwijn’s role in the goal, too, his lofted pass immediately reminding me of Hoddle’s part in Crook’s equaliser against Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup Final on 5:56 of the below.
So, all in all, my feeling is we seem to be a bit aimless, can’t dominate the middle of the park no matter who we’re playing, often don’t look very good, aren’t very entertaining to watch, but are sort of trying to play good football every little once in a while, especially if teams are silly enough to let us have a go on the break.
Which, hopefully, is what Liverpool will do tonight, because the bits of their FA Cup defeat to Manchester United I saw at the weekend suggested Son and Kane will have an absolute field-day playing in behind Trent Alexander Arnold, with Solskjaer seemingly setting Shaw and Martial up to exploit exactly the same space.
Liverpool are also not at the same level as the team who visited us last January and – despite dominating possession and being the better team – were a bit fortunate Lo Celso didn’t take the glorious chance we created towards the end.
In fact, Liverpool are not even the team we played seven match-weeks ago. That team had lost one game in thirteen and were sitting on top of the league. This team haven’t won in five and could find themselves seventh if ourselves and Everton win games in hand. It could be a blip, or it could be a return to the norm following a phenomenal effort and a steady drift towards a Levy-like lack of investment over the three years, three months since that sunny day at Wembley when we thumped them 4-1. I was there that day and we were superb. Oh what I’d give for some more of the same, if only in counter-attacking flashes, tonight.
Come on you Spurs!