The view from the Lane – Spurs 0-0 Liverpool, & why Liverpool can’t finish 4th this season
Tottenham and Liverpool played out a 0-0 draw at the lane, a game where the pre match talk was dominated by the arrival of Jurgen Klopp and the inevitable debate over whether these sides could make the top 4 this season.
I spent a fair portion of last week trying to justify my opinion that Tottenham were better placed than their match day opponents to qualify for one of the coveted 4 spots and the game on Saturday did all the talking for me.
I don’t think either side will make it of course, and despite being largely impressed by the way Tottenham are developing this season as a team, I’ve still not seen enough to change that view.
Let’s make the unlikely assumption though for a second that Chelsea do not turn around their disastrous start to the season, and then don’t spend £274m in January to try and correct their failings, one of these two sides will probably finish 4th this season and there is no way whatsoever it will be Liverpool based on more than this showing.
Jurgen Klopp will have just realised the size of the job he’s walked into if the fans need him to be the saviour of this football club because he would have seen his new team are light years away from a top 4 finish never mind Liverpool’s first title in over a quarter of a century.
Managers can’t just wave magic wands I’m afraid. Yes, the new manager effect works sometimes, but only when a team are underachieving compared to their current ability. Liverpool are not in a false position. Klopps first task is to consolidate Liverpool’s position in the top 6 for the purpose of his reputation whilst assessing the players he wants to bring with him for the long haul and implementing his style upon his new football club. Time just doesn’t stand still though. All the while the season of transition carries on relentlessly around him as his injured players suffer setbacks and the same ones that contributed to the failed second half of the Rodgers reign put in more ineffective displays. I have a belief based on gut feeling more than anything else that Klopp will improve Liverpool massively over the next two to three years, but anyone expecting anything more than a top 6 finish is wackier than the German himself. Even 5th would be an achievement.
The extra 10% that players mythically put in for a new manager was there on Saturday in all fairness, although it is not supposed to last for just 10% of the match. Even during that opening 10 minutes that Liverpool’s impressive high pressing meant Spurs could not get a foothold, no real bite to Liverpool’s attack could be identified. Injured attackers missing can’t be used as an excuse. The Sturridge problem is going to be recurring throughout this season as well you’d think and Benteke does not add to a sides creativity but more relies on it coming from behind him. After those 10 minutes where the Reds threatened only from set pieces including a scrambled effort away that flirted with the Spurs crossbar, Liverpool offered absolutely nothing. No spark, no creativity, no ideas.
Spurs’s failure to win this game highlights why they too will miss out on the top 4 places, nowhere near clinical enough when dominating several games already this season and up to 10 points wastefully dropped points already that all add up to inevitable shortcomings. Their problems end there though, whereas Liverpool’s are rife right through the spine of there team.
A bad refereeing display and some wasteful Spurs finishing meant Liverpool escaped with a point, and whilst neither of those things are Liverpool’s fault or concern, what will be a concern is the certainty that Manchester City or Arsenal would have dismantled them if they were on the other side of the pitch.
Mingolet had a rare good game at the lane, two or three solid saves kept the score goalless and although neither shot was quite finding the corner, he’s still dealt with them adequately. He’s miles short of the other 5 keepers in the top 6 and over the course of this season that I expect that to be costly.
The two centre halves were dreadful despite their clean sheet, even the experienced Skirtel was outjumped, outfought and outwitted by Kane time and time again. Sakho is an accident waiting to happen. There is no left back, Moreno standing in for injured Gomez was shocking, and whilst I’m a fan of Nathaniel Clyne he can’t save this back 4 from a defensive point of view.
Henderson is a smart player, but with suddenly a huge Steven Gerrard sized armband to fill, and as it took him a year to settle to his step up to Liverpool, I expect a little time too to adjust to his new standing in following the past skippers of this great football club. In James Milner, a player I’m a big fan of by the way, we have a guy who title chasing City saw fit to release last season. We’re hearing talks of ‘returning Liverpool to Glory’ associated with Klopp’s appointment. 30 year old castaways cannot be the answer surely? Players over 30 so rarely work in this league. Milner was so far off the pace committing 3 bookable offences, the 3rd of which was right under the referees nose, so lucky to stay on the field.
In Emre Can and Lallana we saw two of Rodgers’ Suarez signings who I’m afraid just aren’t good enough to win titles. Decent players, yes, no one is saying they’re bad, but they just aren’t good enough to be first team regulars at a side with high aspirations, and need to be ushered out of the first team to support the squad. They offered little in this match where after 10 minutes Hugo Lloris was a virtual spectator. This was the worst display by a travelling side to White Hart Lane this season.
Sturridge aside, Just Coutinho now is up to the standard, and now he knows it the weight is on his shoulders, the expectations are raised. The impact that had on sterling last year was negative and whilst I’m sure Coutinho will have another good season it is a big ask for him to replicate it exactly. With Benteke relying on him for service the stakes are so high if Sturridges injury problems continue. He can be forgiven for his poor display at Tottenham maybe, although with his opponents choosing no natural defensive midfielders you might have expected more than the only highlight being a dive to try to win a late penalty. It’s an example of how the team will struggle when he has an off day, a bit like Spurs with Kane pressure can do funny things and someone needs to step up and share the burden.
So, the ramble and possibly brutal dissection of Liverpool’s starting XI by me comes to an end, and the commencement of Jurgen Klopp’s rebuilding challenge has begun.
I’m excited by some of the players he may bring to League from his past as part of his long term objectives for Liverpool, as much as I am about seeing a lot more of him bringing his style and charisma to one of our country’s most famous clubs. But please please please be realistic if you want him to succeed, because he needs time. The squad he has inherited is not good enough to play champions league football, which is proven by the way they fared in the competition last year if not by my maybe ruthless review above.
He maybe knows after watching his team for the first time quite how big his job is, give him time to do his thing.