Liverpool firmly put the defeat to Manchester City out of their system with an unexpectedly comfortable 3-0 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane, continuing their recent magnificent record against what had previously been a bogey team. For Spurs, the result offered a reality check after beginning the season with two impressive victories. What did we learn from Sunday’s encounter?
1. Raheem Sterling is a sublime talent – and he can still do even better
Sky Sports co-commentator Niall Quinn was adamant in his selection for man of the match, not hesitating in awarding the title to Raheem Sterling. The 19-year-old England international plundered his second goal of the season from close range early on, setting in motion a rewarding afternoon for Liverpool, and he was a headache for Tottenham throughout. Even in a league blessed with turbo-legged players, Sterling’s incredible pace stands out, as does his never-ending tenacity and desire to get on the ball.
Despite his magnificent performance at the Lane, the youngster came away from the game realising that he ought to have two goals beside his name rather than one. His skill in jinking past the Spurs defence in the second half to set himself up for what looked a simple finish was breathtaking, but Sterling lost focus when it came to pulling the trigger and ultimately poked the ball into the grateful grasp of Hugo Lloris. Fortunately he chose to pass up such a gilt-edged opportunity when the result was in the bag, although Brendan Rodgers will hope for a different conclusion the next time Sterling works such a promising goal chance for himself.
The development of the teenager over the last two seasons has been phenomenal, and there is evidence that Raheem Sterling can scale even loftier highs over the coming months.
2. Steven Gerrard’s influence could be on the wane
If there is one current player who owes nothing to Liverpool Football Club, it is their deified captain, one who seeks to play every game as it if was his first and last. While Steven Gerrard calmly tucked away his penalty at the beginning of the second half, maintainingg his hugely impressive conversion rate from the 12-yard spot, his overall influence on proceedings was minimal. The 34-year-old was surprisingly lackadaisical in possession at times, particularly in the first half, to the point where he was in the unusual position of being the target of Liverpool fans’ half-time criticism on Twitter.
Having made his name for rampaging forward to lash home splendid goals, Gerrard’s aging legs have made this feature a thing of the past, the boy from Huyton instead reliant on directing operations from a more restrained role in the midfield engine room. His ability to come up with a match-winning moment from nowhere makes him very difficult to drop, although with the possibility of 50-plus fixtures over the season and Liverpool’s enviable wealth of options in the middle of the park, Rodgers may be inclined to list his number 8 among the substitutes in certain games.
Remember that Jamie Carragher was once among the first names on the Liverpool team sheet before being gradually phased out in the winter of his career. This season could see the start of a similar process for Gerrard.
3. Liverpool’s full-back problem seems to have been addressed…
Even though Jon Flanagan emerged as a full-back of promise during Liverpool’s charge for the title last season, the wide defensive areas proved to be a problem position for the Reds in their unsuccessful bid to end the 24-year league drought. The left-back role has been particularly problematic ever since John Arne Riise departed in 2008, with many options being tried in the role with a success barometer ranging from ‘passable’ to ‘chronic’. The long-term injury to Jose Enrique and the impossibility to have faith in Glen Johnson prompted Rodgers to raid La Liga to address the full-back problem.
It may be early days to pass a definitive judgement on whether this box has been ticked, but the performances of Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno against Tottenham suggested that Liverpool should be considerably less vulnerable in the full-back positions this term. Manquillo looked tidy and competent in the games against Borussia Dortmund and Southampton before being strangely left out of the defeat to Man City. Johnson’s injury in that match led to a recall for the Spaniard at White Hart Lane and he picked up where he left off, covering his position effectively and making some crucial interceptions. His intelligence with and without the ball bodes well for Liverpool.
Moreno would have gone to bed on Monday night with a heavy conscience after gifting Man City their opening goal, but he more than made up for it at the weekend. The manner in which he won the ball from Andros Townsend before rampaging up the left wing and beautifully finding the far corner of Hugo Lloris’ net left Liverpool fans drooling. It was by no means Moreno’s sole contribution, either, as he also carried out his defensive duties to admirable effect when the game was still in the balance. It was good to see Enrique making a brief comeback, although should Moreno continue in the same vein, the elder of the Spanish left-backs will have to be prepared to observe from the bench on a regular basis.
4. Liverpool still look worrying in the centre of defence
Despite a welcome clean sheet, Liverpool’s first in the league since, ironically, they hammered Spurs at Anfield at the end of March, there were still moments of anxiety for the Reds at the back. Nacer Chadli should have equalised midway through the first half when he was gifted possession and surged through the heart of Liverpool’s defence, only for Simon Mignolet to pull off a magnificent save.
Dejan Lovren was occasionally slack in possession, although on a couple of occasions he tracked back excellently to atone for his errors, while Mamadou Sakho looks as uncomfortable on the ball as ever. Rodgers will know that a more potent team than Tottenham would have punished Liverpool – look at how Man City ruthlessly gobbled up the chances that came their way last week – and even with all the summer transfer activity, there exists a sense that the Reds could do with another no-nonsense centre-half.
There were also glimpses of a potentially suicidal pass-a-thon within 30 yards of their own goal, something that is all too frequent with Liverpool under Rodgers. The passing game looks brilliant when carried off effectively and can be put to lethal effect, but taking liberties in your own third of the field is a high-risk strategy that the better teams can exploit to make you look very foolish. Ask Kolo Toure about it after his ‘assist’ at West Brom last season.
5. Tottenham continue to be easy pickings for the top sides
In six games against the top three in 2013/14, Tottenham drew one and lost five. The cumulative score from that quintet of defeats to Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea was 1-24, a statistic that crippled their prospects of a Champions League finish. Another change of manager has, initially, not brought about a change in fortunes against the pick of the Premier League bunch.
Spurs had started the season in impressive fashion under Mauricio Pochettino, showing admirable resolve to deliver a killer blow to West Ham in stoppage time before destroying QPR at White Hart Lane, but in their first big test of the season, Tottenham came up well short. Players like Chadli, Emmanuel Adebayor, Erik Dier and Nabil Bentaleb can be very impressive on their day, but none of them will be jubilant about their displays against Liverpool. Even Christian Eriksen was worryingly quiet before he was called ashore prematurely by Pochettino, who will hope that these regular insipid displays against title-chasing teams will not be a habit again in 2014/15.
In the aftermath of the 4-0 hammering by Chelsea in March, then-manager Tim Sherwood blasted his Tottenham players for being “too nice to each other” and lacking in character. Judging by Spurs’ weekend display, he may have been on to something with those scathing remarks.
What do you think were the biggest issues to arise from Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat of Tottenham in the Premier League at the weekend? Has Brendan Rodger’s side got what it takes to challenge for the title? Can Mauricio Pochettino lead his team into the Champions League qualification positions? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @TBRFootball .
Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract
The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.
Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.
He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.
Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.
It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.
Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.
“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.
“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.
“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”
Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.
It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.
Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.
They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.
There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.
This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.
Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.
Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.
This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.
He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.
A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Sessegnon or Bale? Past or future? Spurs must make right move this summer
Jack Wilshere’s Everton arrival would surely spell the end for Morgan Schneiderlin?
Tieumoue Bakayoko disappoints again for Chelsea against Leicester City
Everton signing Rodrigo at £35m would undermine Cenk Tosun position
Tottenham Hotspur3 weeks ago
Tottenham Hotspur must push Toby Alderweireld toward Barcelona
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Jurgen Klopp’s brave January decision is playing off thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Liverpool4 weeks ago
Mohamed Salah: Is Liverpool’s Egyptian star the best player in the world right now?
Brentford4 weeks ago
Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford
English Premier League3 weeks ago
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp
Chelsea4 days ago
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold finds himself at the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s plans
Arsenal4 weeks ago
Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: Three talking points from Wembley