Three things we learnt from Tottenham and Liverpool's 1-1 draw
After a win apiece in their opening two matches, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool went into this week’s lunchtime game with ambitions of launching their season with victory over one of their main rivals for the upcoming season.
The game, as expected, was an energetic and attacking affair, with plenty of chances at both ends and all twenty outfield players putting in the hard yards in order to unsettle the opposition.
James Milner opened the scoring from the penalty spot for the Reds, after Roberto Firmino was clumsily tripped by winger Erik Lamela in the box. However, despite having a goal ruled out for a marginal offside decision, Liverpool couldn’t hold onto all three points after Danny Rose tucked home to earn Spurs a hard fought point.
Here are three things that the game taught us about both sides and their chances over the next year.
Joel Matip is the man at centre-back
Liverpool have had a notoriously leaky defence for a number of years now, and conceding five goals in their opening two matches suggested that little had been done to rectify that over the summer.
That was until this game against Spurs, when Cameroon international Joel Matip made his Premier League debut at the heart of the back four. Matip was calm on the ball, strong in the tackle and most importantly, well placed in order to sniff out any Spurs attacks before they grew too dangerous.
Liverpool rarely looked overly troubled at the back, and the calamity of their defending at Turf Moor was replaced by a calm zen which radiated from the lanky defender.
Of course, it was not the perfect defensive performance, and Clyne and Milner both fell asleep to allow Rose to equalise, but Matip showed he is certainly head and shoulders above anyone else the Reds have in his position at the moment.
Tottenham need an injection of pace
Spurs were far from outplayed by Liverpool, but could maybe consider themselves slightly lucky to come from behind and secure a point after a performance where they looked slightly blunt going forward.
The main issue for Spurs was not born out of a lack of creativity up top, but as a result of a dearth of outright pace in the side. Harry Kane and Vincent Janssen are quality strikers but are never really going to get in behind. The same can be said of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela on the wings.
Pace normally comes from the full-backs, but Rose was pushed slightly further back than normal to cover Mane and Kyle Walker was forced off with sickness. Eric Dier filled in admirably, but Walker’s pace was blatantly missing down the right hand side.
This meant that Spurs were mainly restricted to long distance efforts and crosses in order to cause Liverpool any problems, and they eventually broke through in the 71st minute. However, if it had not been for Milner being caught out of position and Nathaniel Clyne being sucked into the centre of the box, they would never have got this chance, and didn’t really create anything else of note other than from set plays.
Contrasted to their opponents, who always looked dangerous with the pace of Sadio Mane, Spurs just looked a little sluggish up front. More pace will help them cause more problems for teams like Liverpool.
Philippe Coutinho needs to work on his finishing
Liverpool’s Brazilian magician Philippe Coutinho didn’t really sparkle against Tottenham, but that doesn’t mean he still didn’t have the power to make this game a much more comfortable affair for his team.
Just five minutes had gone when the Reds pressed Tottenham into a mistake, and Roberto Firmino rolled his international team-mate into a one on one with Michel Vorm, only for the Spurs ‘keeper to pull off an excellent save with his foot.
Taking nothing away from Vorm, Coutinho was about eight yards from goal and had acres of space in order to put his team into the lead, and he missed. It is not the first time that he has shown a lack of ruthlessness in the penalty area for his team – it seems as if his right foot, so beautifully cultured outside of the box, turns into a useless block of wood as soon as he gets within 18 yards of the opposition goal.
If Coutinho could put these chances away, he would be scoring between 15 and 20 goals a season, and be regarded as one of the world’s best. For now, he is still an inconsistent but talented midfielder who does well to reach double figures. He must improve his finishing.
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