Hey Vince Lombardi how was the first half?
So midweek I wrote that this was a nightmare match for us because Liverpool’s high press combined with our preferred attacking style spelled trouble.
First-half xG map for Liverpool - Tottenham.— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) February 11, 2017
<curls up in little ball, weeps quietly> pic.twitter.com/Z3Dy3sZZdC
Here are three things that need to change in the second half:
Sadio Mane needs to be controlled somehow.
Davies marking Mane was always going to be trouble. But giving up so much space in behind the defensive line with Davies marking Mane was madness. This is a game for a Simeone-style low block, similar to what we played in Poche’s first ever North London Derby. You can’t completely deny Mane all space, but if you can deny him space in behind the defensive line, you can neutralize the threat his pace creates. We did not do that.
We’re getting smashed in midfield.
Going two v three in midfield is always a tricky move, but most of the time Wanyama and Dembele are active enough that we can get away with it, especially when we play the 3-4-3 and the wide center backs push forward. But a 4-2-3-1 against such an active three-man midfield is almost certainly bound to fail. That happened in the first half. This was a game for Harry Winks or a 3-4-3. We got neither.
We cannot pass out of the back.
Playing it out of the back doesn’t work against such an active team, especially when half of your midfield is so poor on the ball, as Wanyama is. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough gifted long passers: Alderweireld and, kinda-sorta, Dier are the only long passers on the field for us. But we have them playing it short, trying the patient build-up style we normally prefer. We can’t do it against this Liverpool team, especially at Anfield.
That said, if we play exclusively over the top, that can create lots of turnovers and wear our team down. What is needed is a gifted midfield passer who can distribute the ball well, pick out long passes, and stretch the Liverpool defense. Unfortunately, with Dier being used in defense, we don’t have that player in midfield.
In hindsight, giving Wimmer a shot would probably have been less dangerous than playing Wanyama in midfield in this one. Go 4-2-3-1 with Wimmer/Toby in defense and Winks/Dembele in midfield. Or go 3-4-3 with Wimmer, Dier, and Toby in the heart of defense. The 4-2-3-1 we set out today walked right into the trap Jurgen Klopp has set for us.