The North London Derby lived up to the hype with Ange Postecoglou and Tottenham Hotspur refusing to compromise and twice drawing level to earn a well-deserved point at the Emirates. Both the performance and the result are proof that the new manager is building something real and can keep his style regardless of situation.
Saturday brings yet another massive test, with a typically dreaded date with Liverpool. The 4-1 win at Wembley in October 2017 feels like a lifetime ago, but perhaps the timing is right for Tottenham to notch its first victory in this fixture since that occasion, with the last four matches all played fairly tight (despite a 0-2-2 record).
Liverpool has been a bit of a surprise this season after last year’s falter, sitting second in points, goal difference, and xGD. After a draw at Stamford Bridge the opening weekend, the Reds have yet to drop points, so they enter the weekend just as confident as the home side. However, this will be their fifth match in 15 days after midweek Europa League and League Cup ties.
My hope was at least two points from this mini-gauntlet and that would still suffice, but a win here — which would be the first one over Liverpool in 12 (!!) league matches — would feel enormous. This match will be just as stressful as last weekend against another active, pressing side, but if anyone is going to finally break through this curse it will be Postecoglou.
Tottenham Hotspur (t-4nd, 14pts) vs. Liverpool (2nd, 16pts)
Date: Sunday, September 30
Time: 12:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
TV: USA Network (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
While Liverpool cannot start every single one of its attackers, Spurs fans are all too familiar with the number of lethal options the visitors can deploy such as Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, and Cody Gapko. While the Tottenham defense held up remarkably well at the Emirates, this is a different level of attacking threat and one that figures to be much more clinical if given golden opportunities in the box.
Prior to the season, many preached patience with Postecoglou, citing the transition time it typically takes for new managers to implement their system. Clearly this did not really manifest, so now the narrative is that there are likely to be a couple matches where the new tactics really break down and get exploited. There is a very real chance that this is said match, with Liverpool built to really punish a side that is not perfect in its aggressiveness.
Lilywhite Spotlight: Trust the fullbacks
To me, this really all hinges on the fullbacks. Postecoglou has allowed (and asked) both Destiny Udogie and Pedro Porro to venture into the middle of the pitch as a passing outlet and as a defensive barrier, but there was a little reversion to a more natural fullback positioning against Arsenal, which was justified giving the opponents.
Against strong wingers and wide forwards again this weekend, it makes sense to perhaps sacrifice a little in progressive attacking to ensure Liverpool is handled along the flanks. There were a couple big mistakes in the derby that did not amount to anything too catastrophic, but Spurs would be wise not to tempt fate. I think Udogie and Porro can be successful on Saturday, but if Tottenham suffers defeat, this is likely to be a big reason why.