Much will be made of the fact that Liverpool were unable to hold out against Tottenham. Pundits will take it in turns to applaud Liverpool’s attacking ability and malign their defence. Yet, it wasn’t until a wondergoal by Victor Wanyama that the Reds backline was breached. Until that point, Liverpool had defended well.
Undoubtedly, Tottenham had dominated the second half. They were upping the pressure. Yet, it took Wanyama’s unstoppable drive to get them back into the game.
Four Defensive Points From the Tottenham Game
Energy is Not Enough in Midfield
Liverpool dealt with Tottenham well in the first half. The energy of the midfield three allowed Liverpool to press hard and turn over the ball. However, into the second half, Liverpool’s energy levels dropped, with it their ability to apply pressure. By the closing quarter of the match, the Liverpool midfield disappeared. The Reds had substituted defensive quality in midfield for energy. Against the big teams, this is not enough for 90 minutes. The way Manchester City came back against Liverpool in their game showed how this can’t work for 90 minutes.
Liverpool require midfielders who defend through an understanding of positioning and reading the game. Having no defensive midfielder almost cost Liverpool against Manchester City and contributed to the frustrating result against Tottenham. It is vital that Jurgen Klopp brings in a player to fix this in the summer.
Loris Karius is Not Good Enough.
The late penalty drama will be the key focus of debate after this weekend, rightly so. However, it cannot distract from the fact that Karius did little to cement his position as Liverpool number one.
Karius should have dealt with the cross that led to Wanyama’s goal better. A top goalkeeper would have caught the cross and not punched it. A top goalkeeper, if he had to punch it, wouldn’t have pushed it away directly in front of the goal.
The young German offers Liverpool more than previous first-choice Simon Mignolet. His distribution is better, he comes for crosses better. However, he is by far the weakest goalkeeper of the top six sides. A great goalkeeper wins his team points, Karius simply doesn’t do this. A new goalkeeper is a must for Liverpool in the summer if they wish to carry on their development.
Dejan Lovren is a Better Fit Than Joel Matip
Lovren’s performance in the game was good for 80 minutes. His no-nonsense style of play worked well alongside Virgil van Dijk. Like many of the great modern centre-back partnerships, it was warrior and Rolls Royce, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, Liliam Thuram and Cannavaro.
The partnership looked good up until the first penalty. However, the controversy of the last 10 minutes will limit scrutiny on Lovren’s performance prior to the first goal. A number of times, Lovren flew out of the defence to attempt to intercept the ball. In the first half this was okay as the Tottenham attack was isolated. Yet, as the pressure mounted in the second half, his reckless charges out of defence continued. This led to Tottenham’s best chance prior to the goal where Son Heung-min was put through one on one.
Lovren’s ability to make mistakes was highlighted by Tottenham’s first penalty. Harry Kane was in an offside position. The rules of the game on this issue are grey and not clear. The merits of the decision will be debated. However, what is not debatable is that it was an easy clearance to make. None of the discussion over offside would be needed if Lovren had done his job.
Therefore, Lovren may be the mould for the defender Liverpool need. However, he is clearly not the man for the job. Klopp needs to add another centre-back in the summer.
Van Dijk’s Performance Shows Great Potential
While Lovren was responsible for a penalty, van Dijk also gave one away. That Liverpool’s £70m signing gave away a last-minute penalty will be used as a critic of his performance. However, unlike Lovren’s blunder, van Dijk’s is understandable. Erik Lamela came from behind him and got between van Dijk and the ball. Could he have spotted the danger? Yes. It is understandable he didn’t? Also, yes.
Lamela’s exaggerated fall to the floor almost cost him getting the penalty. The replays of the incident show there was minimal contact. However, it seems that now minimal contact is all that is required for a referee to point to the spot.
The penalty incident should not take away from the 93 minutes where Liverpool had a defender who led the defence. He was powerful in the air and showed authority. He was, in fact, the £70m defender that Liverpool wanted. Van Dijk’s performance should give Liverpool’s supporters hope for the future.
Liverpool will be frustrated not to have taken three points from the game. They should be. No team should draw a game after going ahead in the 91st minute. However, more worryingly, from the analysis of the problems that contributed to the result, Liverpool have a long way to go to get the defence they need to make them the title challengers they have the potential to become. With a new goalkeeper, new centre-back, new defensive midfielder as well as a Coutinho replacement required, Liverpool have an expensive shopping list for the summer.