It says a lot about Tottenham right now that a defeat away at a Liverpool goes down as a bitter disappointment.
This match was a huge reminder of three cold, wasted nights at Wembley at the end of last year. Tottenham’s performances in Champions League were disorganised, lethargic and slow. This performance bore all of those hallmarks.
Victor Wanyama and Moussa Dembele were shadows of last week, while Christian Eriksen and Dele Ali were quiet once again. Liverpool’s intensity choked their creativity and Spurs’ attacking play was always under immense pressure.
A desperately poor start
It was extremely disappointing that Spurs got off to such a sloppy start. During the early exchanges, Eriksen, Dembele and Eric Dier were all dis-possessed far too easily. A selection of poor decisions set the scene for a frustrating evening at Anfield.
A rejuvenated Liverpool side were better in all areas. They pressed hard, and after such a slow start, Tottenham were never able to build up any kind of momentum.
This week’s return to a back four for this game seemed rushed. Spurs’ defence were a mess. The high pressing has been a staple of the team’s aggressive philosophy, but up against such an electric front three, Sadio Mane’s pace proved a constant threat.
Tottenham needed to be tighter. Kyle Walker seemed to forget he was playing as a full back at times. His positioning was loose and he struggled to stamp any authority on the game.
Seeds of doubt
Eric Dier appears to doubt himself when he plays as a centre back within a back four. He was shaky at various moments against Liverpool. When he deputised for Alderweireld earlier in the season, he struggled. However, when he plays as part of a back three, his confidence reappears immediately. It’s frustrating to see such a huge disparity from one week to the next.
It was unfortunate that Danny Rose was out for this game. Ben Davies struggled under the relentless pressure of Mane. The winger’s pace would have been less of a threat with Rose there to cover. Mane was on fire, but Davies let it get to him. His near disastrous mishap with Hugo Lloris towards the end of the game showed everyone how nervous he was.
Loris saved Tottenham from what could have been a demolition. Some top saves kept his team in the game, although even he succumbed to the jitters that were quickly spreading throughout the team.
Every game has become a ‘must win’
Tottenham’s only real chance of the game was a huge moment. Son has to see Harry Kane. If he finds Kane it’s unmissable, it’s 2-1, and it’s a different game. In the last three matches, 38 shots have yielded a single goal, a penalty against Middlesbrough. The decision making around the area needs to sharpen up, quickly.
This team will need to reset in time for next weekend. The injuries to Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose are causing a serious problem for Pochettino, but there is no more room for error.
Spurs are now only two points ahead of sixth placed Manchester United. This season could go very wrong if there are any more slip-ups. If the players were under pressure against Liverpool, that pressure has just been multiplied.