Opinion Why Spurs should be proud of their performance at Liverpool

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Dejan Kulusevski
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Following Saturday night’s 1-1 draw, Antonio Conte’s side can travel home with their heads held high, as although the point taken from Anfield does little in terms of our top four pursuit, the performance is something to be proud of.

It’s no secret that a trip to Anfield equals 90 minutes of intense, unrelenting pressure, and whilst this near enough was the case, it yielded little fruit for Liverpool, as time after time the home side failed to break down Spurs’ resolute defence.

Spurs excelled defensively, as each member of the back five and midfield two, made crucial tackles, blocks, and interceptions to foil Liverpool’s advances time after time.

Largely, Spurs handled the Liverpool press well, however, there were a few occasions that the Rolls-Royce that is Cristian Romero may have momentarily stalled. The Argentine’s desire to play the ball out from the back whilst admirable, could have been troublesome, as he was guilty of giving the ball away in our own half several times.

Fortunately, Romero was let off the hook lightly, as a combination of blocked shots, well-held shape, and Liverpool not quite firing meant that nothing came from his stray passes, however, this is something Conte will likely address ahead of Thursday’s game.

Otherwise, there is little to complain about from Spurs’ performance, as the threat of Salah, Mane, and Diaz was largely nullified, as the forwards were restricted to speculative efforts from range.

Conte got his tactics spot on, as both wingbacks put in stellar performances despite facing two of the league’s toughest wingers. The one-time Ryan Sessegnon did get beat, he showed intelligence to haul Salah back, utilising the dark arts of football that can help get you over the line. On the other flank, Emerson dealt with Diaz well, and with a bit of help from Dejan Kulusevski at times, they gave the Columbian little time on the ball unopposed.

In times gone by, I’d have expected us to crumble, however, Conte’s got the side playing with confidence, and if it wasn’t for the deflection off Bentancur for the goal, part of me thinks we might just have held out. Nevertheless, the performance is something to be proud of, with Liverpool’s frustrations evident in the underlying numbers.

Antonio Conte
Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Frustration in Numbers

On Saturday, Liverpool recorded an xG of just 1.05 (Understat), their lowest since a 2-2 draw to Manchester City in October where bizarrely they had an xG of 0.95.

While that indicates we deserved to concede a goal, analysis of the single-shot xG suggests otherwise, as of the Red’s 22 shots on goal, no attempt registered more than 0.12 xG, with Luiz Diaz’s deflected goal clocking in at just 0.03 xG.

Whether it’s Spurs’ brilliance or a lack of inspiration from Liverpool, the Red’s frustrations were evident, as 13 of their 22 shots came from outside the box, with just four inside the box coming from open play, of which three were blocked.

On both flanks, the Red’s wingers look to cut in and shoot, however with 12 of Liverpool’s 22 efforts on goal blocked, Spurs defenders regularly put their bodies on the line, with a special shout-out owed to Ben Davies for his block against Salah.

Many fans, including myself, will have gone to bed on Saturday dreaming about what could have been as Spurs created the better chances, and although an xG of 0.98 suggests otherwise, this doesn’t account for Hoijberg’s header in the dying seconds with the Dane attempting to tee up Kane rather than shoot himself.

Unsurprisingly, by far, the biggest chance in the game was Son’s goal with 0.57 xG, putting the Korean’s strike well clear of the next best effort, which coincidently, was his own blocked shot just two minutes prior showing that when we went forward, we did so with purpose.

Harry Kane
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Final Thoughts

Realistically, neither side will walk away from this one happy, as Liverpool’s title hopes look tarnished, and Spurs’ top-four finish is now out of their hands, however, the psychological value of avoiding defeat at Anfield cannot be understated going into Thursday’s North London derby.

Across the 90 minutes, it’s hard to think of a single chance from a Liverpool perspective that ought to have been a goal, and this should fill the backline with confidence ahead of our final three games.

Although it’s not quite the result we wanted, and in truth deserved, there are certainly more positives than negatives from last night. For Conte and the squad, all focus must now be on the NLD, with the knowledge that a repeat performance would surely deliver a much-needed three points later this week.

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