As part of a new series on FourFourTwo.com, Chris McLoughlin argues it's crunch time for Liverpool as the season draws to a close...
The week in five words
Europa League or bust now.
What went well
Incredibly, and somewhat tellingly, Liverpool haven’t won consecutive Premier League games at Anfield all season. But, having beaten Manchester City last time out in, there was hope among Kopites that such an embarrassing statistic could be killed off against title-chasing Tottenham.
It couldn’t, but few Reds left Anfield feeling despondent. In what was the highest-tempo game of Liverpool’s season, Jurgen Klopp’s men matched Mauricio Pochettino’s side and could have even taken more than a point.
Tottenham are the best team to have visited Anfield in 2015/16 (although that may soon change, and not because the Reds are due to play Newcastle) so it was encouraging to see how evenly matched the two sides were.
If only Liverpool’s much-maligned Transfer Committee had completed a deal for Dele Alli when they could’ve done so, perhaps there would be fewer points between the two clubs. That said, in the eight games against the top four – Leicester, Spurs, Arsenal and Man City – the Reds have won three, drawn four and lost one, a decent record that makes Kopites wonder what Klopp’s Liverpool could achieve when he gets his own players in to provide a much-needed injection of quality.
Klopp and Pochettino have similar football philosophies: press the ball, win it back as high up the pitch as possible, get it forward as quickly as you can and under no circumstances stop running. Such is the emphasis on covering ground, it looks like being a two-way battle between the pair to sign Eddie Izzard this summer.
The result was a high-octane, fast-tempo, intense encounter at Anfield and in such matches there is no hiding place for players who are erratic or inconsistent passers of the ball.
Certain individuals probably spring to mind more than others, but at Anfield on Saturday the six players with the most completed passes were all wearing Tottenham shirts, while five of the Liverpool side gave the ball away more than 10 times. Rumours that James Milner actually found one his team-mates with a corner remain unconfirmed.
All joking aside, if the Reds are to have any hope of beating Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League – which the season now hinges upon – their passing must improve significantly. Gegenpressing remains part of BVB’s DNA, even though its biggest champion is now at Liverpool.
Quote of the week
Klopp was asked about the likelihood of not having Champions League football to offer prospective new signings. Turns out it’s not a real worry…
“I always tell players if when you are 35 or 36 and look back on your career and you think about the one year when you didn’t play Champions League, then you are really a poor boy. There are so many things you can do and reach if you go together with the team. You can qualify for the Champions League, play Champions League, maybe win it or whatever.
“It is a much more satisfying thing than all the rest. That is what I would say. It is pushing the train, not jumping on the running train. That is what we need here.”
The need-to-know facts
- After going 7 Premier League games without scoring, Philippe Coutinho has now scored in back-to-back games for Liverpool.
- Daniel Sturridge provided an assist for the first time in the Premier League since setting up Lazar Markovic against Spurs in February 2015.
- Liverpool have won 5 and lost 0 of their last 7 Premier League meetings with Tottenham (D2).
Video of the week
Jon Flanagan and a fake chauffeur prank Simon Mignolet and Lucas, who think they’re off to a promotional photoshoot for Vauxhall. It’ll make you laugh. Promise.
Winner of the week
Philippe Coutinho was at his magical best against Tottenham. He created Liverpool’s best first-half chance with a sublime pass for Daniel Sturridge, netted the Reds’ opener after a neat one-two with the aforementioned striker, left Kyle Walker with twisted blood when flicking the ball over him and skipping past, and almost produced a winner with a late shot that was inches wide of Hugo Lloris’s near post.
Little Phil is now Liverpool’s leading scorer on 10 – he’s the only Liverpool player in double figures – and needs to wave his wand again if Borussia Dortmund are to be beaten.
Loser of the week
Emre Can had a mixed game against Spurs. One minute he was winning possession, the next he was giving them the ball back, but the German has become a key man under Klopp – no outfield player has appeared more this season.
However, his 10th booking of the campaign means he’ll now have to sit out the next two Premier League games, at home to Stoke and miss a trip to Bournemouth. It will frustrate him, but then if you had to pick two games to miss at the end of a long, hard season…