The Week In Tottenham: What went well, what didn't – and who won and lost
Week in five words
Spurs edge along the high-wire.
What went well
Resilience has become an unlikely Tottenham synonym and, having falling behind at Anfield, they responded to recover their 19th point from a losing position this season.
Beyond the immediate context of the title, it was really further evidence of the club's emotional evolution under Mauricio Pochettino. In years gone by, Philippe Coutinho's opening goal on Saturday would have broken Spurs and they would have spent the last 39 minutes consumed by the injustice of falling behind in spite of being the superior side.
One error would have led to two, two to three, and so on until the game was out of reach. It would have been the sort of big ground failure which, until lately, has been entangled within the club's DNA.
Not anymore, though. Again, Pochettino's players managed to find a response in the face of shifting momentum and, again, they methodically climbed over the obstacle which had been placed in front of them. One point never did become three, but it was still thrilling to watch Tottenham actually do themselves some semblance of justice in a marquee fixture. Maybe that's become the norm this year, but it's still a novelty.
Their football was quick, intricate and smart in the middle third and their attacking movement caused Liverpool's defence all manner of issues, but – most importantly – they showed again that they can take a punch.
Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. It's a wonderful thing for a Tottenham fan to feel disappointed by drawing at Anfield, but in this instance that was a response to what might have been. Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min all, with a better touch or decision at the right moment, could have won the game.
The background fear at White Hart Lane this year has been over the eventual impact of inevitable fatigue on a small squad, and perhaps Saturday represented the first snap of reality's jaws. Physical sagging tends to manifest itself in laboured thinking, and this was a Spurs performance which, although impressive in a lot of ways, was riddled with errors and imperfections.
Back in November or December, Kane would probably have made better use of his two first-half chances and, equally, Eric Dier might have been light-legged enough to prevent Coutinho from running off him to score.
Those are not fair criticisms, but they are still the reality. Spurs have a physical debt with the house and the rest of their season will be defined by their ability to avoid paying it. They are an exceptionally well-conditioned team, but there are now points at which they do seem to be running on pure adrenaline.
Quote of the week
"We saw what I hoped for in my column last week: an England team based on energy, youth and dynamism. And that was because it was built around four players from Tottenham Hotspur." – Danny Higginbotham.
Try not to burst with pride.
The need-to-know facts
- Harry Kane has now scored more goals in a Premier League campaign than any other Spurs player (22).
- Christian Eriksen has now recorded more assists in 2015/16 than in any other previous campaign for Spurs (9).
- Tottenham have won just 1 of their last 22 Premier League visits to Anfield (W1 D7 L14).
- Tottenham have recovered the most points from losing positions in the top flight in 2015/16 (19).
Video of the week
Kane's wonderful turn-and-shot to earn Spurs a point:
Winner of the week
Mousa Dembele. This was his masterpiece. Tottenham fans have always been treated to anecdotes about how good the Belgian is in training, and how hard he is to dispossess, and his performance at Anfield was the latest in a sequence which has brought those qualities into the public domain. He is the player Pochettino dare not leave north London without: a possessional safe haven who provides a layer of protection to the defence and who has also learned to start moves rather than just sustain then.
Liverpool hassled him and Jurgen Klopp directed his gegenpressing forces towards him, but Dembele is oddly – wonderfully – impervious to pressure. He turned into danger – and then out of it – more than once, but he was a marvellous blend of power and precision and he seems at times to be the only midfielder in the country able to play entire games at a single pace. He is no longer a talent player who could be great, he is just excellent. The Tottenham fans already knew that, and now Anfield does too.
Loser of the week
Son Heung-min. A wasted opportunity. When Erik Lamela returned injured from international duty, it presented Son with a chance he wasn't quite able to grasp. In time, once he's adjusted physically and tactically to life at Tottenham, he will unquestionably become a very fine player, but on Saturday he was still an ill-fitting component.
He remains the new boy: slightly out of sync with his team-mates and playing by a different set of instincts. Like a well-crafted instrument not quite in tune with the band, his timing is slightly off and he is yet to fully appreciate the off-the-ball fundamentals around which this squad is built.
On a different day, the chance his he helped present to Daniel Sturridge might have been taken and his inability to protect Kyle Walker could have been punished. He's an asset, but still one which carries a risk.
Not a "loser" because he played badly – he didn't – but a relative failure on the basis that this title run has come too soon into his Spurs career for him to be a true influence within it.