Another goalless draw at Anfield
In the end, Luis Suarez’s return mattered little.
It was telling that, with Suarez’s 30-minute run-out, Gareth Bale’s one-on-one miss and two midfields that canceled each other out, a cute feline pitch intruder, which spawned the Kop’s spontaneous “A Cat” chant, ended as the game’s biggest highlight.
But, goalless draw it might have been, there was plenty to take away from Liverpool-Spurs encounter.
Here are ten things we learned from the 0-0 draw at Anfield—and please feel free to add more in the comments below.
How many times over the years have we seen Steven Gerrard pick up the game by the scruff of the neck and save the day with a trademark thunderbolt?
It’s been a while since we’ve seen that now, and don’t expect it to be happening on a regular basis anytime soon (or indeed anymore).
The truth of the matter is, Gerrard’s best years might already have passed him, and those years were played in conjunction with Fernando Torres.
Much as Chelsea still have Didier Drogba ingrained in their DNA, Liverpool are still playing the Torres system.
It was Torres who dragged away the attentions of opposing defenders for Gerrard to surge into, and for Gerrard to capitalize on.
And it’s safe to say that players like the Torres of old are few and far between in the global game, never mind in the Liverpool team.
Without Torres’ dribbling pace to be scared of, Tottenham’s defenders felt far more comfortable tracking Gerrard’s runs from midfield and timing their blocks on his long-range shots, and consequently forcing to leave Gerrard’s superhuman tendencies on the sidelines.
Sure, Andy Carroll is nothing like his preceding No. 9.
But he has his qualities that very few strikers lack: the ability to hold up the ball, set up chances, and attack headers in on goal.
The problem is that Liverpool aren’t set up to play to his strengths.
Joey Barton was a perfect accomplice for Carroll because of the former’s ability and tendency to put in pacy crosses and corners for Carroll to attack. Meanwhile, while Liverpool do possess players capable of conjuring immaculate crosses on their day, too many of them are directed towards the far post, where Carroll has no option but to head it backward.
And even then, there are no Liverpool players to be found in the box.
Against an aerially impressive central defensive pairing of Michael Dawson and Ledley King, Carroll more than held his own on Monday night, and he created chances aplenty.
But no one took advantage of them. No one was remotely close.
And so the Carroll debate will continue to rage, even as he continues to turn in encouraging performances.
Soon to be joined by Gerrard at the start
Since Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll signed for Liverpool more than a year ago, they have yet to start a single game with Steven Gerrard, and indeed, prior to last night’s encounter, only managed a meager 69 minutes of action between them.
We have seen the dynamism of Gerrard-Suarez, the big-man-little-man of Suarez-Carroll, and the deadly aerial ammunition of Gerrard-Carroll.
It’s time to put the three together and see what they can do.
Suarez’s 30-minute cameo against Tottenham was key: while he did take the place of Dirk Kuyt, who is known traditionally as a big-game player, the three keys to Liverpool’s attack provided plenty of things to be pleased about.
The interchange between Suarez and Carroll, the hard work of Suarez to win back possession, the shifting of Gerrard onto the right to fire crosses in, the ability of Carroll to lay off diagonals: all were encouraging signs that Liverpool might just finally turn all their chances into goals once this trio get their feet off the ground.
Enrique was sorely missed against Tottenham
For whatever reason, Jose Enrique missed Monday night’s clash with Tottenham. And while Glen Johnson turned in an impressive shift at left-back, Enrique’s presence was sorely missed.
And, given Johnson’s occasional susceptibility in defence and Enrique’s famous physicality and athleticism, perhaps it is surprising that Liverpool missed their starting left-back for his attacking qualities.
Capable of both running with the ball on the wing and cutting inside to allow the overlap, the naturally left-sided Enrique could have reined in the attacking tendencies of Niko Kranjcar, Gareth Bale and Kyle Walker.
And his masterful left foot could have launched cross after cross into the danger area, where Carroll was lurking but found no support.
The Gerrard-Suarez-Carroll triumvirate might be the ones dominating the headlines, but Jose Enrique is just as integral to Liverpool’s fortunes, and a considerable part of the goalless draw was down to his absence.
Downing once again failed to impress
Stewart Downing arrived in the summer with a reputation as a consistent winger capable of occasionally producing exciting plays.
22 league games, no goals and no assists later, the only consistency Downing has been able to muster is that of failing to excite.
Given his sustained and alarming lack of form, Dalglish’s continued insistence on using him is baffling, to say the least. And his substitute appearance yielded no noteworthy touch of the ball and severe anonymity, traits not normally belonging to a midfield player.
Considering the impressive cameos Jordan Henderson has shown as a substitute this season and considering the wonderful knack of Maxi Rodriguez to score important goals, it was all too familiar and frustrating that Dalglish did not call on either player off the bench. (Indeed, the latter didn’t even make the matchday squad.)
Perhaps the only more baffling observation out there is that Dalglish has claimed that Downing has proved to be a better player than he had ever imagined. Whatever it is that Dalglish is seeing in him, we definitely can’t.
Bale was frustrated by Liverpool
There was no Aaron Lennon for Spurs last night. No Jermain Defoe, no Rafael van der Vaart.
Consequently, Tottenham lost a key element of their game: pace.
With Gareth Bale as their sole outlet on the wing, they looked to release him every chance they got, but Liverpool’s effective double-team defence on Bale meant that chances were few and far between for the Welsh flyer, although it is noteworthy that Bale himself was awarded the best chance of the game late on.
While Emmanuel Adebayor has proved to be a fantastic signing for Spurs, he is not the quickest player, and without pacy teammates to create space, he found his supply line cut out. Luka Modric also noticeably played a safety-first game in possession, not the kind he is known for.
Against a Liverpool side with one of the best defences in the league, Tottenham’s inability to play with pace due to injuries meant that they would ultimately fail to take three points back to London.
Parker closes in on Suarez
£5.5 million was all it took to bring Scott Parker to White Hart Lane from West Ham.
In hindsight, it looks a piece of astute business that Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has come to be known for.
On Monday night, he was excellent, providing a consistent, hardworking and tough-tackling shield in front of the back four. He helped stifle the flow of the game, making it almost impossible for Liverpool to impose their usual possession-heavy game on the visitors.
In a game where no midfielder was particularly outstanding, Parker took home the plaudits yet again.
Not that the on-looking Fabio Capello needed any further confirmation of his quality.
At 40 years of age, Brad Friedel is currently the oldest player in the Premier League.
But he showed none of his age as he turned in a performance of model consistency, shot-stopping and aerial dominance, in the process reaffirming his status as one of the league’s premier goalkeepers.
Perhaps perspective has to be maintained, in that Liverpool themselves did not create many shooting chances outright, and Friedel certainly didn’t have to produce the sort of magnificent save that David de Gea had to pull out from his top drawer against Chelsea on Sunday.
But his command of the area and decision-making on set pieces remained reliable as ever.
Tottenham’s attack might be getting all the credit for their push towards the upper echelons of the League, but as the cliché goes, success is built from the back, and in Brad Friedel, Tottenham have a rock in defence.
The Walker-Johnson battle
Fabio Capello would have noticed that there were three outstanding right-back options for the England national team on the Anfield turf last night: Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker and Martin Kelly.
Johnson put in an accomplished performance at left-back, and Kelly was solid as usual for Liverpool, but Walker was without doubt the star right-back of the night.
Blessed with searing pace and frightening acceleration, as well as fearsome athleticism and an imposing physique, Walker’s defensive work ensured that Liverpool’s left flank would not prove a happy hunting ground for the Reds.
He nullified the threat of the on-form Craig Bellamy, and put pressure on Johnson out on the left, completing a fine full-back performance that would not have been lost on Capello.
Towards the end of last season, Kelly’s consistently impressive performances for Liverpool meant that many observers (myself included) started to tout him as England’s future right-back. But this season, England has found its new right-sided fixture.
Nevermind England; Kyle Walker and Gareth Bale are currently one of the best wingback partnerships in all of Europe—if the latter can still be classed as a wingback, that is.
The much-publicized Luka Modric transfer saga now seems so long ago.
Back then, Modric was flirting with the idea of joining a Chelsea team in transition, of going to a Top Four club, of fulfilling his dreams to compete in the Champions League regularly. With the ascendancy of Manchester City and Tottenham only qualifying for the Europa League, would he ever realize his potential at White Hart Lane?
Well, look who’s London’s top dogs now.
Following their draw at Anfield, Tottenham will have their work cut out to stay in the title race, but that doesn’t rule them out as London’s current best team. With the Champions League football that comes with such a lofty league position, providing they sustain their performances, Tottenham will only aim higher in the seasons to come.
Which means that only fourth place is up for grabs. And there are up to four teams chasing it.
It’s going to be a frantic season finale.
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