For many, including Brendan Rodgers, it was the first real sign that things had clicked.
December’s visit to Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane was, Rodgers would later reveal to the Liverpool Echo, the “watershed moment” for his Liverpool team in 2013/14—a game that came before the 4-0 against Everton, the 5-1 against Arsenal and the 3-0 at Manchester United and which indicated that such results were possible.
Before that 5-0 win the Reds had lost on their previous six visits to Spurs, with the last win coming back in 2008 when Andriy Voronin was still wearing a red shirt and Fernando Torres was still scoring goals. Both fired in a 2-0 victory.
This five-goal success seemingly had everything, though, as it ruthlessly crushed a side which, in the opening weeks of the season, had been the talk of the Premier League as many envisaged them making a title challenge under Andre Villas-Boas, the Portuguese who was sacked less than 24 hours after the game.
Raheem Sterling set the tone for Liverpool on that chilly December day when he scorched past left-back Kyle Naughton in the opening moments, and then the other Reds followed their young team-mate.
Luis Suarez scored twice, the excellent Jordan Henderson once, Jon Flanagan got his first and so far only goal for the club and Sterling added the fifth late on. Spurs, who had had Paulinho sent off at 2-0, were utterly demolished.
Roberto Soldado floundered up front, Nacer Chadli was ineffectual, Etienne Capoue struggled as he was pressed into service at centre-back, Erik Lamela didn’t get off the bench and Paulinho trudged past it and down the tunnel after he’d flown into a challenge on Suarez on 63 minutes.
“Too many signings,” we were told. “Quantity not quality.” By the time Tim Sherwood had taken over in the New Year and was watching his side lose 4-0 at Anfield in late March (from the directors’ box) it had become “doing a Spurs.”
If that latter phrase has become a familiar one to Liverpool supporters, it’s because they’ve been hearing it all summer.
The combination of the loss of Suarez and the need to enlarge the squad following Champions League qualification has led to many looking at the number of incoming players and give an all-knowing shake of the head. Presumably they thought the Reds should have been looking to do permanent deals for Aly Cissokho and Victor Moses instead.
Monday night’s visit to Manchester City saw just two summer signings start, yet the 3-1 defeat to the champions has already got that “doing a Spurs” phrase out there, so much so that defeat to the team that spawned the line will make it reach epidemic proportions.
In being given a home clash with Southampton followed by a trip to City to start their 2014/15, Liverpool were beginning their campaign with two matches from which they took zero points last season. They currently have three.
Lose at Spurs on Sunday and it will still be three—matching the 2013/14 campaign exactly—but as everyone knows, there will be no place for such reason in the game’s post mortem.
The headlines will be written already as the narrative is there for them to be so, and so suddenly whilst last season’s emphatic north London win was the fuel for something else entirely, so loss here could have just such a lasting impact.
The third match of the season can never really be determined a “must win” one, but the timing of this game—coming just before a two-week international break when there will plenty of time to ramp up the pressure—makes it somewhat unthinkable for Liverpool to experience defeat.
They can call upon the experience of last season’s game if they want, but given that Daniel Sturridge was injured for it and Mario Balotelli was stationed over in Milan it might just pay for Rodgers to trust in two players who weren’t even there.
While everyone remains so keen to remind Liverpool just what and who they are missing, an impressive performance and a positive result from those that Suarez left behind would be hugely welcome on Sunday.
And as was demonstrated emphatically last season, anything can happen after a win at White Hart Lane.
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