Tottenham vs. Liverpool: 7 Things We Learned About Spurs in the 4-0 Victory
Many expected the match to be close, with Liverpool getting the edge by a goal or two by the final whistle. Nobody dared to predict 4-0 in favor of Spurs.
Of course, it's understandable that they were underrated coming into this match, given their poor start to the season against Manchester United and City in the opening weeks of their campaign. But now it seems clear that Spurs are much better than those results initially indicated.
There's a lot more to this side than we thought.
Here are seven things we learned about Spurs in the telling defeat of Liverpool at the Lane.
Luka Modric Is Back
Through much of the young season thus far, Luka Modric has been little more than just another player on the pitch for Spurs. That's not to say that he's been terrible, he's just lacked the pace and presence of mind that we've come to expect from the Croatian.
He certainly didn't look out of form during his recent international duty for Croatia, hammering home a beautifully placed goal from distance against Israel. His underwhelming production (well, as underwhelming as Luka Modric can be) has mostly only extended to club level play.
I won't bother you with my theories as to why Modric has been out of form early on, mostly because those theories would be entirely out of place following today's match at White Hart Lane. Modric didn't look out of form at all. He looked spectacular.
It wasn't just the perfect goal in the top corner from outside the box, either. Modric played good football throughout the match, making pitch-perfect decisions all around, placing perfect forward-thinking passes and just doing everything he did that made Chelsea so interested in him throughout the summer transfer window.
Thankfully, Chelsea didn't land the playmaker after all, which has received a wide range of reactions from Spurs fans throughout the world. I, for one, was first in line to criticize the decision to not take the money in the closing weeks of the window, but now I'm not so sure.
If Modric continues playing like he did today, he'll continue to provide Spurs with the spark they need to keep winning matches. Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy knew what they were doing after all.
Defense Still Needs Work
It's easy to keep a clean sheet against a nine-man side, but there were still a couple of moments that had Tottenham's back line scrambling.
Most notably, Kyle Walker was stripped of possession by Andy Carroll when Suarez poked the loose ball past Brad Friedel, in what looked to be the equalizing goal in the 17th minute. The play was really the best opportunity Liverpool had all afternoon, and Tottenham's back line was all over the place trying to keep up.
In the end, the goal was disallowed as Suarez was ruled to be offside, but the concerns were still there. With the injuries that have haunted the Tottenham defense in the early stages of 2011-12, there are still some vulnerabilities.
The best thing for Tottenham's defensive players was the simple fact that they didn't have much to deal with. Their offensive production and build of play kept the ball out of the defensive half for so much of the match that vulnerabilities never became an issue for more than a couple of minutes.
In the end, Spurs obviously did keep the clean sheet and dominate Liverpool in nearly every facet of the game. So even I'm not entirely sure what I'm whining about.
The 4-4-2 Works Brilliantly
Adebayor and Defoe. Two forwards, side by side, with a brilliantly talented midfield behind them to set up everything they need to convert opportunities.
It's the formation that Redknapp was so hesitant to use, given Rafael van der Vaart's thriving presence in a second-striker type of role back behind a primary forward. But when Van de Vaart suffered a hamstring injury against Manchester City, there was nothing tying Tottenham to the 4-4-1-1 any longer. So they made a few adjustments.
The resulting formation did wonders for them against Wolves last weekend, as both Adebayor and Defoe netted their first of the season. The duo became overwhelming to Wolverhampton's defense, and the tactics did the same to unravel Liverpool's.
Once again, the 4-4-2 ended in both Defoe and Adebayor finding the back of the net, as well as an absolute offensive domination from this Tottenham side.
Given these two results following the restructuring, it's going to be hard to justify going back.
Van Der Vaart Can Play Just Fine in a Traditional Formation
Speaking of Van der Vaart...
The Dutchman was initially expected to be out for six weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered against Manchester City, but returned to fitness significantly earlier than expected, leaving Redknapp with a difficult decision: where to put him.
Van der Vaart came on for Niko Kranjcar at the beginning of the second half, as Redknapp squeezed him into the 4-4-2 to see how he would do.
While he didn't necessarily perform spectacularly, he was adequate enough to justify fitting him in to the formation in the future, as opposed to restructuring the entirety of Tottenham's tactics around his return. He had a couple of good looks, played some well-timed and selfless passes to further the attacking game and was overall a decent fit.
Redknapp could be tempted to still try out the 4-4-1-1 later on this season with Emmanuel Adebayor playing full-forward to see if it could yet be effective. But as of now, if Van der Vaart can keep performing well in the midfield, then that's where he should stay.
Scott Parker Has Some Difficulty Moving Forward
Scott Parker has done some brilliant things for Tottenham in his short stay thus far: tackling beautifully, covering well and thriving in his holding role both on the road and at the Lane.
The problem today was when he tried to move forward and advance the attacking game, which is obviously not his strongest skill.
It happened several times today at the Lane, where Parker would strip a Liverpool man off the ball and try to go forward with it instead of passing it off. Far too often, it would immediately result in him being dispossessed himself and scrambling back to reclaim what was his.
And his forward passing was a bit off as well, often finding a red shirt instead of a teammate.
Luckily for Spurs, it didn't make too much of an impact, and I'm probably being a bit picky with pointing it out. Parker has been instrumental in retrieving the ball so far with Tottenham. He just needs a bit of help figuring out what to do with it afterwards.
Adebayor Will Do Wonders for This Club
Landing Emmanuel Adebayor on loan from Manchester City was hardly the acquisition that Spurs fans expected during the long and mostly uneventful summer transfer window. Not that he wasn't good enough. The surprise came largely in part to the fact that he was a significantly bigger name than many expected to see at White Hart Lane.
And there's the little bit of Tottenham's previous relationship with Togolese striker, which hasn't exactly been sunshine and rainbows.
But Adebayor has been everything that Tottenham could have hoped. Not just in his three goals already recorded in a Tottenham kit, but in nearly ever facet of his play.
He's seemingly always in the ideal position, his footwork has been superb, his vision spectacular and his passing top-notch. If Spurs needed a top-tier striker to bring everything together, then they got exactly what they were missing.
Of course, we already knew this following his role in Tottenham's road victory over Wolves last weekend. But his brace this weekend against Liverpool confirms it: Adebayor is the real deal.
Spurs Can Easily Compete for a Top-4 Finish
Most predictions for the final standings in the EPL table have Manchester United and Manchester City holding a defining lead for the top two spots, with Chelsea easily taking the third.
As for the fourth place slot: it's entirely up for grabs, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs all making a go to secure it before the end of May.
Out of those three, Tottenham were hardly seen as an out-and-out favorite. Following brutal defeats in their first two outings against United and City, it became far too easy to count Spurs out of the running.
But I assure you, better teams than Spurs will fall to the boys from Manchester this season.
Following those opening matches, Tottenham stepped it up, defeating Wolves on the road and Liverpool at White Hart Lane by an extremely telling margin.
And the result was very much fitting for the quality of play that Tottenham displayed against Liverpool, dominating possession, attacking opportunities and hardly letting Liverpool touch the ball. And all while dealing with an extremely concerning tally of injuries from all areas of the pitch prior to the match.
If Liverpool is really in the running for a top four spot, then Spurs just sent the league a very clear message: "don't count us out. We're gunning for Champions League in 2012-13."