Tottenham Beat Liverpool but Still Have Questions to Answer

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2012

Mousa Dembele was back in action for Tottenham in the 2-1 defeat of Liverpool.
Mousa Dembele was back in action for Tottenham in the 2-1 defeat of Liverpool.Julian Finney/Getty Images

Wednesday night's meeting between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool was the first between the two clubs since Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers were appointed as their respective managers.

Both men might have been sitting in the opposite technical areas had Spurs and Liverpool followed up their reported interest in the other man, though it may have merely been newspaper speculation.

Tottenham's 2-1 win was not undeserved in the respect that they defended well enough in holding onto their lead after taking the initiative early on.

But equally, the visitors have every right to be disappointed that they did not come away with more from White Hart Lane, with Rodgers telling Sky Sports in his post-match interview, "I don't think we can come here and play any better than that".

The point at which the passing game that Rodgers is trying to implement at Liverpool is second nature to his players is a little way off yet.

Even then, they will likely not begin to approach its apex until two or three more players with serious quality can be brought in to improve upon those already there, especially in key defensive players.

With every game, the Reds are increasingly adhering to their manager's intended style of play, moving the ball around with sense, skill and speed.

Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and now even Jose Enrique have the ability to get in amongst defenders, putting the opposition on the backfoot in precarious positions to try to make the most of the possession that has gotten them there.

It was, however, in those defensive positions in which Liverpool are less assured that Spurs took advantage; in particular, that first goal demonstrated the quality at Villas-Boas' disposal as Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon combined superbly.

There is nothing wrong with a smash-and-grab victory (if you can call it that with the goals coming so early), and most importantly, it was a second consecutive win for a team that had endured a poor November prior to that point.

After a very positive performance against West Ham United however, there is no denying that this display was something of a comedown.

It was a reminder that under Villas-Boas, Spurs have not yet found a way of fully combating and striking against better sides like Liverpool (which, despite being in mid-table, they are).

To be fair to the Portuguese, his team has beaten Manchester United this season and, for short periods, played some terrific football against Arsenal and, in particular, Chelsea.

But beyond hitting them on the counter-attack, Spurs have struggled to compete as well against stronger outfits like these and have seemed nowhere near as capable of outplaying them to the extent that they have others.

Tottenham's toughest test in December will likely come away at Everton in two weeks.

What the busy Christmas fixture list does present though is the chance for this football team to really hone their craft as the games come thick and fast, with the hope being that they will be better prepared by the time that they cross paths with the Premier League's best again.

In this respect, there are some key areas to watch and see how Spurs might develop over the coming month.

There is the issue of Tottenham's best defensive lineup with places becoming more intensely contested with Michael Dawson staking his claim once more and both Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul hoping to not be too far from fitness.

Emmanuel Adebayor's return from suspension will once again pose the question of the best way to utilize both he and Jermain Defoe up front and whether Spurs will be better served with a front two or by using a lone striker supported by a deeper-lying attacking midfield.

And then there is the midfield.

Against Liverpool, the returning Mousa Dembele put himself about with considerable vigor in an appearance that understandably was also about him getting his rhythm back.

However, as welcomed a sight as that was, the passing of Tom Huddlestone (who was displaced by the Belgian) was conspicuous by its absence, as Spurs struggled to keep hold of the ball and put Liverpool under some pressure of their own.

Dembele is unlikely to come out of the team, so it begs the question of how Spurs might retain and create better.

Villas-Boas has considerable options in central midfield with Tom Carroll and Gylfi Sigurdsson looking to stake their own claim for a regular place as well as Jake Livermore and the soon-to-be-fit Scott Parker looking to compete with Sandro for that defensive midfield berth.

All in all, it makes for what should be a compelling December, one that may well define just what kind of team Tottenham will be in the remainder of this campaign.


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