The game against the Hammers was, for all intents and purposes, a must win and a time to recuperate on a horrendously looking goal difference. Win we did and although visibly happy after the final whistle, it was an insatiable emotion that took over a few seconds later leading to anti-climax conclusion that left me riling that our goal difference read -1, and, moreover, Stoke City were still ahead due to the afore mentioned parameter. Goal difference should never be overlooked and such an importance can only be emphasized in a season which is turning out to be one of the most competitive campaigns in the splendid history of top flight English football.
West Ham offered little in all areas. Slow to react, playing a lone and lost striker, a complete lack of cohesion between departments meant that Green was in for a torrid evening against a wounded Liverpool side missing the drive and status of Steven Gerrard. Green produced some World class saves in a struggle for damage limitation, but it was a Liverpool side that genuinely failed to deliver the goods in the second half after a splendid first forty-five, in which, most notably, El Nino failed to get on the score sheet. True to say, Liverpool should have scored one or two more but there is still reason to be satisfied. This was not your typical six nil thrashing where one player shines above the rest and scores a hat-trick. Liverpool’s win was a collective effort, the team bound as a working unit wanting to impress the home crowd and more importantly to bounce back after the Stoke reversal. If only the players can use this performance as an example of how best to approach games, especially away from home, then I’m sure we can hope for better days ahead. Hodgson himself seemed visibly agitated towards the end of the game and must have been unhappy that the scoreline only read three nil.
Tottenham host the Reds next this coming Sunday and this promises to be an entertaining game of football. Tottenham have only lost once at home this season, and this was back in August against Wigan. Since then Spurs have won three and have drawn three. Last Saturday’s triumph over arch-rivals Arsenal will be a much required boost for Harry Redknapp’s team having rediscovered winning ways against Blackburn the previous week. The North London derby continues to expose how Tottenham can turn things round after the break. The matches against Arsenal and Internazionale away from home are just two examples. The London club seems to kick start after half-time. On average, the first goal is scored around the 50th minute and half-time scores at White Hart Lane have typically been square at 0-0 or 1-1.
Tottenham are good value when coming back from behind but take time to settle in. It is not typical for Spurs to start with a high tempo. Liverpool must not be complacent. Defending the flanks will be key. We’ve seen Roy introduce the double, triple marking concept which is reminiscent of the “catenaccio” method used to devastating effect by Italian clubs such as Juventus and even the Italian national side. In this sense, Konchesky will be needing support as his defensive performances have been average to say the least. Back-up is a must. Doubling up on an opponent has a weak point in that position recovery needs to be swift. The usual positional discipline must be adhered to at all times especially against teams which can hurt if given the slightest of opportunities and Tottenham will have studied the weak characters in our side and the full backs will be number one targets.
An important factor is that Tottenham have leaked goals consistently. Seven goals conceded at home or an average of one goal let in per game played means Liverpool must ask questions of Totteham’s defense from the first minute. Defending deep is a certain recipe for disaster. Joe Cole may be fit for the first team but I would suggest against throwing the ex-Chelsea man in the thick of it all from the start. It is important not to disturb the delicate balance in the team and to deploy Maxi and Kuyt as forward suppliers to Torres. Lucas back in the team means we will have more of a tackling and inventive menace in midfield. Hodgson can opt to revert to the usual 4-3-2-1 formation playing Miereles, Lucas and Poulsen in the middle with Maxi, Kuyt just behind Torres. Lucas will be roaming in between Poulsen and Miereles hopefully mopping anything that gets through the middle. Kuyt and Maxi’s secondary function will be thwarting attacks going down the flanks – useless trying to defend determined attacks so stopping the menace up-field is important.
Liverpool have ample time to prepare for the big match. Spurs will be playing Werder Bremen in the Champions League on Wednesday and this will undoubtedly be a distraction for Sunday’s clash. Whatever the result on Wednesday, it will take a good 24 hours to get it out of the system which gives Redknapp little time to prime his players for the match against Liverpool. Hodgson and company will be studying the CL game in an effort to spot any deficiencies. Buoyed by the result at the Emirates, Spurs will expect a victory against Bremen inevitably increasing confidence levels which many times results in the unwanted effect of underestimating next opponents. Defending must be top notch on Sunday. Both teams will be up for it and both will want to consolidate positions near the top four. Tottenham is not an insurmountable hurdle – what Liverpool fans don’t want is another Stoke repeat, and, consequently a well deserved defeat. Good luck Roy, Liverpool.