Each of the teams vying for a place in the top four in the Premier League have put forward at least one eye-catching display, either domestically or in Europe. Liverpool’s 5-0 win away at Tottenham was their turn to put in a fantastic performance and use it as the impetus to push on.
Tottenham’s performance doesn’t accurately portray the mindset going into this game. Initially, there would have been a feeling from Spurs fans that they could get a result, such has been the recent history of results in this fixture in their favour. At the same time, Liverpool would have been well aware that they were travelling to a top four rival who, recent form aside, are capable of denting their Champions League aspirations. From the outset, no one could have predicted such a gulf in quality.
What Rodgers has now is a reference point for his team when it appears as though their backs are against the wall. They’ve won convincingly at a tough away ground without Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard in the squad. It’s proof that they can do it, and the fact that they put five past Spurs should provide Rodgers confidence that he has players in his team who can not only put in winning performances, but also performances that really make a statement. Tottenham were poor; abject, in fact. Liverpool could have won by two or three goals, or they could have gone for the jugular. The fact that they did is the biggest take away from this result.
Liverpool, however, will need to remain grounded and focused. Nothing has been secured yet. They’ve taken an impressive win that keeps them second in the league and joint on points with Chelsea – a Chelsea team whose riches and resources far outstretch that of Brendan Rodgers’ side.
But as I’ve said on multiple occasions this season, Liverpool are not the finished article. Yes, they were aided in their performance by a Tottenham side who were set up to produce little and in turn work in Liverpool’s favour: the high line deployed by Andre Villas-Boas was the perfect foil for Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling, as well as Jordan Henderson’s industrious performance. But not every game will be so inviting.
It’s also not to say that the top four is a sure thing. Liverpool have benefitted from a schedule that sees them play every weekend with no interruptions midweek, but that changes going into the Christmas schedule and beyond, with the FA Cup adding a potential problem. Why is it a problem? We’re not too far removed from Rodgers bemoaning the lack of quality in his squad. As good as Suarez is, will he be able to play every game from now until the end of the season? Sturridge has already suffered a long-term injury and will have to rediscover his form upon his return.
Liverpool needed a performance for themselves, not just as a statement to the rest of the league. They’ve beaten a poor Manchester United team at home and also recorded big wins against West Brom and Norwich. But something else was needed to convince themselves that they do have the killer instinct to put bigger teams away convincingly.
They played an in-form Arsenal at the start of December and were outplayed, with both Suarez and Sturridge kept relatively quiet. With upcoming games against Chelsea and Manchester City, Rodgers’ side needed a confidence boost of their own abilities in big games. Yes, Tottenham have problems of their own, but the biggest statement is in the size of Liverpool’s win and not just the win itself.