I never thought I would be saying this about a Spurs side, but if they keep a clean sheet on Sunday, it would be their sixth straight clean sheet in a row. Tottenham have not conceded one goal over the Christmas period, a remarkable statistic considering their ineptness at the back in recent years. Under both Martin Jol and Juande Ramos, the Spurs back four was undeniably shaky, but Harry Redknapp has seemingly been able to adjust the team’s defensive organisation to a point where they now can be confident of keeping clean sheets either home or away.
No doubt some of this is down to a stable central defensive pairing, and Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong have done an admirable job in keeping a secure backline. Such performances have definitely contributed to Spurs’s successful season so far and to why Tottenham lie fourth, four points ahead of weekend opponents Liverpool. The bedrock of Tottenham’s clean sheet streak, Michael Dawson, knows how important another good defensive performance would be against the Reds:
I was scoring goals a few weeks ago but I said clean sheets were the most important thing. Since then we’ve kept five and that’s fantastic from my point of view and the team’s point of view. Hopefully we can keep this run going. We’re four points clear of Liverpool at the moment and hopefully we’ll make it seven by Sunday. We’re striving for the top four, Liverpool as well.
For me, this maybe the crucial difference for Spurs in their pursuit for fourth place this season, compared to previous attempts. Tottenham have always been good going forward, but their Achilles’ heel has always been the ability to keep out the opposition. With Liverpool as fragile as they are at the moment, Tottenham maybe playing the Merseysiders at the perfect time. On a clean sheet streak of five games, if they keep another at Anfield on Sunday, they will have a great chance of not only drawing but winning the game.
Of course, keeping a clean sheet at Anfield is easier said than done and Fernando Torres will be a tremendous threat to Tottenham’s ambitions. However, Torres still needs his team-mates to help out but in recent games Liverpool’s creativity has not been what it can be. Last time out they drew with Reading, a team that had conceded four against Plymouth the previous week, against Aston Villa, Liverpool relied on a lucky rebound for the ball to fall into the path of Torres, and against Wolves at home, the Reds had to wait until Wolves were down to ten men before they broke through in the second half.
If Spurs keep it tight for the first half, I think Liverpool will begin to run out of ideas and if Spurs get a crucial goal, the Reds may find it difficult to break Spurs down, similarly to what they found against Arsenal in the second half when they were 2-1 behind. You wouldn’t say the Gunners have the best defence in the world but it was still more than a match for a Liverpool side, fragile on confidence and low on ideas. I am not downplaying the difficulty of winning at Anfield but I believe the time is right, both in terms of Tottenham’s defence and Liverpool’s lack of attacking options, that a win is in the London club’s grasp.