As solid as Liverpool were on Saturday, executing almost the perfect away performance, Tottenham were no doubt the ultimate architects of their own downfall at Wembley. Practically every sweeping counter from the Reds owed in some part to a Tottenham error and Liverpool’s first goal was laced with them.
Toby Alderweireld inexplicably kicked the ball straight into the frame of Roberto Firmino on the halfway line, Christian Eriksen then headed it to Sadio Mane and Michel Vorm then failed to deal with a corner – parrying into danger where Georginio Wijnaldum popped up to grab his first ever goal on the road in the Premier League by sneaking a header between his countryman’s grasp and the crossbar.
Indeed, there was a strange nervousness about Spurs – perhaps because Mauricio Pochettino has so sternly criticised their last two performances, including one that resulted in a 3-0 win at Old Trafford, perhaps because of a genuine fearfulness of how suddenly efficient this Liverpool team appears to be – and Danny Rose’s individual display epitomised the collective Tottenham performance.
Prior to kickoff, when we asked Tottenham fans who should start at left-back, it was Rose who won our poll ahead of Ben Davies with a whopping 85% of the vote, but that call proved to be ill-fated for both Lilywhites supporters and Pochettino.
In fairness, the England international wasn’t culpable for costly defensive errors in quite the same way as many of his team-mates, but his performance still lacked the incisiveness, awareness and precision we’ve come to expect from a full-back once deemed arguably the best No.3 in Europe. Rose committed two fouls without managing a single tackle, was twice robbed of the ball, suffered four unsuccessful touches and perhaps most tellingly of all completed just 64% of his passes.
There is a caveat here in that Rose pushed so high up the pitch, acting almost as a wing-back alongside Tottenham’s diamond midfield, so many of his attempted passes were into dangerous areas. But in some senses to, that only highlights Spurs’ lack of focus; despite Liverpool’s front three causing so many problems, neither he nor Kieran Trippier took the initiative to sit alongside Alderweireld or Jan Vertonghen – even temporarily – to try and alleviate pressure on two centre-halves who were left with simply too much to do.
World Cup fatigue is becoming a real issue for Spurs after so many of their players were involved in the latter stages of Russia 2018. But that’s true for a number of top Premier League clubs and not all of those Tottenham players – including Rose – played a particularly prominent role at the summer tournament. At this point, that tiredness feels more psychological than physical, and it’s translating into nervous, sloppy displays.
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