Nathan from Talking Tottenham Tactics gives us his views on how we will line up versus Jurgen Klopp's team at the Lane on Saturday.
While I wouldn’t call our shape against Crystal Palace 4-4-2, I would concede that it was 4-4-2-ish. Eriksen and Lamela swapped sides to behave more like traditional wingers. And Kane, in the 10 role, often moved in to the centre-forward positions we are used to seeing him in.
Wide, a little flat and enough crosses to grade a GCSE exam paper, there was something very old-school about last weekend’s performance. And just in the way many of The Lane’s old-guard expect this method of football and bash the more modern, continental style I am of the exact opposite. I wasn’t impressed with Saturday’s performance but Michael Caley’s expected goals method returned an outcome of 2.0 goals for the chances we created an a pathetic 0.4 for Palace.
Without Dembele or Dele in the team versus Palace we lacked a control of, and ability to move the ball through, the central areas
I can’t argue against how well we prevented Palace from creating any kind of threat but I didn’t think we created as well as the statistics indicate. Probably, my bias against our style of play last Saturday skewed my perception of how well we applied it.
I do understand and accepted why we played that way though. Without Dembele or Dele in the team we lacked a control of, and ability to move the ball through, the central areas. We saw this in the first half against Everton. Wanyama and Dier simply aren’t creative enough to allow us to carry on as normal and it leaves Eriksen and Lamela, and so in turn Kane, out of the game. So we adjusted, we went wide and made use of the combined physical presence of Kane and Janssen and it did work.
It’s worth noting just how poor Palace are at the moment. Pardew seems to have latched on to the idea of making his team play attractive, attacking football regardless of the opposition or his ability to coach it. This culminated in a laughable central midfield pairing of Cabaye and Puncheon in the second half.
So, I’m not the biggest fan of the Wanyama – Dier pairing. Wanyama’s performance was impressive, and capped with a goal but, tactically, I’d really like to have seen a more creative alternative – Carroll, Winks or even Mason.
Liverpool have been playing two box-to-box types in Henderson and Wijnaldum. That’s because, while the counter-press is important to us; to Klopp, the counter-press is everything
Having said that, I actually wouldn’t be against continuing with the Wanyama – Dier pivot this weekend due to the nature of the opposition. Where we are currently playing two defensive midfielders, Liverpool have been playing two box-to-box types in Henderson and Wijnaldum. That’s because, while the counter-press is important to us; to Klopp, the counter-press is everything. And when the counter-press is everything it makes sense to start a midfield pairing who are all energy and transitions.
This leaves their defence poorly shielded and, a little like us, lacking creativity in deep areas. With counter-pressing as the sole-creator Liverpool have a hard time against teams who refuse to come out of their own half.
This was very much on display last weekend when Liverpool tried to switch the play from side-to-side in order to unlock Burnley but they did so without speed, guile, creativity or central penetration.
Much to the ire of raging fitness twitter egg Raymong Verheijen, Liverpool started a strong team mid-week resulting in a knock to Liverpool’s only defensive mid, Emre Can, so Liverpool will likely line-up with the same issues in midfield.
Pochettino will never park the bus but he is happy to play direct and come out on top with a lesser share of the possession (like in the 4-0 victory over Stoke last season). Starting Wanyama and Dier in a more open, end-to-end game makes a lot of sense. Protection in the central areas – a platform upon which to unleash the more attacking players in to the space Liverpool leave behind them.
Dele as the most Dembele-like player in the squad I’d really like to see him deployed back in the central midfield role he played early last season
If there was ever a player suited to playing against Liverpool it’s Mousa Dembele. His resistance to pressing is absolutely second to none. His two performances against Liverpool last season saw him absolutely flounder the Liverpool press. It’s a crying shame that this fixture had to happen during his suspension.
Dier and Wanyama don’t offer anywhere near the same level of press resistance, though they would be aided if we were to persist with both Janssen and Kane in the team. Two options who can battle for long, hopeful balls in the air if that is the only way to break out of Liverpool’s pressing cage.
That would deny a start to one of Eriksen or Dele though. Eriksen has had a rough pair of games under contract speculation and questions from the fans but he still remains a crucial player, one who is not worth unsettling. Dele, who was ill last week, came off the bench in to his usual no.10/narrow left role where he immediately created a brilliant chance for Janssen.
However, as the most Dembele-like player in the squad I’d really like to see him deployed back in the central midfield role he played early last season. Although his first touch can be dodgy his ability to skip away with the ball in to space could be crucial in preventing Liverpool from giving us a taste of our own medicine.
With a more open game Lamela and Eriksen could be returned to their usual flanks which would not only favour them individually, but means the more in-form Lamela would be up against either Moreno or Milner.