Liverpool hosted Tottenham Hotspur in the evening game. Fully knowing that a win was the only option. With the two Manchester Clubs now both putting a good run together, the gap between the 5 clubs fighting for the final 3 places for the Champions League was getting smaller.
Thankfully we were boosted by Sadio Mané. Our abysmal decline in form since New Year coincided with the absence of Senegal forward Mané, who missed seven matches when he represented his country at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Over that period of time we just managed one win, slipping from Chelsea’s nearest title challengers to fifth place and going out of both domestic cup competitions.
Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lucas, Milner; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Lallana; Coutinho, Firmino, Mané.
Subs used: Klavan, Alexander-Arnold, Can.
- Wijnaldum in for Can was the only change from the game against Hull City.
- Mane has been involved in 15 league goals for Liverpool this season (11 goals, four assists), more than any of his team-mates.
- Lovren and Klavan failed late fitness tests, Klavan making the bench.
- Lucas playing his best game as centre-back alongside Matip.
- Clyne, Lallana and Mané exploited Tottenham’s defensive frailties.
Return to the old routine
Sadio Mané impressed in the first half of the season following his £34m arrival from Southampton – his pace, energy and clinical finishing contributing heavily to Liverpool’s success. Without him, they struggled to break down opponents. They had no-one running beyond the back four – stretching the defensive line.
With him, they tore apart Tottenham in the opening quarter, lifting Liverpool’s recent gloom by scoring twice in two first-half minutes to see off top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. The forward put the Reds ahead when he ran onto Georginio Wijnaldum’s pass, holding off Ben Davies to fire in. He then doubled the lead 138 seconds later, pouncing on a loose ball from close range after keeper Hugo Lloris denied Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino.
The week off just training clearly worked, plenty of drills on the training ground where we actually witnessed a few good corners. There was even an incident where Tottenham had a free-kick, learning lessons from their games Coutinho was crouched behind the wall, ready to block should the ball be delivered below the wall!
Spurs couldn’t handle the Reds
While Liverpool had not won in five games, Tottenham were playing with confidence and fluency in a 15-match streak which had seen them beaten just once. However against Liverpool Harry Kane was isolated up front, while midfielders Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen were virtually anonymous in the opposition half.
Spurs could not handle the speed of thought, or the speed of movement, of the home side, it was like watching Liverpool from earlier in the season. Second-placed Spurs rarely threatened and their best chance fell to forward Son Heung-min, whose fierce, angled shot was blocked by Reds keeper Simon Mignolet shortly after Mane’s second goal.
Glad to have Mané back
Mané wanted more and almost came close to another quickfire treble, only to be denied again by the over-exposed Lloris. He was running and closing down at every opportunity.
When Firmino, who worked so hard came deep to win the ball or press the life out of Tottenham, Mané came inside, this also allowed Lallana who almost played an inside right position to exploit the gap even more and make the defensive line even more run-ragged.
Liverpool midfield trio
Liverpool played a midfield trio which completely unbalanced Tottenham. Disrupting Spurs and retaining possession. Clearly something is now working as it’s the middle of midfield that’s been a Liverpool weakness recently. Before this game the last time Henderson played with both Lallana and Wijnaldum was the 4-1 win against Stoke in December.
They have started 23 games together now in the midfield three, winning nine, drawing two and just losing once. Scoring a massive 30 goals in the process. By contrast without the trio they have won five, drawn five and lost three, scoring 22 goals.
Lallana and Wijnaldum have high-energy levels and allow Henderson more time on the ball to control and dictate our play. It was Wijnaldum’s speed and incisive action that provided the superb assist for the first goal. His quick thinking alongside Firmino coming deep and Lallana that underpinned the success the team had all game. It was truly magnificent to watch.
What next for LIverpool?
Liverpool are now able to have 15-days before the next game against Leicester City. This is one of the benefits of not being in Europe and having been knocked out the two domestic cups. It could be a blessing in disguise as Klopp now has a lot of time to really return to greatness.
This’ll also allow them to formulate a plan to break down teams who sit deep with two banks of four. Hopefully with the fluid play being restored they will have enough to be able to close the gap on Chelsea. We really need to start a good run and i’m now more confident than ever it will happen. With just 13 games left, there is no reason why we can’t get a minimum of 33 points.
What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment.
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