Wembley, London – There was no red smoke rising from Wembley stadium on Saturday afternoon. The red arrows had not been fully deployed, there was little need barring the final 10 minutes. There had been no blitzkrieg tactics or ambushes of the Tottenham defence. Rather Liverpool made light work of their opponents, taking advantage of careless play to remain unbeaten.
Jurgen Klopp claimed that this was the best victory that he had overseen against Tottenham. In terms of the result, it was – it marked the first victory that Liverpool had managed away at Tottenham since 2014, the only London club that Klopp had failed to bring back the three points from during his tenure.
Five wins out of their opening five matches cannot be argued with – Liverpool are impressing and look a real force this season. This was a statement of intent. This match against Spurs was the biggest test that Klopp’s men have faced this season so far. Wembley is not a stadium that Klopp has the best memories of, losing on all three occasions, until now.
One result can change perceptions, it can make a difference but this win only enhanced what Liverpool have already shown this season – a robust and composed setup with a goal or two never far away. Liverpool are, at the moment, effortlessly flying and that is taking them to the top of the table, with maximum points and having conceded only two goals. The most frightening aspect is that there is more to come from Klopp’s team, although a conscious decision has been made to achieve more control in matches, it is fair to say that the front three are yet to fire on all cylinders this season.
There were more goals to be had here and the Expected Goals measure (xG) suggested exactly that; given the quality of their chances, Liverpool should have scored 3.4 goals. There was fine movement and control in the midfield but none of the turbulence that seemed to follow Liverpool constantly last season whenever they played a fellow ‘big-sixer’. Away games at Wembley, the Emirates and the Etihad last season saw five or more goals in each. Here it seemed too easy, maybe more telling of a lacklustre Spurs side than anything else.
Liverpool were allowed to get away with a lot but were rarely threatened in their own area. Harry Kane, isolated and unusually passive, had only 22 touches in the entire match; Erik Lamela managed the same amount and he was on the pitch for only half-an-hour. However, this was, above all, a show of the collective more than anything else from the team in red.
The pre-season excitement around Anfield has only developed since the campaign has begun, last season’s page has been turned and the new one looks even more enticing. The month that Liverpool now face – with matches against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and Napoli – looks that bit more manageable given Saturday’s result. Everything is looking up for Liverpool and this run has the potential to condition their season.
With five successive wins any defeat in the coming month would not be too damaging, starting brightly produces wriggle-room. But Klopp will not allow any complacency or pragmatism to creep into the mind-set of his players. Security comes from the blossoming partnership of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez along with the energy of Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner rather than previous victories. Klopp will always look forward instead of backwards and, currently, the future looks bright.
By having few difficulties against Spurs, it is hard to see where Liverpool can be got at currently. The last five minutes apart, they looked so sturdy and durable – just like in recent matches – they do not look like they’re going to drop the easy points that have done in the past. There are no fixtures to be feared, no opponents to dread, that’s what makes the coming month so interesting – Liverpool are going up against Europe’s best and they feel confident.
However, with success comes pressure and there will be teams aiming to knock Liverpool out of their stride. That is why dilly-and-dallying in both penalty areas can’t be afforded. Alisson and his defence must learn when and where to play pass backs, only resulting to them when forward options are unavailable. Whilst further up the pitch, Liverpool need to stop trying to score the perfect goal and practising their Arsenal impersonation to regain their ruthlessness. It counted against them on Saturday.
All three of Liverpool’s groupstage opponents won during the weekend – PSG by four goals, Red Star Belgrade by six and Napoli by just the one. However, when Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir blows the final whistle come Tuesday evening, the scoreline will not be the same as the last time – and only time – that he refereed a Liverpool match; ‘that’ 4-3 game against Borussia Dortmund. Rather Liverpool will want to show their increased intelligence in how to beat an opponent with an element of control and togetherness. Just like they have done so far this season.