Liverpool’s focus on Coutinho fails to break Tottenham
Despite looking good at the break thanks to a James Milner penalty, Jurgen Klopp's men could not come out on top in a tightly contested battle
Liverpool’s extended road trip at the beginning of the Premier League season continued on Saturday as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
The redevelopment of Anfield has forced Jurgen Klopp’s side on their travels throughout August and a tricky start to the campaign concluded by securing a point in North London.
James Milner gave the visitors the lead a couple of minutes before the break from the penalty spot but they were pegged back through Danny Rose after the interval.
It was clear where the German felt his side could best get an advantage over their opponents, as they channelled almost half their attacks down their left-hand side of the pitch, where star man Philippe Coutinho was stationed. Sadio Mane on the opposite flank was not ignored, while only 26 per cent of the Reds’ forays into opposition territory came through the centre.
This contrasted sharply with their hosts’ approach, which was exceptionally well balanced down each of these three main sectors.
Despite the tactical differences between the sides, neither was able to gain a significant advantage. Indeed, the numbers produced by the two clubs over the course of the match were close to identical in every category. Liverpool shaded possession and total passes, but not by such a margin that they were able to gain any significant upper hand in the match.
What was notable about the Anfield’s sides statistics, though, was that many of their key numbers were down on their usual, indicating that Tottenham’s defensive strategy was effective. In the first three matches this term, Liverpool have completed on average 586 passes per match with 83% accuracy – on Saturday that was reduced to only 431 passes at 74% accuracy.
Spurs were also down in these categories, but by significantly less than their rivals, suggesting that it was manager Mauricio Pochettino’s tactical blueprint that was more effectively imposed.
Indeed, the home team were also more effective in getting the ball into more effective shooting areas. Despite their deficit in possession, they outshot their opponents nine to seven, with one extra effort on target. Harry Kane, though, will be forced to wait on his first ever August Premier League goal for another year.
As the statistics would suggest, there was little to separate these sides over the course of the match and a draw was a fair outcome. While a draw preserves Liverpool’s unbeaten run against Spurs, which now stretches eight games, both teams are left with only one victory through the opening month of the season.