The inside track on Liverpool...
24 August 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Our new feature 'inside track' continues as James Pearce, Liverpool reporter for the Liverpool Echo, gives us the lowdown on the men from Anfield ahead of Saturday's Premier League encounter at White Hart Lane.
James Pearce, Liverpool Echo
Spurs were Jurgen Klopp’s first opponents in a Premier League encounter at the Lane in October last year. How has the team developed since then?
James: "I'd say the Liverpool team has developed significantly since that day at White Hart Lane. The most memorable thing from that game was how Liverpool buzzed around the pitch non-stop for 90 minutes. The style has developed since then and I don't think you'll see the same shift they put in that day. They have been troubled a lot by inconsistency. Last season he put that down to the sheer schedule, and Liverpool ended up playing 63 games across all competitions.There were some fantastic results along the way - the double over City, beating Chelsea - but there were some poor defeats as well against the likes of Swansea, Watford and Newcastle. Over the summer, he's put his own stamp on the squad. He didn't sign anyone in January but seven new players have arrived this summer and he's shipped out a dozen. He's certainly strengthened a lot of the weaknesses but there are still a few areas that need to be addressed."
Below: Dele Alli and Adam Lallana battle it out in the goalless draw at the Lane last October
How much of a surprise was the defeat at Burnley last weekend? It's fair to say that result took a few people back after the way Liverpool played at Arsenal...
James: "It was a bit of a shock. It was a throwback to last season and fans hoped days like that were consigned to the history books. The win at Arsenal was thrilling to watch, but you could still pick a lot of holes in the performance. Liverpool started slowly and it was that blistering 20-minute spell in the second half that won them the game. The big issue at Turf Moor was they gave Burnley to hold onto inside a few minutes (Burnley went 1-0 up on four minutes). Burnley then got men behind the ball and looked to frustrate Liverpool. I think it was a record percentage of possession in a defeat in the Premier League so you couldn't say Liverpool played badly, they dominated, but it was too predictable."
Below: Joel Matip in action for Liverpool at Burton on Tuesday night
How do you see Liverpool's targets this season?
James: "It has to be top four. It's never been as competitive for those spots with the money United and City have spent, Chelsea, Tottenham are bound to be a force, Arsenal, Everton already look better under Koeman. The big thing last season was that Liverpool's league form disintegrated a bit in the last few months when Klopp started to prioritise Europe and probably rightly with the realisation that Liverpool's best way of getting back into the Champions League was through the Europa League. Obviously with no Europe this time around, Klopp has the time on the training ground he didn't have last season, he's had a full pre-season and brought in his own players. I think fans expect to see Liverpool up there competing for the top four."
Below: Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp pictured in the 1-1 draw at Anfield in April
Looking towards Saturday, how do you think Liverpool will line-up?
James: "I think we're looking Mignolet in goal, Clyne certainly right-back and the interesting one will be at centre-half because Matip, who they signed from Schalke, hasn't played the first two Premier League games but if he's come through the EFL Cup tie at Burton he will be first choice alongside Lovren. Left-back is a bit of a problem area and I imagine Milner will play at Tottenham ahead of Moreno. Emre Can will probably make his first Premier League start of the season in midfield. He came back late from the Euros and Liverpool have missed him. It has been Henderson and Wijnaldum so far in the deeper midfield roles but I think he'll find room for Can. Klopp plays a 4-3-3 with Lallana as the third central midfielder further advanced, Coutinho and Firmino and then it's a toss up between Origi and Sturridge as to who leads the line. Having said that, at Arsenal he played Firmino in the 'false 9' and left out Sturridge and Origi, so he may even go that way again. Mane was a big miss at Burnley but he's also back."
Below: Last time out - 90-second highlights of our 1-1 draw at Anfield in April
Finally, what do you make of Spurs and how do you think it will go on Saturday?
James: "I think Spurs have actually gone under the radar a little. You had such a good, young side last season and I personally believe you will be in the top four again. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if you were competing for the title again. Victor Wanyama is a really good addition, with that physical presence. The two games between the teams last season were good to watch with two pretty similar styles, both team intent on pressing high and I think it will be an open game. I think it's got the makings of a 2-2 draw, something like that."