16 Conclusions On Spurs 0 Liverpool 5

The most impressive performance of the Premier League season? So says Daniel Storey, who also worries for AVB's future. Spurs look dangerously mid-table, that's for sure...

Last Updated: 16/12/13 at 09:31 Post Comment

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* Wowsers. Coming into this match the two pertinent questions were whether Spurs could continue their mini-revival and whether Brendan Rodgers' side could arrest their away slump.

Both queries were replied in the equivalent manner of someone screaming the answer into your ear. Liverpool were dreamy, the performance described by manager Brendan Rodgers as "the most complete during his time at the club", whilst Spurs were a total disintegration of a side.

Given the resurgence of Everton and Arsenal and the assumed presence of Chelsea and Manchester City towards the top of the table, it would be reasonable to assume that a maximum of one of these two sides will be playing Champions League football next season. If that's indeed true, there is currently only one logical answer. Again, it was effectively screamed at us.

* Some victories, particularly those away from home, can be described as plucky or fortunate, but this was nothing of the sort. Liverpool ran Spurs ragged throughout a first half in which they had 12 shots and 59% possession. That seven of Liverpool's shots in the first half were from inside the area demonstrates just how easy it was to get behind their opponents' back line and create chances.

After the break, they failed to let up, particularly after the dismissal of Paulinho, and fully deserved their five-goal lead by the final whistle. Liverpool had 20 shots in total, 13 of which were in the box and ten of which were on target. This was utter domination, from start to finish.

The worst aspect for Spurs is that this could genuinely have been eight or nine. Factoring in Mamadou Sakho's header against the post, Philippe Coutinho striking a post and Luis Suarez spurning two one-on-ones, it is no exaggeration to claim that we could have been looking at records being broken for home Premier League defeats. That's fairly striking in a match between fifth and sixth at kick-off.

* So, what ceiling, if any, do we put on Liverpool's potential achievements this season? Is there any reason to believe that they cannot be title challengers, sitting two points off top spot going into the Christmas period?

The first immediate conclusion is that this was, without doubt, the most impressive performance in the Premier League this season. Manchester City have been utterly ruthless at home, but doing so away from home (and against an opponent with real quality) is a very different matter, and Liverpool ticked each and every box.

Jordan Henderson was majestic, Raheem Sterling continuously dangerous, Joe Allen solid at the base of midfield and Luis Suarez his imperious self. Only one of those statements did I truly expect to be making before kick-off.

One impressive aspect of the performance is the young players that Liverpool can now call on to turn in such a wonderful display. Of the 13 players utilised, nine are aged 24 or under. That's a fantastic base for continued success. Finally, it is also rather easy to forget that this was achieved with a squad missing Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard through injury. That's 12 league goals and eight assists taken out of the side.

Making assumptions and predictions has been a dangerous game where Liverpool are concerned, but are becoming less and less risky. On this form, the top four should be the least of the club's ambitions.

* It's all very well winning matches in the Europa League, and it's great to beat strugglers such as Fulham and Sunderland, but Andre Villas-Boas will only ever be judged on the fixtures against those teams likely to be competing for similar places. The defeat to West Ham may have been more feeble and the loss at home to Newcastle more surprising, but this was humiliating for a very different reason - like Manchester City a fortnight ago, it highlighted perfectly the worrying gap between Spurs' current level and that of those around them.

If the job of the manager is to get his players performing to their full potential, then Andre Villas-Boas is simply not performing up to task. On this evidence, such questions are perfectly valid. It is not yet necessarily terminal for AVB (although Daniel Levy will be the man to make that particular decision), but nor does it look particularly inspiring either.

The question must therefore now be asked - should AVB lose his job? We have been huge fans of the Portuguese at 365Towers, but this display lacked tooth, desire, heart, discipline, attacking verve, coherence or any apparent cohesion. That's the sort of situation that soon ends in an exercise in desk-clearing.

* In many ways, this could have been billed as the tale of two strikers. Whilst Roberto Soldado toiled and suffered yet again, Luis Suarez yet again proved his almost immeasurable worth to Liverpool.

It is a scenario that can be expressed in rather pithy manner - in 11 Premier League games, Luis Suarez has scored two more goals than Spurs have in their 16 matches.

* When does Soldado move from 'struggling' to 'flop' in our reasonable judgement? The continued excuse is that Soldado is starved of service, but he had three more than reasonable chances to test Simon Mignolet, and yet hit the target with none of his three efforts on goal. For Suarez, six of his seven shots required saves.

It is clear that Spurs never created enough attacking spark to adequately supply their Spaniard, but when you pay £26million for an international forward, do you not expect a degree of autonomy in creating chances for yourself? Jermain Defoe has been roundly castigated by Spurs fans, but the fact is that Spurs failed to register a single shot on target with Soldado as the lone striker. Something has to give.

* Whilst the first goal owed much to the composure of Suarez, Jordan Henderson's effect cannot be underestimated. It was his run in behind Michael Dawson that initiated danger, and even when Dawson slid to intercept the pass, Henderson was the quickest to get a touch on the ball and send it through to his Uruguayan team-mate.

* The same thing also played out perfectly for Liverpool's second. Henderson drove forward and was found by an excellent first-touch pass from Philippe Coutinho. His first effort was actually pretty weak, but when presented with the second opportunity on the volley, Henderson guided it home for his first league goal of the season.

Henderson struggled immensely to justify his fee early in his time at Anfield, but Steven Gerrard's (orJoe Allen as his replacement on Sunday) move into more of a defensive quarter-back role has allowed Henderson to operate higher up the pitch.

He is currently reaping the rewards of the absolving of some defensive responsibility. He was rightly named as Man of the Match, his forward runs effectively creating the first three goals, and there are now genuine reasons to believe that Henderson is finally beginning to truly grow into his place in Liverpool's first-choice side. It is damn easy to forget he's still just 23.

* In August, after a piece I wrote about Premier League teams not investing enough in defence, several Spurs responded angrily that I had referenced their transfer business negatively. Kaboul was back, I was told, And Dawson was strong. Spurs would be fine.

I call to the stand Walker, Capoue, Dawson and Naughton. Of course they have injuries, but as soon as that defensive line-up was named, you worried for Spurs. I'm not even sure if that's top-half standard, let alone top four.

We'll come to Naughton, for he deserves his own conclusion, but Capoue in particular struggled understandably to deal with the presence of such an in-form forward, whilst Dawson's first two notable contributions were the slip-slide challenge for the opening goal, and the clothes line on Henderson that will see him miss Tottenham's next match.

* We'll come to Naughton right now, actually.

Tottenham's first-choice left-back is Danny Rose, who is possibly England's fifth choice behind Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Kieran Gibbs and Luke Shaw. Whilst that might not be an ideal situation, it's a whole lot more ideal than Kyle Naughton, taught a thorough lesson by Raheem Sterling, a 19-year-old not even in Roy Hodgson's first-choice England squad.

Naughton had already given away two fouls on Sterling by the time Spurs fell behind, the goal forcing AVB to move Dembele to offer assistance to his left-back. Time and again he looked forlorn during a first half in which he won just one of his duels and made less than 70% of his passes. You weren't sure whether you wanted him to be shouted at, cuddled or just taken to the vets and not brought home.

It was a performance more Championship than Champions League, and when you are replaced at half-time by a 21-year-old with 67 minutes of Premier League experience, it rather epitomises what everyone is thinking. Potentially the worst individual half of football of the season so far.

* Has a Premier League defender ever suffered such a rapid fall from grace as Michael Dawson? It's less than two months since Glenn Hoddle and Ledley King wrote columns expressing their surprise at Spurs' captain's omission from the national team, but Roy Hodgson has been proved right, right and a thousand more times right.

Since then, Dawson has done a decent impression of a man not totally in control of limbs or mind, and not completely trusting of his own ability to move and think at coinciding times. Booed by his own fans after shanking a clearance out after 40 minutes effectively sums up the Spurs' supporters' current feelings towards their skipper. In times of injury and strife, a captain is expected to rally his troops and raise his head above the parapet. Unfortunately, Dawson has done the opposite.

* It is easy to overlook given Spurs' comparative bluntness, but Jon Flanagan rather came of age at White Hart Lane. Facing a combination of Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon down the Spurs right, there were very real concerns for Flanagan's wellbeing before the game, particularly given the presence of Coutinho ahead of him, not necessarily a defensive winger.

Instead, Flanagan proved me (and doubtless many others besides) wrong. His pass accuracy of 89% was almost 20% better than Johnson on the opposite flank, and the threat from Walker and Lennon was expertly nullified. In fact, he actually offered more going forward than England's reserve right-back (a phrase that is enough to make you shudder).

Clearly a defender's work should never be judged on goals, but the unadulterated joy on Flanagan's face following his wonderful finish for Liverpool's third should warm the cockles of your Christmas heart. This was a man completely joyous with his lot.

* Looking at the teams that Spurs have beaten in the league this season hammers a significant number of nails into AVB's coffin.

Crystal Palace, Swansea, Norwich, Cardiff, Aston Villa, Hull, Fulham and Sunderland.

Not one team above tenth in the table has been defeated, with matches against Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton returning a grand total of three points.

AVB has effectively created a mid-table side.

* Paulinho can act with disbelief all he likes, but his challenge was fairly disgraceful. It wasn't just that the Brazilian had his foot so high as to risk contact, but that he changed the direction of his boot so as to connect with the Liverpool forward.

Of course Suarez may have made the most of any potential injury, but no fault can be labelled against the Uruguayan. Paulinho had become frustrated, particularly after having to move into a more defensive role after Sandro's injury, and took out his dissatisfaction in stupid retribution.

* Discussing Suarez before the game, the absent Steven Gerrard remarked that Suarez had been brilliant "considering what he had been through". Because that bitey racism sure can drain a man.

Still, justice was served oh so sweetly. It may be naughty rather than nice, but Santa will surely bring this girl all the presents her heart desires. Fine, fine work.

* After the departure of Gareth Bale in the summer, much was written about the Premier League losing its world-class stars to La Liga. Show those people Luis Suarez's second goal, and ask for a written apology. It made me make naughty noises at my desk.

Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

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