Angeball frightens both Spurs and Liverpool as pathetic 70 mins transpire into Anfield chaos

Jason Soutar
Liverpool v Tottenham: Ange Postecoglou and Harvey Elliott had very different afternoons
Ange Postecoglou and Harvey Elliott had very different afternoons

Ange Postecoglou at the start of the season: “The amount of times I hear managers saying: ‘I would like to play this way but I don’t have the players…’ “I just think: ‘Just do it mate…’.”

Ange Postecoglou this week: “We need change. Change has to happen. “I’ve got to change this squad, I have to. I’ve got to build a squad I think can play our football. For that to happen, there have to be exits. We’re going to play and train a certain way… that’s not for everyone.”

Hardly hypocritical as Postecoglou is insisting on playing the same way with a squad nowhere near good enough at Anfield, but perhaps the Tottenham head coach should learn that adaptability is an important trait in a manager. Setting up to play an open game at Anfield can be viewed as admirable, but also naive and suicidal.

This game was only going to end one way and Spurs can count themselves lucky they weren’t embarrassed further in Sunday’s 4-2 defeat, somehow making the scoreline a flattering one with two consolation goals in the final 20 minutes.

The conclusion to this match threatened to completely destroy our anti-Ange narrative. It still stands. His team should have conceded at least seven.

Postecoglou has some players capable of playing the way he desires, but nowhere near enough of them. Even those who looked perfect for Angeball at the start of the season have been alarmingly poor in comparison to the opening months of the season. James Maddison was the best player in the league pre-injury. Yves Bissouma was outstanding and now looks out of sorts. Guglielmo Vicario and Micky van de Van have been far from their best recently. Overall, though, Vicario and Van de Ven have had excellent debut seasons in England.

Setting up with Emerson Royal at left-back, but otherwise with the ideal back four and goalkeeper, Tottenham looked to play an open game against Liverpool and their attempts to play out of the back were shaky, to say the least.

Ceding possession of the football in their own box as Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing suffocated Postecoglou’s defenders, it was a plan the Australian refused to alter, leaving his players exposed against one of the best pressing teams in Europe.

You can reap the rewards from playing this kind of way but Spurs looked toothless in attack and offered nothing in midfield in what was one of the most one-sided Premier League halves of the season.

It was 2-0 after 45 minutes but it really ought to have been more. Mohamed Salah – who was named in the starting XI after his touchline spat with Klopp last week – was his usual wasteful self but with his spurned chances came his customary goal, giving the Reds the lead after 16 minutes.

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Liverpool pushed and pushed as Spurs did everything they could to concede goals but the finish was not there until the final moments of the first half. Salah missed one of those big chances but his strike was poorly parried by Vicario, who assisted the easiest goal of Andy Robertson’s career.

Four minutes is all it took for the game to be put to bed once and for all. Emerson Royal, someone who is clearly not made for Angeball, recovered the ball after a poor touch from Salah, only to doddle completely before Harvey Elliott – Sunday’s player of the match – latched on to a poor touch of Royal’s own to deliver a pinpoint cross on to Cody Gakpo’s noggin. A cross that came under no pressure from the makeshift Spurs left-back.

That pathetic sequence of play summarised an awful performance from the Londoners, who could only stand and watch as Elliott capped off his performance with the best goal of his career, skipping past Rodrigo Bentancur and smashing the ball into the top corner from 25 yards. Postage stamp.

The result was in the bag after a difficult run of results for Liverpool and after 70 minutes of everything that is wrong with Angeball, we witnessed a lot of what is great about it; from a Spurs point of view that is. Whether it is played at a high or low level, it is wonderful for the neutral.

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The game somehow finished 4-2, in what was ridiculously flattering for Spurs after being second-best in every department for the opening 70 minutes of the game.

James Maddison and Richarlison were introduced shortly after Liverpool’s fourth and they did make a difference. The latter added a bit of bite to a weak Spurs attack, while Maddison got things ticking in the final third with a decent cameo.

While Liverpool were unlucky not to have an even more handsome lead, Spurs might even look back and think they could have snatched the most unlikely of draws. Heung-min Son missed an absolute sitter after receiving the ball from seven yards out with no defender around him. That threatened to give the visitors a second wind before Richarlison’s goal to make it 4-1, which absolutely did.

Scoring at the same end as he did last season, the former Everton favourite’s celebration was slightly different this time around, but the result was the same.

Liverpool then became more open than Spurs were at any point before. They were getting sliced through as Angeball provided wave after wave of attack. Son got his goal to make it 4-2 and we sat up and wondered if there was a chance.

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Unfortunately for Big Ange, it was too late in the day to snatch a terrific point.

After being convinced for 70 minutes that Postecoglou has to swallow his pride and set up a bit differently in these matches, we are left knowing some people will say ‘The signs are there’ and defending the fact they scored twice and did not lose by more than two.

That is what makes Angeball and Spurs so entertaining, though. While we think they will benefit from a tweak here or there, deep down, we hope they stick with it. Just because it makes for good football matches. And we live for good football matches.

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