Jurgen Klopp has had only three training sessions with his full Liverpool squad, but Dave Tindall believes there is room for cautious optimism after the draw at Spurs.
After all that smiling and excitement of his first week at Anfield, Klopp simply wore a look of satisfaction after kicking off his Liverpool reign with a spirited 0-0 draw away to Tottenham.
OK, a clean sheet and a point isn’t exactly ‘heavy metal’ but he certainly got a tune out of this Reds side, who had conceded in each of their last eight games under Brendan Rodgers.
In theory, Liverpool could have been there for the taking against a Spurs team that hadn’t lost since the opening day of the season.
With Daniel Sturridge, Christian Benteke, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Danny Ings all absent – that’s well over £100million of mostly forward talent – it was hard to envisage where the goals would come from. And so it would prove.
The news of Sturridge’s unexpected absence saw Liverpool’s odds drift out to 12/5 from 19/10 pre-match while in-form Spurs cut to 13/10 clear favourites. The non-emotional cash was very much being wagered on a Spurs win.
In the circumstances, perhaps a 0-0 was the best Liverpool could have hoped for so fair play to Klopp for making sure it happened.
The biggest bright spot for Liverpool was that, from the very first whistle until the 20th minute, they already had the hallmarks of a Klopp team. They pressed, they harried, they seized the early momentum. Adam Lallana looked like a man possessed and an impressive start almost became a dream one when Divock Origi headed against the bar following a corner.
Inevitably, the Klopp-inspired sugar rush wore off and midway through the first half, Spurs, who had clearly been knocked out of their stride, wrestled back the initiative.
There were chances for the hosts – mainly gifted by Liverpool’s defence, who won’t be cured overnight – but Simon Mignolet showed his prowess as a shotstopper to deny the lively Clinton N’Jie while Mamadou Sakho threw himself in front of Dele Alli’s follow-up. Mignolet again came to the resuce to deny Harry Kane.
Had Liverpool blown themselves out? Half-time allowed them to regroup and, more importantly, gave Klopp the chance to deliver his message again.
And it worked. In the latter stages of the Rodgers regime, second 45s for Liverpool fans were a mixture of gathering tension and final-whistle disappointment. At White Hart Lane today, there was relatively little panic.
Perhaps knowing that he was up against the better boxer, Klopp got his men to smother and not become too open. Spurs couldn’t land the punches and this looked a draw from a long way out.
Tottenham weren’t allowed to show any of the swagger they produced in the 4-1 home win over leaders Manchester City but they always had enough in defence and midfield (Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele were excellent) to have little fear of a Liverpool counter-punch, especially with Origi looking what he was – a third or fourth-choice striker.
A pumped-up Liverpool team under a new manager versus a Tottenham side coming back from an international break; yes, 0-0 made plenty of sense.
BT’s ‘Kloppcam’ arguably provided more entertainment at times although it was actually turned off for the two most insightful moments. First, when he bellowed a huge “Jaaaaa (yes)” for a blood-and-thunder Emre Can challenge and, secondly, when he snapped at Jordan Ibe for looking too lackadaisical when coming on as a late substitute.
That lack of striking options from the bench was an obvious problem for the Reds today. Clearly, substitutions are a vital element in Klopp’s high-octane ‘gegenpressing’ as starters (Lallana noticeably) begin to tire as the match goes on.
This is a concern for Liverpool further down the line. Unlike Germany, the Premier League doesn’t have a winter break. How can a small pool of players expect to give their all in four games in 10 days over Christmas? This is just one of the many things Klopp will have to work out.
But, as he showed in his post-match interview with BT when admitting he hadn’t started to think yet about Thursday’s Europa League fixture with Rubin, the former Borussia Dortmund coach is very much thinking about the here and now.
“I’m happy with this result as I saw many good things,” said Klopp.
“I was impressed today. I can work with this. 0-0 is not my dream result but it was okay.”
There would have been much mirth and mickey-taking from rival fans had Liverpool lost today after all the building up of Klopp as the new messiah. But a 0-0 at Spurs represents a solid first step in what promises to be an exciting journey.
The debate over stats versus good old common sense has raged in recent weeks and ex-Red Steve McManaman put himself very much in the latter camp afterwards. Come on Steve, get with it!
So how about this for an early example of Klopp’s influence:
- Liverpool made 50 more sprints than Spurs (614 v 564) & were the 1st team to run further in a PL game than Spurs this season. Gegenpress
Some other stats to note:
- Yet again, Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho had the best passing accuracy of any Reds player (89.4% and that’s actually less than usual!). Despite a tendency to look ungainly, the Frenchman again showed his ability to launch Liverpool attacks with crisp passes out of defence. A number of times he eschewed the obvious headed clearance by taking the ball on his chest and releasing it quickly and accurately.
- The best passing rate belonged to Moussa Dembele with 90.6%. And this wasn’t just square passes in his own half. His accuracy in the opposition half was 88.9% so he used possession wisely and effectively going forward.
- Harry Kane had a match-high four shots at goal, two of those on target. You get the sense that the Kane of last season would have buried them both. Fair play to Simon Mignolet for keeping him out but, despite giving Martin Skrtel a tough time, Kane still has plenty of doubters to shake off his back. Their main evidence is that he’s scored just one goal in his 12 starts for Tottenham this season.
- Liverpool had 51.6% of possession to Tottenham’s 48.4. Perhaps, surprisingly for those who thought the Merseysiders might run out of gas, the second-half split was 56.6%-43.4% in Liverpool’s favour. Nathaniel Clyne, in particular, showed excellent energy levels deep into the match.