From Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – It would be easy to look at Spurs’ 2-1 defeat at home to Liverpool on Sunday as a clear step backwards.
And, well, yeah, that’s the case for top teams whenever they lose. You don’t have the luxury of stumbling and having it swept under the rug. You have your cake and eat it – just ask Graham Potter about the developing differences of managing Brighton and Chelsea.
Tottenham have stumbled through the 2022/23 season so far. They have yet to hit the free-scoring heights of Antonio Conte’s debut season, but they still sit comfortably in the top four and have reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Even after the Reds’ victory, Jurgen Klopp’s men sit seven points behind Spurs in the Premier League table.
The north Londoners went into Sunday’s clash with two of their four star forwards injured, while one – Harry Kane – was fit enough to start. Wing-back Ivan Perisic started up front.
Either side of Mohamed Salah’s well-taken opener, Spurs attacked Liverpool with thrust in their drilled structure. Sides of years gone by would have been clueless only having Kane to lean on as their main source of both goals and creativity, and this was the first clear positive.
But after Eric Dier gifted Salah his brace, Tottenham ultimately had too much to do. They were in the ascendency for much of the day and had the Reds on the ropes, but couldn’t quite land the killer blows required. That’s at least understandable without the likes of Son Heung-min and Richarlison.
When Dejan Kulusevski returned from a hamstring injury in the second half, Spurs’ attack went up a gear and the Swede instantly provided an assist for Kane. Down the stretch, his wicked crossing ability had Liverpool panicking and confirmed theories from the last few weeks – he’s needed in order to attack with consistent menace.
Tottenham head into the final week of the pre-World Cup calendar disappointed that they didn’t take anything from this encounter, though this was a marked improvement on some slow and subpar displays in the last couple of months. With Kulusevski now fit and Son and Richarlison to return in December, there’s a clear roadmap for Spurs’ season to kick into gear.
But Conte has stressed – much like his predecessors – the process of bridging the gap to England and Europe’s elite won’t be an instant one. He’s already pointed to making fewer mistakes in the transfer market, and it remains clear that the gap between Tottenham’s best and worst starters is simply too big in such a competitive Premier League. They need as much surgery in the next couple of transfer windows as possible if higher-ups are serious about matching Conte’s ambitions and demands.
These are obvious problems, and so in theory there should be obvious solutions. Spurs are in a good position at this point in the season and have great scope to improve performances. They just need to stick to their script.