An opening day victory shouldn’t mask a Spurs performance that, while decent, was made look a lot more efficient than it was by Rafa’s unmotivated Liverpool side.
There’s little doubt that Spurs were the better team and deserved the points but it’s the weaknesses still prevalent in the team that give cause for concern.
I don’t know how Ledley King keeps going in spite of not training, but he does. He and new signing Sebastien Bassong
were solid against what were disinterested looking opponents in the shape of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. It’s a long time since a seemingly fully-fit Gerrard looked so out-of-sorts but he made close to no impression on the game.
Leaving aside the ineffectivness of Liverpool’s players Spurs remain a team lacking in key areas.
The lack of a left-sided player has been obvious for a number of seasons at Tottenham. I’ve written before about the failed attempts of Martin Jol to fix it with Timothée Atouba and Reto Ziegler – both moved on quickly. Before them Matty Etherington also failed to make a name for himself on the left side. With Ashley Young, Martin Petrov and Stewart Downing all linked in recent months, Redknapp seems to be on the look out for someone. But he really should have nailed it by now.
Frequently in the game, left-back Assou-Ekotto was forced to go backwards as the left-sided Luka Modric was often dragged inside. With no width available Assou-Ekotto found himself under more pressure. The team remains unbalanced.
In the middle it’s clear that Jermaine Jenas isn’t up to it but on the evidence of yesterday Spurs will struggle with Tom Huddlestone there; a talented player whose body seems to be set permanently to “amble”. Hudd doesn’t read the game well enough to be one of those players who can cover a quarter of the pitch during the game yet still find himself in the right position to influence it enough.
Wilson Palacios might be one of the most effective all-round midfielders Spurs have had since the eighties but he also infuriates. A couple of times during the game he tried a fancy back flick rather than retaining possession. True, he chases back and more often than not will retrieve the situation but he needs to show more maturity.
Aaron Lennon, who was wonderful last year, had some great moments. But he emphasised his greatest flaw when, after charging half the length of the field and dribbling around several Liverpool players, he fluffed his lines at the cruical moment, losing the ball on the edge of the box. Redknapp needs to put the video on repeat and draw some lines and circles on it for his benefit. He had three teammates within a short pass and he found none of them.
Up front we may be seeing the sad demise of Robbie Keane, a player who a number of fans may not have seen the value in buying back from Liverpool after his disappointing spell there. He really should have had at least two goals in the first half, probably three. And with Jermaine Defoe playing quite well and making some quality runs, it could be that Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko (a very good finisher who suffers from a lack of pace) will be the odd pair out.
Peter Crouch made a much-cheereed return to the club where it all began for him and although he wasn’t involved much I do have high hopes for him. The much-discussed worry is that Spurs will resort to a route one approach when other options are available and indeed that was witnessed yesterday as the otherwise impressive right-back Vedran Corluka made a couple of pointless long crosses towards him from deep that were easily swallowed up by the Liverpool defence.
All in all it was an encouraging start from a Spurs team who in recent seasons have been making a habit of taking points off the top four. They need to get it right consistently but they’re going to need a left-sided player and midfield playmaker to achieve this.
Ratings (out of 10 – subs rated if played more than 20 minutes)
Spurs: Gomes (5), Bassong (7), Corluka (7), King (7), Assou-Ekotto (6.5), Huddlestone (6), Lennon (6.5), Palacios (7.5), Modric (6) (O’Hara 83), Keane (5) (Crouch 68 (6)), Defoe (6.5) (Pavlyuchenko 90+2)
Liverpool: Reina (8), Johnson (7), Insua (7), Carragher (6), Skrtel (6) (Ayala 75), Gerrard (5), Mascherano (6), Lucas (5), Torres (5), Kuyt (5) (Voronin 79), Babel (5) (Benayoun 67 (7))