What a breathtaking performance. Having been rather pessimistic all week in the build-up to this run of December fixtures, Liverpool have somehow overturned the form book and decimated Tottenham at White Hart Lane for 5 (yes, five). More importantly, this could be the coming of age of one particular Red, Jordan Henderson.
The whole team did terrific. Henderson’s English compatriots Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan, both Academy graduates, got a goal each. Sterling was the one who really got Liverpool going in the game with his dribbling down the right flank, causing Kyle Naughton so much problems he was hauled off at half-time for Zeki Fryers, who fared no better. Flanagan, starting again in place of Jose Enrique and ahead of Aly Cissokho, played with his usual fervour and was strong in the tackle. He seemed unfazed by Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker, instead rampaging towards the Spurs’ end, getting Walker booked and having a goal himself – a magnificent and skilfully-executed half-volley that made it 3-0.
Much was worried about how Liverpool’s injury-ravaged midfield would cope with Tottenham’s steel and power. How would the small-statured Joe Allen, one-paced Lucas and patched-up Henderson deal with Spurs’ trio of Moussa Dembele, Sandro and Paulinho? Well, as it turned out, the latter trio was out-moved, outplayed and out-passed by Liverpool’s magnificent trio. Allen looks to have really hit some form after his Everton horror show, improving upon his improved performance last weekend against West Ham. Lucas got the tackles in and disrupted Spurs’ rhythm and flow, and got a well deserved break midway through the second-half.
Luis Suarez, as ever, was tonight’s Captain Fantastic in place of injured skipper Steven Gerrard, and boy did he lead by example, scoring a sublime first and hitting the Reds’ fourth with a superb chip over the advancing Hugo Lloris. 17 goals this season already – Sergio Aguero might have thought he narrowed the margin for the Golden Boot yesterday, but Suarez has extended his lead once again.
Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel held firm again, with Sakho domineering in the air. Simon Mignolet, who had no Spurs shot on his goal, will be delighted to have kept a clean sheet, though he’d have expect such an easy ride.
Henderson: Man, Moment, Machine.
But the moment belonged to that man, Henderson. Liverpool fans and Brendan Rodgers’ worry whether he’d be fit for the game was proven right. Time after time Henderson burst forward in support of Suarez. The first goal was all about his burst beyond the striker that allowed him to poke the ball for Suarez to finish.
Henderson got one better for Liverpool’s second, finishing a difficult chance after he and Suarez drew top saves from Lloris. The Englishman was even involved in the third, back heeling near the byline for Suarez to find Flanagan at the far post for the full-back’s goal. His work rate along with the other two unsung heroes in midfield gave Liverpool the platform to build their attacks and defend their lead. Gerrard might be fearing for his place now if this trio can keep up their good work for the month of December.
Complacency Against Cardiff?
The biggest positive for Rodgers as a whole was the way his players always looked a threat every time they had the ball. They were always looking to get on the front foot and fashion an opening. The way Liverpool played today should be the way they play every game against the “better” or top sides. No more sitting back and containing, they should be going out and trying to score at every opportunity.
Well the fear now is that Liverpool could become complacent against a tricky Cardiff side. It’s going to be at Anfield, now a formidable fortress, so a nailed-on victory then? If that is their mentality going into next weekend’s game, Liverpool will be in for a huge shock. Cardiff has already won against Manchester City and drew with Manchester United, they pose a threat in attack with former Red Craig Bellamy, Peter Odemwingie and former United man Frazier Campbell, all capable of hurting the Reds.
Rodgers will want to play the same team for this one, and rightly so. But most importantly will be the mentality he sets them up to play. It should really be all guns blazing again, especially since its at Anfield, and try to get an early goal. Sterling and Henderson to support Suarez again, and Allen and Lucas need to concentrate and maintain control of the midfield. Coutinho, who was probably the worst performer against Spurs (though slightly harsh), needs to up his game, try to get in with either goals or assists. His pinpoint through balls are not coming off at the minute, but hopefully he rediscover some form against Cardiff.
Before this week I hoped that Liverpool would gain 3 points from the away fixtures to Spurs, City and Chelsea. With 3 already in the bag from today’s performance at Spurs, Liverpool can, in a way, play with less pressure at City and Chelsea – only if Rodgers’ side win at Cardiff next weekend.