Snappy Spurs stun Citizens
Tottenham deservedly won at home against league leaders Manchester City this weekend. Seemingly inspired by the way Celtic caused City problems in midweek with high pressing and direct attacking, Spurs used both masterly to outplay their visitors and condemn them to their first defeat under Pep. Something that was lost in most summaries of the game, despite a fleeting acknowledgement of Wanyama’s excellent display on MOTD2, was the effectiveness of Spurs’s frequent, snappy fouls. The high press and the quick passing was vital, but so was their niggling ability to physically impose themselves onto City without the referee ever dishing out real punishment. This has been an under observed hallmark of Pochettino’s Spurs, whose end-of-season meltdown at Chelsea was in part due to the ever present physical bite being pushed into overdrive by the situation and a provocative opponent. Perhaps City’s greatest failing on Sunday, rather than being outplayed, was failing to return the home side’s highly-strung physicality.
Klopp’s turned corner
For all the media fawning, Klopp’s time in England thus far has been plagued by inconsistency. For every time that it seemed that ‘heavy metal football’ was arriving at Anfield, they gave an easy win to a comfortable opponent. It seemed, even at the beginning of this season after losing to Burnley, that Klopp’s Liverpool lacked the resolve to win when not playing at their best. Recently however, a corner may well have been turned. Their match at Swansea was precisely the sort of game they have previously lost; their high-tempo best was absent from a first half that the Swans thoroughly deserved to lead. However, by the end, they had ground out a win without ever getting close to top gear. For the first time under the hipster’s favourite, Liverpool won without playing very well. This, perhaps more than the headline-grabbing wins, should give Liverpool fans the biggest cheer.
Squads give Chelsea and Everton the Blues
Normally, there would not be too much to report from the results Everton and Chelsea obtained on the weekend. The former took a point from a dogged Palace, while Chelsea comfortably won away at Hull. However, the two clubs share a growing concern after promising beginnings for new managers. Koeman and Conte are both fine managers, and will no doubt turn their respective mini-slumps around if given time, especially with the latter already facing his Russian overlord peering over his shoulder. However, both seem to have been really hindered in their given tasks by the people who hired them. Both were hired to radically alter what had come before. Koeman arrived with a reputation of steel and drive that would stop the shakes left by the years under Martinez. Conte meanwhile was a domestic powerhouse, whose Juventus side played with exhilarating aggression that battered teams into submission.
Both of these two were asked to change so much, yet look to have been hindered for the time being by their new side’s transfer activity. Everton have strengthened in key areas at the back, but are still overly reliant on inconsistent, flighty forwards that lack the consistent aggression Koeman likes from his front line. Conte meanwhile faces up a similar problem that faced Villas-Boas, as his preference of fast, high-pressure defence cannot work with the likes of Terry, Cahill and Ivanovic comprising most of his first-choice defence. Managers are hired and paid to do good jobs with what they have, and both are hardly lacking in existing talent. However, it is odd that two managers so obviously tasked with radical overhaul weren’t give more help to change what they were initially asked to change.