Earning our Spurs eh?
While Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion came to stifle, and yes, yes, Jose Mourinho’s side was the obvious joke when it came to statements about them being the ideal warm up for taking on a Tony Pulis (Pew-liss) powered entity, Tottenham Hotspur were a bit more amenable to the concept of just putting the ball down and having a go at playing football.
Indeed, they were two heavily altered line-ups, but the ethos of the two managers’ remained the same, despite the sweeping changes to the on-field personnel. League Cup nights can be glorious things sometimes.
You have to admire the modern-day Spurs willingness to ‘go for it’. Football has changed over the course of the last five years and Spurs have changed with it. The fear has gone from football for many clubs. Many clubs are playing with a greater freedom. Be it the Luis Suarez factor, or the Manchester City charge for heavy-duty silverware having been lead by Sergio Aguero, there has been a defined shift from the ‘curl up into a ball, protect your genitals and hope for minimal bruises’ style of football many clubs have opted for over the last 15 to 20 years.
Of course, Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce not being in gainful Premier League employment helps with this concept immeasurably, but there are signs generally of clubs embracing the things they can do, rather than clinging to things they can’t do. Not many clubs take to the field of play feeling like they’re already beaten anymore.
Leicester City won the title last season and prosper in the Champions League so far this season because they’ve been prepared to ‘go for it’. The power of positivity is proving to be an irresistible force. It’s why Mourinho is taking on the image of yesterdays’ man more and more with each passing week. He is the standard barer of negativity in an increasingly positive Premier League community. It is a style of man-management and tactics that would have won the Serie A title year in, year out during the 1970s and 80s. He’s trying to rule by fear and intimidation at a peace-rally.
Mauricio Pochettino does it differently. His team are allowed to stand toe-to-toe with opposing sides and slug it out. They often have the greater power, but it feels like they have a weak chin. High on artistry, brave to a fault, capable of achieving something substantial, but if you catch them off-guard you can turn out their lights. Spurs are essentially Thomas ‘The Hit Man’ Hearns. They can, and will take on all-comers, but somewhere along the way they’ll get knocked over.
That Spurs got to a point last season, where they stood as the only realistic alternative to Leicester winning the Premier League, but then contrived to finish behind Arsenal couldn’t have been any more Spurs of them. It is something which is part of their strange and bewitching beauty. Throw in Arsene Wenger’s sensitive young dudes over at the Emirates, and North London is the undisputed capital of performance art when it comes to football in this country. It’s all very chic, it’s all very boho. It’s music, drama and comedy rolled into one. It’s as much a Fringe Festival as it is a festival of football. Artists however don’t always get the job done. Symphonies do go unfinished.
Where does that place us?
First and foremost, Jürgen Klopp wants to get the job done. Then he wants the whistles and bells secondary. He is demanding, without being blunt, functional first and artistic second. If Spurs are Hearns and Arsenal are throwing out shapes like Sugar Ray Leonard, then maybe we’re a Marvellous Marvin Haglar in the making. Manchester United the Roberto Duran to Manchester City’s Patrick Moore with a sawn off shotgun.
You couldn’t learn mass amounts about the personnel on show last night, as not many of them are likely to be involved at Selhurst Park on Saturday evening. It was all about the aesthetics. The shapes and the movement, which was very much the same shapes and movement you’d hope to, maybe expect to see against Crystal Palace.
Goals for Daniel Sturridge and chances to have racked up a cricket score going begging from multiple culprits. The same outcome as it was against West Brom. Score, score again, dominate proceedings, then concede a goal against the run of play, be a touch nervous for the last section of the game. Unnecessary occurrences towards the end of games that we could easily find ourselves punished for on other days.
We like the League Cup at Anfield, but you just wonder if Jürgen Klopp has reset his expectations about the remainder of this season. Pretty strong line-ups at Burton Albion and Derby County spoke of a manager taking the competition very seriously. 11 changes to the side which started against West Brom for the visit of Spurs sends out a different statement, a confusing statement to a degree. It was a serious performance put on by a line-up which didn’t feel too serious when seen on paper. Happily, we don’t play on paper and Jürgen Klopp is a man you could never envisage taking any game anything less than seriously.
I think Jürgen Klopp looks at his players a bit differently to the way he did when we went to Burton and Derby. Maybe more so those who didn’t play last night, but Jürgen Klopp’s players are earning their spurs.