Tottenham is movin’ on up.
Not only have Spurs won 3 times and lost only once over the first 4 weekends of the 2018-19 Premier League season, they also downed the Hindenburg on Matchday 3. Or at least, that’s how everyone reacted. A 3-0 triumph over Manchester United caused nothing less than an international crisis, as supporters wept, gnashed teeth, and plotted to assassinate United’s manager José Mourinho.
Overseas shock-rags didn’t help, screaming that either Mourinho would be fired, or that a full-scale mutiny would occur in the United dressing room thanks to Tottenham’s win. Someone could have reminded the tabloid authors that it was only Matchday 3.
The EPL media’s over-reactions have a sort of schoolboy quality, as if that spurned 6th-grade Valentine feeling will last forever and ever. Tottenham found out quickly that time marches on, losing to Watford in a 2-1 result last weekend.
Tottenham hosts 4-0-0 Liverpool at Wembley Stadium this Saturday, in a match that will occur (as usual) in the AM in America. Odds are tight with only a slight moneyline edge going to the visitors. But one wonders just how the British media will react if the Reds crash and burn in their 5th match. Will they act like the planet itself is being destroyed? Or like the Solar System is being eaten by a massive black hole?
Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is currently injured and unlikely to play this time around. So if Tottenham wins the fixture anyway, it might feel like the end of the world to Liverpool supporters…but it won’t be.
Another quirk of EPL press coverage that new soccer gamblers must get used to is the over-hyped coverage of injuries and roster moves (real or imaginary). For instance, while preparing to write this prediction, I was duped by a shock headline that read, “Major Injury in Goal for Liverpool!!!”
I surfed to the so-called “soccer news” page and breathlessly waited for it to load. Did something happen to Alisson?
Instead, the story referred to Simon Mignolet, a reserve Liverpool keeper who appears to have been injured while training for an international friendly with Scotland. A soccer-fan acquaintance put it best when asked about the effects of the “major” injury – “Simon who?”
But ignoring the aimless noise and click-bait headlines, we can see that there is actually some real restlessness within each club’s brass…and of course at least one injury that will actually affect this Saturday’s contest.
Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool is said to be talking to French midfielder Adrien Rabiot of Paris Saint-Germain. Meanwhile, “Super Jan” Vertonghen is seeking a contract extension from Tottenham, while defender Toby Alderweireld (whose name my laptop hilariously always wants to change to “Toby Underwear”) could also be in limbo with Spurs soon.
Seems like the club better make hay while the sun shines. It’s not proving to be easy with 2nd-string keeper Michel Vorm minding the net until Lloris comes back.
The rumblings about Tottenham’s future backline depth chart probably didn’t result from the team’s 2-1 loss to Watford last weekend, but the disappointing result surely didn’t help. The Hornets’ hot 4-0 start has been an unexpected delight, but Spurs probably felt like the road loss wasn’t inevitable. In fact, Tottenham scored first – albeit on an own-goal – and controlled the match with about 2/3rds of the total ball possession, but only managed 2 on-target shots while Vorm gave up 2 goals in the 2nd half.
Liverpool’s win last weekend was not without episodes. For instance, Alisson made a spectacular blunder when he got caught far from the goal-mouth and wound up tripping over the end line. The result was a goal for Leicester City midfielder Rachid Ghezzal.
But the Reds’ goalkeeping phenom rebounded to stay clean the rest of the way, and Roberto Firmino’s goal in the 45th minute was enough to give the Reds their 4th-straight win to open the season.
World Cup hero Harry Kane did not score in the loss to Watford, but the English attacker is still dangerous any time he steps on the pitch. Without their #1 keeper, Spurs best chance to win on Saturday is to keep midfielders like Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli involved in the offense, utilizing Mauricio Pochettino’s trademark 4-2-3-1 to control possession and limit chances going the other way.
Vorm will undoubtedly be tested again, this time by dangerous forwards like Salah and Sadio Mané. As important as Alisson’s presence is, and as crucial as the skillful and deep Liverpool attack might be to the result the match at Wembley, I’m especially struck by how durable the Reds’ traditional 4-4-3 formation is proving to be under stress.
Many clubs would have cracked after giving up a terrible tally to help a classy opponent like Leicester draw within a single goal at King Power Stadium. Instead, Liverpool was able to continue its attack without sacrificing anything in its own end.
Leicester City’s chances weren’t all that numerous even in desperation, and ultimately the media would praise the Reds (even their blundering keeper) for looking like a team that can make mistakes and still win matches.
That sort of resiliency could give Liverpool a leg-up as they face an opponent without its French gold medalist behind the backline.
The Reds’ moneyline is set at a conservative (+150) for a 1.5-to-1 payoff on the winner. I’ll take that bet.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.