Liverpool started with a fluid attacking 4-3-3, and a surprising Matip-Lucas centre-back partnership, while Tottenham played a compact 4-2-3-1.
Tottenham played with a high defensive line and were compact as usual. A risky move considering the pace of Liverpool attackers. A high line requires persistent pressing from the forwards, which Barcelona perfected in the Guardiola era, and organisation of effective offside traps.
During the first half, Tottenham did not press well enough which gave the Liverpool midfield time to pick passes. Consequently, Mane broke through the offside trap to run onto a through ball from Wijnaldum to score the first goal.
Liverpool defenders also made sure to not waste time on the ball, as evidenced by 3 of the 4 defenders making more long balls than square passes. Lucas had 7 long balls to 3 square passes, Clyne had 7 long passes to 2 square passes. Milner had 9 long passes to 3 square passes. Only Matip had more square passes than long passes.
Also, the Tottenham back 5 did not look comfortable on the ball. Dier was caught sleeping on the ball for the second goal. Even Lloris made a mistake on the ball that was not punished.
The entire strategy backfired.
Second half was more evenly contested because Tottenham played a little deeper and more aggressive, as evidenced by committing more fouls in the second half (9) than in the first (5), and more yellow cards in the second (5) than in the first (1).
Tottenham’s talisman, Christian Eriksen, had a night to forget. He completed just 14 passes, success rate of 64%, and failed to create any chance, complete a cross, or a successful take-on.
Questions would be raised about the mentality of the Tottenham squad, they have won 2, drawn 3, and lost 2, against the other top 6 teams this season, and lost more than 8 of the last 17 matches against the other teams in the top 6. For Liverpool, it is another case of rising to the occasion for a top match.