By Kelvin YapFollow @@plevyakin
The result was a peculiar one in the sense that Liverpool's three goals came from errors while Tottenham's goals boiled down more to luck at set pieces than actual intent.
However, the game turned out to be an interesting one which revealed a lot about each side.
Horizontal vs Vertical
There was a distinct pattern in the match - Tottenham dominated possession in the middle of the pitch but Liverpool were more lethal in the final third with direct attacks coming down the flank.
This was strange in the sense that this was the opposite of what both teams would normally do - Brendan Rodgers prefers his side to keep the ball and look for the opening patiently while Andre Villas-Boas makes good use of his side's speed on the counter-attack.
It was only due to injury that both teams had to change their style. Joe Allen was not fully fit and Rodgers decided to go for a central midfield combo of Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva - neither of whom are adept at keeping the ball with short passes. It didn't help that they were deployed as a two-man midfield, as opposed to the three in the middle that is usually used.
Spurs were missing Aaron Lennon from a hamstring injury and they had no other winger left in the team (Gareth Bale was playing as a second striker), and Villas-Boas chose to play Moussa Dembele there instead. It was logical as he played as a winger earlier in his career, but the Belgian's behaviour on the pitch was that of a central midfielder, which meant that he was always looking to tuck in and exchange passes with the central midfielders.
The above situation created a very entertaining game - teams usually face off with similiar strategies to occupy the same areas of the pitch, but both Liverpool and Tottenham were effectively trying fight to get the ball into a different part of the pitch.
Liverpool shows how to defend against a Bale-led defence
The two goals Liverpool conceded detracted from an exemplary defensive performance against Tottenham - something that Arsenal fans would have wanted to see after their side were torn apart by Spurs in last week's north London derby.
Tottenham's biggest threat comes from their speed which helps them exploits space behind defences and the two goals they scored last week were evidence of how lethal they can be against a high defensive line.
Rodgers was smart about it this time by setting a deep back line, but it was his actions to restrict Bale that was noteworthy; he predicted that Bale would be given a free-roaming role right behind the striker, and he set Lucas in a man-marking role to make sure he is constantly goal-side of Bale.
It denied Bale two things he could do to threaten Liverpool's goal when receiving the ball high up the pitch - 1) the initial burst of speed to pierce the back line 2) the space to cut in and take a long shot.
In the end, Bale really threatened only when he shifted out to the flank. Tottenham's best chance from open play came when Bale received the ball at the halfway line, went on the counter and delivered a cross which ended up with Sigurdsson missing a glorious chance.
This showed a lot on how efficient a player is when given a different role on the pitch - Bale's pace doesn't do him justice when he receives the ball just in front of the opponent's defence as he has too little space to accelerate into and his aerial ability is also poor (he won only 36% of his headers in the match), which means he doesn't receive the ball as well as someone like Emmanuel Adebayor would..
Given how his delivery has improved (he sent in both crosses which led to Tottenham's goals), Villas-Boas should consider deploying him as a genuine winger and use Adebayor along Defoe, rather than conforming to the "Bale is Britain's Cristiano Ronaldo" hype and deploy him in a Ronaldo-esque role.
Tottenham gloss over possession
It's ironic that Liverpool, who have conceded results due to Rodgers' obsession with keeping the ball, won the game because Tottenham were themselves overly-obsessed with possession in this game.
Villas-Boas' men were unwilling to risk losing the ball and, to be fair, were excellent in forming intricate passing movements in midfield. The drawback came when they were so determined to keep the ball that the midfielders were willing to take the long pass back to keeper from 40 yards out (there were two obvious occasions in the first half where this happened).
Therefore, it wasn't much of a shock when Liverpool scored their second goal because of Kyle Walker's bungled pass from the halfway line - in fact, it won't be surprising if Rodgers specifically instructed his front players to keep their eye out for such a situation as well.
Walker had a poor overall game as well as he was at fault for the first goal.
Granted, Philippe Coutinho showed impressive skill and tenacity to set up Enrique down the line, but Walker was woefully slow to react (especially for someone who sprints across the length of the field and back in 15 seconds) and showed the Spaniard too much space in the box when he had two more team mates coming to help close the Liverpool man down.
The game could be an ominous telling of each team's fate in the following weeks, especially if the injuries to Lennon and Allen prove to be long term ones.
Villas-Boas will have to learn to cope without a pace merchant and reconsider how he deploys Bale after he failed to shine as a second striker twice (he had a quiet game against Arsenal as well). Perhaps a call to reinstate Bale as a winger and start with two strikers up front to play a possession-based game would be the right thing to do, if their performances in the recent two games are anything to go by.
As for Liverpool, it's encouraging to see them finally beat a top five side, and without Rodgers emphasising the need to keep the ball all the time as well.
With Allen set to undergo surgery, Rodgers will definitely have to rethink his midfield shape especially when he plans to use 4-4-2 if he wants to accommodate both Coutinho and Sturridge as having a midfield duo of Gerrard and Lucas will provide them the means to attack and defend, but at a price of being able to keep possession.
Now that the season is nearing the 'squeaky bum time', it will be interesting to see how each of the two team react to the changes in style they are forced to make.