How Liverpool stopped Spurs’ key man

Lamela is held back by Lovren


Erik Lamela has had a great start to the season, finally delivering on the promise that saw Spurs pay a club record £30 Million for his services. He was arguably the man of the match in our demolition of QPR, changed the game in Tottenham’s favour with two assists when he came on as a substitute against AEL Limassol and even scored a wonderful goal against World Champions Germany, when called up by Argentina on Friday. A far cry from his injury hit performances last season.

However, amongst the positives there has been one disappointment, Tottenham’s chastening defeat at the hands of Liverpool. It would be wrong to single Lamela out – most of the team were poor, Kaboul and Rose spring to mind. However, the young midfielder was particularly ineffective. No shots, no key passes, no tackles, the lowest passing success rate of all outfield players – he didn’t have a great game.

To be fair to him, he didn’t hide, he kept trying to make something happen. With 84 touches, he was second only to Ettiene Capoue in terms of involvement in the match. It just wasn’t his day, but why?

Of course this early in the season, four games into his rebooted Spurs career, at just 22 years of age, we can’t expect Lamela to be man of the match every game. Equally, it’s hard to play well when the opposition are on top and your teammates aren’t helping. However, Rodger’s tactics were key in keeping the Argentine quiet.

After Spurs demolition of QPR, Liverpool came to White Hart Lane with a clear plan to stop us breaking at speed and specifically to stop Lamela. They carried it out to perfection.

Where QPR gave us all the space we could ask for, Liverpool were the complete opposite. Their pressing and tackling was incredible. Last season they topped the league in tackles won. Here they beat us 28 to 17.

They particularly targeted Lamela, especially when we had an opportunity to break. The second he got clear in midfield an opposition player was on him, slowing him down and putting him off his stride. Often this would involve subtle, niggly fouls; small pushes and pulls checking his runs, putting him off balance. It was a clever tactic and many times the referee let these go.

Lamela was still the most fouled player on the pitch. This graphic, from the excellent FourFourTwo Stats Zone, shows how he was fouled almost exclusively in the middle third of the pitch. Before he could get into a dangerous area:

Lamela fouled

Click on the image to see full graphic on FourFourTwo site

Below is a table of the players who were dispossessed the most often in the match. Lamela is out in front by some distance:

Dispossessed / Turned over
Erik Lamela 13
Emmanuel Adebayor 8
Daniel Sturridge 5
Christian Eriksen 4

The equivalent table for players fouled tells a similar story:

Erik Lamela 7
Raheem Sterling 3
Javier Manquillo 3

We can’t expect Lamela to be the man of the match every time he puts on a Spurs shirt. It is a sign of his progress this season that he was singled out for special attention.

Liverpool are a very good team and probably the best in the league at executing this kind of plan. Let’s hope other teams don’t learn from this game and manage to successfully copy Rodger’s tactics.

Follow me on Twitter: @ABPSpurs

Does Lamela need to prove himself against a top side? Let me know in the comments below.

Football stuff at Amazon
Fascinating football tactics book Spurs away shirt Tottenham Biography

13 thoughts on “How Liverpool stopped Spurs’ key man

  1. SP

    Liverpool were good. They tactics were right. They won.

    But Phil Dowdy was an absolute joke – and not for the first time. He gave Liverpool (a team who got an amazing amount of penalties last season) an incredibly soft spot kick, at an extremely sensitive time in the game – suggesting that the trend of giving Liverpool lots of penalties will continue. He totally ignored a cast-iron penalty claim against Adebayor – yeah, I know, would have been too late to turn the game. But, most importantly in view of this article, Liverpool constantly fouled Lamela, making it seem like a game-plan, but he let most of it go. He should have been coming down on it like a ton of bricks – especially as we are the home team. And, even more infuriating from my point of view, whenever Lameal even tried to just muscle back Dowdy penalised him. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…is it possible that Dowdy really is just plain and simple biased?

  2. Terry

    Your spot on SP, at the Emirates, Chelsea, Man Utd or City Dowd would not of given that soft penalty and probably would of booked Joe Allen for diving but us at home do not get favourable decisions and that is why the top 4 is the same year in year out! i truely believe that! it must be worth 10 points a season for the top 4 teams when the refs are scared to give a decision against them! i see it going on all the time especially at the sc umerates! it’s like we are always at a disadvantage over the others to get into the top 4.

    1. SP

      The truth that dare not speak its name! :)

      Seriously, though, I remember watching Modric, in particular, at OT when they were getting one fo their traditional ridiculous decisions to give them an advantage after we had outplayed them, again. He just looked bewildered and then, like it was just dawning on him: “I am at a club who is just not going to be allowed to win.”

      Call it paranoia if you will, but the sheer volume of ridiculous decisions United, Citeh, Chelsea, the Goons and, to a lesser extent, Liverpool have been given against in the last decade and more is utterly ridiculous. And then there are equally ridiculous isolates like ‘Foy-Gate’ against Stoke. I honestly, truthfully can never, ever remember us being on the plus side of such a ridiculously refereeing performance. The occasional iffy penalty or free-kick, once in a while someone being sent off that shouldn’t – but when surrounded by the dozens of examples of similar going against us, I just can’t take any claim that it evens out remotely serious. And, usually, when we are the beneficiaries at least you can say that there was something there for the ref to interpret it that way. The other way round and you just can’t.

      I’ve watched games against United, for instance, with a United supporting mate – one who supported them in the seventies and eighties when there wasn’t that much to shout about, who went to away games and throughout Europe and who had the courage to say they might benefit from a fall, or even relegation, as it might clear out some of the glory-hunter supporters. And he always, but always, just echoes my calls on refereeing decisions, ‘no way that was a penalty’, ‘look at Rooney, mouthing off again, you can lip read what he’s saying, he’s just been booked, after being let off being booked several times, and he’s bang to rights, and all he is doing is committing one big long yellow card offence in reaction to it’, or, my favourite, ‘Paul Scholes commits about six or seven yellow card offences per game when we play them…occasional the ref gives one against him’. I can only imagine for the latter the thinking was that whenever Fergie was questioned about it he would just laugh and say “we all know Paul Scholes can’t tackle”, and that would permeate into the refs’ collective subconscious, causing them to be particularly lenient with him. And as for Pedro-Mendes-Gate, my mate was in OT that night and he is adamant that absolutely everyone around him knew the ball was about a metre over the line and the consensus was that the only people in the stadium who ‘somehow’ didn’t know were the match officials.

      /rant :)

  3. spursfanatic

    Nice work, Liverpool were effective with their ticky tack fouls on Lamela. They also had three levels to their midfield with their diamond, which took away any space between the lines, whilst also allowing someone to foul him.

    1. AnythingButPenalties Post author

      Cheers. I think this was particularly noticeable to me as I was at the game in the third row. When you’re that close it’s hard to see the overall picture but it gave me an interesting view of the Liverpool “tackling” at close hand.

  4. wesley

    Seriously?! Were Spurs that good coming in to the Liverpool game?
    Got lucky with Wham, QPR were at pub team standard and against the mighty Limassol – unconvincing and hardly a scalp!
    Liverpool was a massive game for us where we owed them and Poch knew that. It was his chance to show us what he’s about and what we saw was Spurs from 10 years ago – that is a concern.
    Lamela more goals yes but not much else. Chadli is dire. Lloris is our best player but has the distribution of a 6 year old. Eriksson great free kicks but not much else.
    AVB took our team apart with 7 new players and left us in it.
    2 years of Poch, top 6 perhaps and a new stadium lie ahead.
    Hope I’m proved wrong

    1. SP

      Were we ‘that’ bad against Wet Spam? Big Fat Sam is like the anti-Pochettino, so Poch had to adapt to playing them. They were at home. And we were reduced to 10 after 29 minutes. If that was any of our top four rivals the talk would all be about how resilient they were in adversity against tricky opponents with a tricky style. Instead, because it’s Spurs our fans are falling over themselves to declare how rubbish we were. We won. United have won titles on the back of much less deserving victories.

  5. LarryN

    While I agree that Dowd was poor and probably favoured Liverpool slightly, I think the real lesson is elsewhere. The players around Lamela have to give him better options. Alongside him Eriksen was quiet and not regularly available. Dier was almost always ahead of him and marked even before Lamela started to work his way inside. Bentaleb rarely, if ever, provided an outlet and while Capoue and Ade showed for the ball fairly often, it just wasn’t enough. For a good percentage of his possessions Kaboul (in the Michael Dawson role) was his best choice.
    If he’s going to get targeted on a regular basis then A) Eriksen has to extract a price and B) his teammates have to give him better and more consistent options.
    “The great players are the ones who can effect the game when they don’t have the ball”. Where’s our movement?

    1. SP

      I agree. But no-one, so far as I know, is saying that Liverpool didn’t deserve to win. Rodgers got his tactics right – they played with a diamond 4 in midfield and it worked perfectly. I’m not even that angry with them for targeting Lamela with niggling little fouls. it’s is the refs job to sort that out. And he didn’t. And that is the point. No matter how well Liverpool played, no matter how well suited Rodger’s tactics were, Phil Dowd was atrocious. Really atrocious. He let Liverpool get away with incessantly fouling Lamela and then penalised Lamela whenever he tried to muscle back; he gave Liverpool a feeble free-kick at a vital time in the game. And he totally ignored a blatant free-kick for Adebayor, not that that would have got us back into the game.

  6. Pingback: Sunderland 2 Spurs 2 – classic Tottenham | Anything But Penalties

  7. Pingback: 8 interesting stats from Spurs’ start to the season | Anything But Penalties

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s