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Why new midfielders will decide Liverpool-Tottenham clash

The meetings between these two clubs last season came at difficult times for each, but, with the exception of perhaps a month at the start of the 2022/23 season for Tottenham Hotspur and two months at the end for Liverpool, that doesn’t narrow things down. much down.

The first came in November, when the Reds’ success in north London meant Antonio Conte’s months in charge were in the middle of a two-out-of-seven win streak, and those two somewhat fortunate victories was won in stoppage time. For Liverpool it would be a great victory, but already the campaign had more than stuttered and, after the return of the World Cup, they would embark on their most excruciating series of the season, Jurgen Klopp chopping and changing formations in search of a winning formula as they failed to win seven out of ten.

In April and the second leg at Anfield, the Reds were in better form and had revamped their build-up play and the center of the park thanks to the roving involvement of Trent Alexander-Arnold; a wild 4-3 victory made them six unbeaten, while Spurs were then their second caretaker manager of the new calendar year.

Elite European football for 2023/24 then seemed unlikely for both; Both clubs were looking to the future, albeit in very different ways – and their subsequent summer activity showed this.

And yet, they now both arrive at the first meeting of the new season with many similar circumstances: new optimism, new faces, undefeated in all competitions and, above all, with completely rebuilt midfielders.

For Liverpool, that took the form of transfer reinforcements, a totally revamped squad containing four new signings and a player not just repurposed, but almost revitalized in Curtis Jones.

He finished last season as one of the Reds’ best players and quickly picked up where he left off, playing superbly from the left of the midfield three to bring control, diligence, supply line into the final third and – in the midweek cup victory. Leicester – versatility while wearing the armband. Even with No. 17’s much-improved display of consistency of late, and even with the impact Alexander-Arnold had before his injury, there is a different name on the lips of most observers. ‘Anfield this season.

Dominik Szoboszlai didn’t so much touch the pitch as he weaved his way through all challenges, opponents and defenses, scoring two goals from outside the box and already being the pick of the bunch in several matches.

Highlights will highlight his dynamism, ball-carrying ability and penetrating passing, but his non-stop approach also sees him important in the defensive half of the pitch, where compatriot Alexis Mac Allister is more usually placed as a midfielder. deepest pitch on the team. operator.

The trio had obviously never lined up together before the start of the campaign; In the last three league matches they have done so and it is no coincidence. These were the first matches where the Reds’ attacking play was accompanied by off-ball control and overall domination of the match.

Dominik Szoboszlai proved to be a crucial player early in the season

(Liverpool FC via Getty)

But while in previous seasons fans sometimes clamored for more attacking thrust, more passing into the box and more productivity in the final third of midfield, the added technical advantage gained this season is perhaps remarkable because it comes at the expense of an element of physicality. This is not to say that the Argentinian, Hungarian and Scouser don’t have them. They are aggressive, make tackles and at least two of them are powerful runners. But if Klopp’s midfield was the triumvirate of Gini Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, there was more defensive athleticism there, more aerial ability and more natural instinct to be first into covering positions .

In isolation, the change is neither better nor worse, just different – and he now comes up against another much-changed midfielder who has unquestionably added far more physical and technical prowess since last season, when he seemed lethargic, uninteresting and secure. at first far too regularly. What’s different about Liverpool again is that Spurs found this midfielder from the inside.

Ange Postecoglou quickly chose Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr as his preferred double pivot, two who were completely – sometimes bizarrely – on the fringes last season under a troika of head coaches. Bissouma has played more league minutes so far than any Spurs outfielder other than Dejan Kulusevski and Micky van de Ven; Sarr was initially substituted more frequently, but played the full 90 against Arsenal last time out. That could change once Rodrigo Bentancur makes a full return after the next international break, but both are unquestionably ahead of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp at the moment.

Yves Bissouma is the Spurs outfielder with the most league minutes so far this season.


Both are comfortable winning the ball back in either half of the pitch, Bissouma in particular regularly shows his ability to carry the ball and Sarr averages more shots per 90 minutes than any what a semi-regular Spurs player, with the exception of Brennan Johnson so far this season. .

Bissouma, meanwhile, is top ten in the Premier League for tackles per 90 (among those who have played at least 300 minutes so far).

If this indicates a mid-field style of action, that’s accurate, but it more clearly highlights how they quickly formed a partnership, one that can both establish a platform and support stellar strikers higher up the pitch, even without Harry. Kane.

The Spurs are much more attack-oriented than last year, possessing a lot more edge to their game and a lot more pace and intent in their game plan. Liverpool, on the other hand, suddenly look quite capable of dominating long periods again and complementing an already excellent attack with – finally – a midfielder who can offer a very similar threat in terms of creativity and goalscoring.

This makes the weekend’s matchup an incredibly intriguing prospect, one that will surely be settled by which center of the newly formed park manages to outwit the other. This may not tell us for sure which new approach is best in the long run, but these differences in approach could certainly determine the outcome in 90 minutes.


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