Finely tuned Reds are into Klopp’s groove

The Observer - Sport - - Football Premier League - Bar­ney Ronay

Get ready. It looks as though, this time, the Reds re­ally are com­ing up the hill. It was not that Liver­pool played ir­re­sistibly well . This was not a per­for­mance to drive the imag­i­na­tion or a whirl of red pain for Tot­ten­ham . In­stead this felt like some­thing bet­ter. Liver­pool were solid in ev­ery po­si­tion, their com­bi­na­tions well- grooved, ev­ery start­ing player blessed with the same in­tel­li­gence, the same speed and spiky ag­gres­sion.

There was some fi ne move­ment at times from Sa­dio Mané and Roberto Firmino, who still seems to be un­der the im­pres­sion he has only bor­rowed the cen­tre- for­ward po­si­tion and needs to ab­so­lutely thrash it into the ground ev­ery sec­ond he is there be­fore some­one asks for it back. No­body tell him just yet. James Mil­ner made more tack­les than any­one else and prowled the midfi eld with a snarl, snap­ping af­ter the ball like a pair of ragged claws across the turf. Vir­gil van Dijk did not seem to do very much, but still gave the im­pres­sion of be­ing the game’s des­ig­nated grown- up.

But this was, above all, an ex­pres­sion of the col­lec­tive, the shared will of those red shirts. It was these qual­i­ties rather than any out­stand­ing in­di­vid­ual show that drove Liver­pool to a win that made it fi ve in a row at the start of the sea­son for the fi rst time since 1990. Only one of those vic­to­ries has been com­fort­able. Three have been away from home. Six dif­fer­ent play­ers have scored. No­body out there is go­ing to match Manch­ester City for foot­ball of the imag­i­na­tion or at­tack­ing re­sources, for the abil­ity to take the game away from their op­po­nents. But this team has some­thing else in Jür­gen Klopp’s third full sea­son. Liver­pool are tick­ing.

There was a good ex­am­ple with 74 min­utes gone. Spurs had a free- kick on the edge of the Liver­pool box. Érik Lamela spanked it low into the wall, got the ball back, played it out to Chris­tian Erik­sen. But from there some­thing else started to hap­pen. As Tot­ten­ham tried to pass and turn and play they were har­ried and hur­ried, con­stantly bit­ing their own tongue, and even­tu­ally forced to scuff the ball right back to Michel Vorm, a team in the process of be­ing eaten by a very hun­gry red cater­pil­lar.

This was just one game in Septem­ber. And Spurs were un­usu­ally poor. Baked by a sickly au­tumn sun, they were en­er­vated from the start, ral­lied at the end and should have had a penalty to make it 2- 2. But that would have been

Spurs looked like a team in the process of be­ing eaten by a hun­gry red cater­pil­lar

en­tirely against the fl ow of a game Liver­pool could have won by quite a few more.

Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino had packed the heart of his team with gris­tle, Eric Dier com­ing in to add a note of ob­struc­tion in cen­tral midfi eld along­side Mousa Dem­bélé . The more art­ful Harry Winks also started, a daunt­ing lunchtime task for a man with six min­utes of foot­ball since Fe­bru­ary.

Liver­pool were shark- like in those open­ing mo­ments, rip­ping into Tot­ten­ham’s left side. The full- backs stood out again. One thing you miss about Trent Alexan­der- Arnold on TV , per­haps be­cause of his baby­face, is what a pow­er­ful athlete he is, with a fear­less­ness to his po­si­tion­ing : the modern full- back who knows he has the pres­ence to win a duel high up the pitch, the speed to get back if he does not.

The open­ing goal came six min­utes be­fore half- time. Vorm made a hash of a punch from a cor­ner. Even­tu­ally, Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum headed back into the top cor­ner, just out of the reach of Kieran Trip­pier and Vorm’s claw­ing hand, a su­perb fi nish.

Harry Kane was an ab­sence in that fi rst half. He touched the ball 11 times de­spite Spurs tak­ing 62% of pos­ses­sion. He had no shots, won no head­ers , made no drib­bles. His only tan­gi­ble con­tri­bu­tion was to com­plete four passes. Some have sug­gested teams have worked out Kane, but this seems a lit­tle too clever. With the kind­est will in the world there is not much to work out. The com­plete at­tack­ing se­crets of Harry Kane would be a slim vol­ume. His game at its best is beau­ti­fully sim­ple: high- en­ergy, highly ef­fec­tive meat and pota­toes. He just looks very tired.

Else­where, Dier was poor in midfi eld, pass­ing the ball like a man who had seen other peo­ple do it, but was not quite sure if it was for him just yet. Spurs im­proved as they switched to three at the back with Lamela on the right, from where he scored in stop­page time. But Liver­pool were just that bit more co­her­ent through­out.

As the fi nal whis­tle peeped there was a brief celebration. Klopp chest­bumped his staff on the touch­line. But the ex­cite­ment was re­strained. What will please him is how lit­tle this win seemed to take out of Liver­pool. When these two teams met in his fi rst game in charge it was a fu­ri­ous, bruis­ing oc­ca­sion, a ragged ver­sion his best high- en­ergy ap­proach. Here, ev­ery part of the ma­chine looked calm and set­tled. Liver­pool have a run of hard games com­ing up in the next months, but they look ready for them, a team that won its tough­est so far with strength in re­serve.

VISIONHAUS/ GETTY IMAGES

Roberto Firmino was taken to Moorfi elds Eye Hos­pi­tal in Lon­don af­ter a clash with Jan Ver­tonghen

Jür­gen Klopp will be pleased with how lit­tle the win over one of Liver­pool’s ri­vals seemed to take out of his team, who have a run of hard games com­ing up

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