x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Liverpool and Tottenham coming a full circle in contrasting fashion

Like Tottenham before them, Brendan Rodgers' men are proof that a windfall allows a club to address many departments of the team. Unlike Spurs, they should show that spending does not lead to instability.

While Tottenham midfielders such as Andros Townsend, left, have tried to build around the forwards, Liverpool have Daniel Sturridge, right, still leading the attack after Luis Suarez’s departure. Jon Super / AP Photo
While Tottenham midfielders such as Andros Townsend, left, have tried to build around the forwards, Liverpool have Daniel Sturridge, right, still leading the attack after Luis Suarez’s departure. Jon Super / AP Photo

Liverpool are already wearily familiar with the comparisons. A year ago, Tottenham Hotspur lost the reigning Footballer of the Year and, rather than looking for one replacement, invested the proceeds across the squad. Hyperbolically and famously, it was said that they had “sold Elvis and signed the Beatles.”

Several months later, it appeared that, if Gareth Bale was the White Hart Lane Elvis, Tottenham had spent more than £100 million (Dh600m) purchasing the Bootleg Beatles, instead.

As they failed to realise their ambitions in the Premier League and manager Andre Villas-Boas was unceremoniously sacked, the arrivals were cited as the prime cause of his departure.

Fast forward a year, and Liverpool are in a similar situation. Luis Suarez has gone to Barcelona. Whereas Spurs spent £110m on seven signings in 2013, some £117m has been invested by Liverpool in nine newcomers.

Given Merseyside’s musical traditions, it might have been more appropriate to wonder if they had recruited the Beatles but, extending the same comparison, have they lost Bob Dylan and brought in the Rolling Stones? Or is this another example of quantity proving no substitute for quality?

If the comparison between the clubs is, as Liverpool supporters like to point out, inexact at best, nor is it quite as depressing as it seemed. Christian Eriksen actually excelled last season without altering the perception that Tottenham’s spending spree was an unmitigated failure.

Two of the great underachievers then have begun the current campaign in auspicious fashion. Nacer Chadli scored twice in Sunday’s 4-0 demolition of Queens Park Rangers, while Erik Lamela was the game’s dominant figure.

Tottenham’s record signing only made three league starts last year. He is set to equal that tally in August this time around. Finally injury-free and benefiting from a pre-season at the club, he is also enjoying the regime of a more sympathetic manager, fellow Argentine Mauricio Pochettino.

“The past is the past,” said the former Southampton manager last week. It is something Tottenham would rather forget as they embrace a new era. Admittedly, there is still the thorny issue of Roberto Soldado, the £26m striker who does seem to figure in Pochettino’s strongest team, but perhaps there is hope for the Spaniard. Other supposed wastes of money are being rebranded as key players.

The startling element about Tottenham’s 2013 recruitment drive remains the fact that so much was committed to players who were all utterly untried in England.

There is a significant difference in Premier League pedigree among the Liverpool additions, as Pochettino knows well. Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana, who could debut today, were all stalwarts of his Southampton side. Mario Balotelli was a title winner in his Manchester City days.

Moreover, Liverpool have taken a gradual approach to integrating the arrivals. Only two newcomers, Lovren and left-back Alberto Moreno, started Monday’s 2-1 loss to Manchester City. They formed the left half of the defence and, perhaps not surprisingly, it was an area where Brendan Rodgers’s side struggled. It may take time for a new-look partnership to gel.

The concerns are different. Twelve months ago, Spurs looked to recalibrate the attack around Soldado and only scored nine goals in their first 12 games. Now, even shorn of Suarez, Liverpool should prove far more prolific.

They still have Daniel Sturridge to lead the line. Lambert has been deployed as an impact substitute so far and, since Balotelli has not made a competitive appearance since the World Cup, he is unlikely to start at White Hart Lane, either.

Instead, their immediate issues are primarily defensive. Like Tottenham before them, they are proof that a windfall allows a club to address many departments of the team. Unlike Spurs, they should show that spending does not lead to instability.

Because this is a fixture that had dramatic consequences. Villas-Boas was sacked two days after Liverpool’s 5-0 win at White Hart Lane. Their 4-0 victory at Anfield did serious damage to Tim Sherwood’s hopes of keeping the post.

It wasn’t about the Beatles, as much as the scale of their beatings.

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