Tottenham flops look primed for summer clearout but Ange Postecoglou not beyond reproach after Liverpool loss

Tottenham flops look primed for summer clearout but Ange Postecoglou not beyond reproach after Liverpool loss

Tottenham’s losing streak extended to four straight matches as they were beaten 4-2 by Liverpool at Anfield in a chaotic defeat, which increased the pressure on Ange Postecoglou and all-but ended their hopes of a top-four finish.

If Postecoglou was hoping for a reaction after his ‘we need to change’ speech on Friday, in which he effectively said he had the club’s backing to rip up the current squad, his players did not deliver.

For the third time in a week, Spurs were well beaten by a big-six rival in a performance which was as abject as anything they have produced this season for the first hour, until a late rally went some way to papering over the cracks.

Goals from Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson put Liverpool in complete control at the end of a first half in which they threatened to score with every attack, while Spurs had just one shot – a flier from Yves Bissouma which flew high and wide.

Cody Gakpo’s header and a pearler from Harvey Elliott made it 4-0 by the hour, leaving Postecoglou heading for a humiliation, but substitute Richarlison pulled one back and set up Heung-min Son for another.

It was too little too late for Spurs, who deserve to be judged on the first hour rather than another late push.

If anything, their display only proved Postecoglou’s point: Spurs need a major clearout and plenty of patience if they are to develop into a top team and challenge the likes of Liverpool.

Emerson Royal, to name just one example, is obviously way short of the quality needed to play Postecoglou’s football, although admittedly the Brazilian was out of position at left-back and up against the menacing Salah. He allowed the Egyptian to ghost behind him and nod home Gakpo’s cross at the back post to open the scoring in the 16th-minute and lost possession to Elliott for the third goal in a disastrous performance.

There are plenty of others to blame too, though, and with the exception of Guglielmo Vicario, Cristian Romero, Micky van de Ven and the promising Pape Sarr, it is easy to wonder how many of the game's starting XI will make the grade under Postecoglou long-term.

The manager, of course, should not be beyond question. Postecoglou has to take a huge deal of responsibility for Spurs’ collapse this season, whatever the state of his squad.

For an hour, his side were a rabble at Anfield, lacking cohesion, fight and quality, and it is increasingly difficult to rationalise many of the manager’s decisions.

Richarlison dropped to the bench in one change from Thursday’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, but Spurs were transformed when he was introduced on the hour, admittedly after Liverpool eased off at four goals up.

Without the Brazilian, Spurs had no focal point in attack – the ball would not stick – and they were short of creativity and quality in possession in the absence of a natural No10 after James Maddison remained among the subs and Dejan Kulusevski moved to the right wing.

Admittedly Maddison was carrying a knock but, like Richarlison, he made a positive difference, and you wondered if Spurs would have been able to hurt Liverpool sooner if the England playmaker had played the first hour instead of the last 30 minutes plus stoppages.

Ange Postecoglou’s Spurs were well beaten at Anfield (AP)
Ange Postecoglou’s Spurs were well beaten at Anfield (AP)

Postecoglou has frequently said he already knows where and how Spurs need to improve, so it was strange that he tried yet another midfield combination, with Rodrigo Bentancur coming in next to Bissouma and Sarr.

Spurs’ performance for two-thirds of the game genuinely had an end-of-days feel, which cannot be explained solely by a lack of suitable players for this style of play. They should have been galvanised by Aston Villa's defeat at Brighton earlier in the day but they were cowed, and remain seven points behind Unai Emery's side with three games to play.

Encouragingly for Postecoglou, his side's late show suggests the players are still fighting for their manager and they genuinely could have salvaged something from the most unlikely position with a bit more nous in the final third.

But it was all a bit similar to a 3-2 defeat to Arsenal last weekend, however, with Spurs rallying when all hope was lost.

It is easy to throw caution to wind at 4-0 down, when there is nothing to lose, but less so when the game remains in the balance.

This worrying mentality, again, comes down to both the players and the manager, and leaves Postecoglou with huge questions to answer ahead of next weekend's must-win game against struggling Burnley.