The last two Wednesdays have seen Tottenham playing at Wembley. Firstly they couldn’t overcome mighty West Ham and lost 3-2. Then this week they comfortably beat the current UEFA Champions League holders, Real Madrid 3-1. That makes us the best team in Europe doesn’t it? I jest of course. It doesn’t work like that. But sometimes in adversity you have to cling on to something to raise a smile and cheer yourself up.
We have now completed ten games of the 2017-18 season which means that we are more than a quarter of the way through. After this weekend’s round of fixtures we will go into the third international break, which does seem a little ridiculous with just eleven matches played. Although with our injury list seemingly expanding once again, then perhaps the break cannot come too soon. If ever there was a time to change a manager during the season outside of the winter transfer window, then the international break would seem to fit the bill if that is what our owners have in mind. I suspect, however, that the test of the “two games to save your job” ultimatum (if it existed) has been passed, and barring a capitulation of last season’s proportions against the Merseysiders, or a repeat of the Brighton debacle, the manager is perhaps safe until the winter window, or at least until someone who is considered to be a top candidate becomes available. Big rumours are beginning to surface about the current manager’s predecessor. Please, no!
Here we sit in sixteenth place in the table, precariously one point above the drop zone, although with better game management in the ninety-sixth minute of the last match it could easily have been three, even if we did not really deserve to win the game. We can thank our much maligned on-loan keeper for keeping us ahead for so long. He produced a magnificent display of goalkeeping which shows why he was signed, and I hope he can continue to prove his critics wrong. As for Michail Antonio, a player I like enormously, although he hasn’t really done anything much this season yet, I haven’t yet heard his explanation for what went through his head.
Much has been written about our forthcoming run of fixtures which some have said will be tough. But the reality of the situation is that despite our lowly position, we have only played four out of our ten matches at home. And in those ten games we have faced five teams from the top half of the table, which means that we have the other five to play to take us up to the midpoint. So on paper the next period should perhaps be equally as hard (but not necessarily harder) than the period that has elapsed. One thing that is noticeable is how the games will come thick and fast between now and the end of 2017. Having played just ten league games in almost three months we now face four in the month of November, and then an energy-sapping seven league games and a Carabao Cup quarter final in the last month of the year.
Yet again this weekend our game has been moved for the benefit of television. So, instead of kicking off at 3pm, (I’m really looking forward to 23 December when we have a 3pm on a Saturday kick-off!) the match starts at 5.30. I don’t like it but what can you do? Our visitors are Liverpool, and less than six months have elapsed since they last came to the London Stadium and thrashed us 4-0 in our final home game last season. Our manager was quoted after that game as saying we still need time to adjust to playing at the London Stadium. That seemed to be a feeble excuse for a poor performance, considering that just over a week beforehand we had beaten Tottenham 1-0 at home with possibly our best display of the entire season.
Liverpool of course are one of the elite six clubs in England. They will undoubtedly finish in the top six, but I reckon they will be hard pushed to be challenging for a place in the top four to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, a competition that they are competing in this season, and top their league with just two games to play before the knockout stages. I am just about old enough to remember their promotion to the top flight in the early sixties, since when they have remained at this level for 55 consecutive seasons. For a long period throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s they were the pre-eminent club in England, and still are our most successful in history of European success. However, they cling on to past glories like the cartoon character clinging to the edge of the cliff, and don’t seem to recognise that their dominance no longer exists. They are falling way behind the Manchester clubs at the present time.
They have had an OK start to the campaign and sit in sixth position after ten games, with four wins, four draws and two defeats. But their 16 points means that they are already 12 adrift of leaders Manchester City, so almost certainly will not be challenging at the very top. At home they are unbeaten with victories over Palace (1-0), Arsenal (4-0), and Huddersfield (3-0), together with draws against Burnley (1-1), and Manchester United (a boring 0-0). But on the road their form has been distinctly average, and although they have only conceded one goal at Anfield, they have let in a massive 15 in their five away games. If only we had an attacking force to take advantage of what would appear to be a very poor defence on their travels. In their away games a 3-3 draw at Watford was followed by a 5-0 defeat at Manchester City, a 3-2 victory over Leicester, a 1-1 draw at Newcastle, and then another heavy defeat at Tottenham (4-1).
Our visitors are favourites to win the game with the bookmakers and are quoted at around 4/6. We are about 7/2 with the draw at 3/1. Those odds are commensurate with our performances this season, but don’t perhaps reflect Liverpool’s defensive frailties in their games played away from Anfield. What are the odds on us repeating a 3-1 win, which is something we have managed twice in the past seven seasons? Disappointingly only 30/1. A 1-1 draw and Liverpool victories of 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1 are all on offer at between 7/1 and 8/1, which are relatively short prices for a game where both defences would appear to be vulnerable. Once again my optimistic hat has been dusted down, and for no logical reason whatsoever I think that we are going to win this game 3-1. There could even be more goals than that for both sides. It certainly won’t end up goalless.