Liverpool offer perfect Tottenham blueprint with Ange Postecoglou rebuild ahead of schedule

If Tottenham want a blueprint for what might be possible with Ange Postecoglou, they need only look at Saturday’s opponents.

Under Postecoglou, Spurs will not copy any other club’s model — “We’ve got our own blueprint,” the Australian said last week — but there is obviously inspiration to be drawn from Liverpool’s record since Jurgen Klopp’s appointment in 2015.

Klopp’s Reds have been by far the most effective competition for Manchester City, winning everything there is to win at home and in Europe without the support of a state or oligarch.

Instead of being the very wealthiest club (though they are clearly up there), Liverpool have been one of the cleverest, using data to nail recruitment and a build a formidable squad for a top coach, something Spurs are now aiming to do for Postecoglou.

Their domestic and European success also came after selling their best player, Philippe Coutinho, to Barcelona in 2018, offering Spurs hope that Harry Kane’s departure could prove the catalyst for a sustained period of winning.

“We need to keep building the squad. It was never going to happen in one window,” Postecoglou said last week. “There pretty much aren’t any hidden gems anywhere. Every club knows every player out there.

“What’s important is how you use that data, and I still feel it’s about having a clear idea of what you want. And for us that means I need to see [the targets] in our team, playing our football.”

Transformation: Tottenham are already a markedly different proposition under Ange Postecoglou (Getty Images)
Transformation: Tottenham are already a markedly different proposition under Ange Postecoglou (Getty Images)

Postecoglou made it clear before last Sunday’s draw at Arsenal that he sets little store by historic results, but Spurs are aiming to address a wretched record against Liverpool, having won just one of the past 23 meetings, including the 2019 Champions League Final.

This dreadful sequence has been characterised by bad luck, wasteful finishing and a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot. Either side of their 2-0 defeat in Madrid in June 2019, they lost five consecutive meetings by a single goal, which included a 90th-minute own-goal by Toby Alderweireld in a 2-1 defeat at Anfield in March 2019 and Roberto Firmino’s stoppage-time winner the following year.

In last season’s corresponding fixture, Ivan Perisic struck the woodwork either side of half-time, as Spurs went down 2-1 again, but no domestic encounter with Liverpool in recent memory has been more frustrating for Spurs than their last, at Anfield in April.

Ryan Mason’s Spurs thought they had rescued a dramatic point when Richarlison completed a comeback from 3-0 down to equalise in the 93rd-minute, only for Liverpool to restore their lead 99 seconds later when Diogo Jota pounced on Lucas Moura’s mistake. “That is the most Tottenham thing that you will ever see,” said Gary Neville, commentating for Sky Sports.

If Spurs continue their unbeaten start it will add to a growing sense that they are way ahead of schedule

James Maddison, who Spurs are ­hopeful will be fit to start after jarring his knee at the Emirates, insisted after the north London derby that Spurs are fast shedding their ‘Spursy’ tag under­ ­Postecoglou, but Saturday’s game is another chance to prove their mettle.

Liverpool are emerging as, arguably, the most likely challengers to City again this season, with Mohamed Salah purring, Darwin Nunez increasingly at home in English football and a new-look midfield clicking into gear.

Salah and Heung-min Son, both Premier League greats who shared the Golden Boot the season before last, are likely to be influential; Salah has scored 11 times in 18 appearances against Spurs, including for former clubs FC Basel and Fiorentina, while Son has found the net in four of the past five meetings.

Son appears to be entering a new phase of his career as a lethal centre-forward rather than a direct winger, and will surely lead the line again ahead of Richarlison.

It is a measure of how quickly Postecoglou has whipped Spurs into shape that there is relatively little to choose between the first XIs, even if Liverpool have more depth, and provided Spurs can keep their key players fit, there is a growing feeling that they could be capable of challenging Arsenal and the Reds as this season’s ‘best of the rest’, assuming City continue their dominance.

As ever, Postecoglou will be less focused on the outcome than his side producing another high-risk, high-octane performance and showing ongoing progress, although if Spurs continue their unbeaten start it will add to a growing sense that they are way ahead of schedule.