Hold off sending a wreath
So where to begin with yet another spanking dished out by the scousers? How about a positive?
There was a moment during the Spurs v Liverpool game when I laughed.
"5-0, 4-0, 3-0...well, at least we're improving", stated a friend via Whatsapp. I guess you can do anything with statistics.
I should have reserved that moment for crying instead.
Okay, so that wasn't a positive but it was the only moment during the 90 minutes when I smiled. Ye olde self-deprecation reflex kicks in with tidy defensive qualities that my beloved club departed with during the match. We were no match for the visitors and this game did not play out as I had envisaged in the build up.
"Sold Elvis and bought Milli Vanilli' I jested. Sold the Elvis that always fancied a bite to eat and bought the younger, leaner Elvis - eager to impress with impossibly rhythmic hips.
Raheem Sterling and friends took full advantage by reading off the previous scripts and duly punished us. They didn't wait for Spurs to impose themselves. Where we lacked leadership and a variation of midfield personnel, they had it in abundance. Where they found each other with sweeping moves and energetic willingness we struggled to claim the initiative. Literally, couldn't find it. Blindfolds versus 3D glasses.
Even Mario Balotelli behaved and performed with annoying influence. He almost scored, Hugo Lloris with the desperate stop. Even our dependable keeper was poor with distribution and at one point almost caused catastrophe with a run out of the box that resulted with a pass to an opposition player.
The penalty we conceded was soft. A classic case of '...well, he touched him with a half-hearted attempt to stop him but because he made the attempt and the player dramatically gave way to the pull of gravity, technically it's enough to warrant a spot kick because the intention was evident'. Pretty sure that's what the ref was thinking when he pointed. Later in the game he decided that Adebayor having his shirt pulled was not blatant enough. Gravity, Ade, gravity. Dive quicker than you would on Jennifer Lawrence if she was on your bed. I would. I'd forgo the trespassing. Not that he had to dive. He was having his shirt removed by an opposing player (no need for the Lawrence fantasy, slightly out of context).
It was almost as soft (the penalty) as Andros Townsend's touch when losing the ball for Alberto Moreno to score after a storming run from centre-pitch. That was for the 3-0. Seconds after Pochettino made two substitutions. One for the ghost formally known as Christian Eriksen (Dembele replace Bentaleb). Townsend killed the tactical switch immediately by losing possession. One of those 'one of those moments'. Liverpool's opener came after 8 minutes. A well worked goal but one that saw them wanting the ball more than us seeking to hold onto it. They broke down the flank and Sterling broke into the area, with no marker.
In return we had two chances I can remember. Emmanuel Adebyaor should have equalised immediately after we went 1-0 down. His lob lacked finesse. Nacer Chadli aimed his effort straight at the keeper where composure would have seen him score if he angled it. But other than that, Liverpool had several chances to our tin pot of tuppence. The aforementioned Eriksen never held the ball long enough to command. Others around him looked equally detached. If Etienne Capoue was meant to be a brick wall he looked more like red carpet for Liverpool and especially the marauding Sterling - their focal point for everything they did in the final third. His mazy run was ridiculous, as was his finish at the end of it - which was nice for us. Capoue at fault, directly and indirectly for all three goals.
Where they had Henderson working his socks off we had a midfield trying to keep up, constantly reactive rather pro-active. Credit to Liverpool's discipline here but massively underwhelming and frustrating for us.
If you really want to depress yourself you'll hark back to when we had Luka Modric dictating pace and possession and recycling the latter like Al Gores wet dream. Around him he had players moving, receiving, pushing the ball on. Players fighting for the ball, working as hard off it as on it. A midfield that was alive. A fully fledged monster. Pochettino is still in the laboratory sticking body parts together waiting for the lightning to strike. He's also missing a couple of bolts.
No point scapegoating individuals either. I'm probably alone on this but there you go, forever alone. One or two under-performed, sure - it's not excusable in the grand scheme (we need to upgrade some of our squad), but this is a team game and nobody excelled be it with their responsibility, therefore having a knock-on effect with the rest of them. This is likely to re-occur against sides that are comfortable and generally immense in their belief and game-plan. Players drop form (within the context of the game) if the opposing players are dominant. You're going to suffer and struggle for it. Our performance (the lack of it) was mostly about how good their performance was.
Liverpool beat us comfortably because they have a system that works. We don't. But hold back from waving the pitchforks and torches. Liverpool will be challenged in the Champions League. They'll have to look towards shifting up a level so they have their own future tests to pass. They'll also have to retain their form and not lose momentum (a lesson we've failed in the past) in the league. Point being, you constantly have to evolve and if things look great today that is no guarantee they will tomorrow.
Yes it's 12-0 to the Anfield club in three games and if anything damns the way our club is run it's the seemingly strong position we held over Liverpool prior to this run of defeats and how it's been vanquished (momentum lost, things look great today etc etc).
A consequence of them appointing Brendan Rodgers and allowing him to instil an effective philosophy? Yes. Probably. How we all laughed at the 'Being Liverpool' documentary. He's pushing the envelope again and none of us are laughing now.
Last season's title push was no fluke. No European football allowed them to refine their style. A certain Uruguayan talismanic but backed up by a functioning unit of team-mates. Their recent defeat against Manchester City was nothing more than a naive misdirection that had me believing we'd also compete...against them. I can hear laughter again.
Rodgers side pressed and hassled leaving Tottenham about as ineffectual as QPR were when we brushed them aside. Spurs chased shadows. Second best with pace, pass and physicality. A reminder that last seasons shambolicness (I'm creative unlike our midfield) is going to take some time to work through before we find complete redemption from the ills of 2014.
Liverpool bossed the midfield. They had craft, graft and guile and looked like scoring with almost every attack. We laboured and had no fluidity or tempo in response.
It wasn't awful. Not in the fatalistic way it was when Andre Villas-Boas witnessed his tenure come to an end. This Tottenham side is a developing team not a dying one. I'm not rationalising here or readying my excuse for the games ahead. This is a case of Mauricio Pochettino's rejuvenated Spurs falling asleep against the wide awake Reds. Rodgers seasoned team showed us just how much we have to do if we wish to press and play with success. They have the players for it. Perhaps this defeat will give us true lucidity to the harsh truth that we don't. Not yet.
Benjamin Stambouli is on his way in (via Montpellier) and is by all account a decent defensive player. Federico Fazio already with us (regardless of the suggested legalities Sevilla are crying about). Stambouli is not our first choice target but then Southampton are not letting go of Morgan Schneiderlin just yet. What these two signings mean for any one or all of Kaboul, Vlad and Sandro is guesswork. I'm beginning to think some of our targets (the ones Poch has requested as 'number ones') won't all arrive this season. If that's the case then at least there are clues to longevity with giving the coach what he needs (even if we all have to wait). I could be connecting the wrong dots here by the way.
There's plenty more question marks on other players in the squad, some of which retain key roles, others not so key. Aaron Lennon was left out of the squad along with Sandro. Both linked (at the time of writing) with a move to QPR. Zeki Fryers looks to be off to Crystal Palace. Lewis Holtby (again at the time of writing will be having a medical at HSV).
So many are maligned it's a wonder how some are expecting anything from this season if we need to replace half the team with better acquisitions. I dare you to browse through Twitter searching for anything THFC related. There's probably only three of four players that are universally accepted by all fans. Thankfully me, you and everyone else are not coaching Spurs. Pochettino will know which ones are worth keeping in due course and which are surplus to requirements right now (before the transfer deadline).
We do have quality but at this current standard we'll only have success against teams with less ability. As Tim Sherwood proved last season, if you have better football players than the opposition, you're likely to beat them if they are not astute enough to counter your depth. The teams that finished above us will demand a far more shrewd, robust and adaptable first eleven to compete. As Liverpool proved.
It was an unfair contest in the end. They continued where they left off from last season with no slips, leaving us rightly grounded in the aftermath and having to take this result into the football wilderness (the international break).
I'm not going to stress (it's only a handful of games into the season, right?) and bemoan another transitional period. It is a transitional period. We can argue the politics of why ENIC and Levy always guide us out of one and into another until we are blue in the first. We can also argue how long we think this one should realistically last.
Pochettino is unlikely to have his team playing the way he wants for a while. I know it hurts but it doesn't mean waving the white flag either. It might take 10 games for us to get going. It might take 25. It might take all season. There are still cup runs to be had. There is still identity to be recaptured and there's evolution that will continue to be tested.
Maybe this 3-0 loss was just part of the learning curve. A bad day when the opposition had a ruthlessly good one. You can't have an off day against teams that rarely do. A reminder that the performances and points that matter most are against the teams that we wish to perceive as rivals. Or maybe it was just too early in Pochettino's tenure, too early for us to match Liverpool's maturity.
Spurs are a team in progress. Eternally in progress. God bless you Tottenham. If we only lose 2-0 next time then you know we're heading in the right direction.