Tottenham are a club in a desperate search for answers. It seems ridiculous for a club to spend over £100m on players to still fall so desperately far short of their Premier League ambitions. Those that tipped Spurs for a title tilt will be disappointed to find the North Londoners struggling to even squeeze their way into the Europa League reckoning for next season.
Liverpool by contrast are flying high and will enter Sunday’s encounter with Spurs chasing their 7th consecutive league victory. Despite playing a game less, the ‘Reds’ have opened up a 9-point league over Spurs, and this is in no small part down to their enigmatic Uruguayan frontman Luis Suarez.
The diminutive frontman has netted 28 times in the league this season and looks to have set Liverpool on course to challenge for league honours this May. When Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen was asked to give a reason for the gulf between the sides this season he answered bluntly:
“Suarez,” he said. “Suarez is the reason for that.”
“At the moment he is up there as one of the best strikers in the world. I think he is the difference between the teams. (Daniel) Sturridge obviously is doing well and those two are very hard to stop.”
“They are one of the best teams in the league and they show it every week,” Vertonghen said.
“It is going to be very hard, especially at Anfield, and I hope we can play as we did last season because we did very well, not the result but the performance.”
So is it really as simple as that?
Spurs fans may point to the summer departure of Gareth Bale as the sole reason behind their recent demise; but for me putting down this season’s woes down to any individual is slightly missing the point.
Personnel isn’t really the issue for Spurs, it is how they are being used. The likes of Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli and Soldado are all quality footballers in their own right but of late they just look like ill-fitting cogs in an underperforming Spurs machine. I’m not suggesting that any of these players are at Suarez’s level, but he alone isn’t enough to explain the difference in league position this season.
Suarez’s impact isn’t just down to individual brilliance, he is part of a Liverpool side that is geared towards getting the best out of the resources they have. Brendan Rodgers hasn’t simply hashed together a side; he has meticulously planned the ins and outs of how he wants to play and the ways in which he can achieve that with what he has at his disposal.
Some say world class players are able to perform in any side and in any game, but I doubt Luis Suarez would enjoy half the success he has at Liverpool if he was part of the current Spurs set up. If it was down to Tim Sherwood he would probably be playing the Uruguayan as a lone striker, with Michael Dawson entrusted with pumping a series of hopeless long balls up to the pint sized forward.
I can accept that Spurs no longer have a Gareth Bale to pop up with a 30-yard screamer to grab the points regularly, but to suggest that their failings are down to the players they have is woefully ignorant.
The most exciting playmaker the club has had since Modric is forced to play on the wing, while one of the most clinical strikers in Europe is made to play as a lone target man; surely these are the kinds of issues holding the club back?
A world-class player like Suarez would only paper over the clubs at Spurs, a desperate quick fix for a club with endemic problems running throughout. Rather than throwing money at players Spurs would do well to take a look at Rodgers’ Liverpool, a side that has spent considerably less yet still achieved the kinds of results Spurs could only dream of.
Will it need more than a simple solution for Spurs?