Liverpool have a lot to be concerned about
Last November Spurs beat Liverpool 2-1 at White Hart Lane just after Harry Redknapp took over a side that had slumped to the bottom of the table. Redknapp admitted after that game that Spurs had been lucky to win after being battered by Liverpool, who squandered an early lead and then hit the woodwork three times before losing.
Spurs beat Liverpool 2-1 at White Hart Lane again on Sunday and this time there was no doubting that Spurs deserved their victory.
On the evidence of Sunday’s match a lot has changed at the two clubs since last November.
Spurs have clearly improved but fans have witnessed so many false dawns in the last 10 years or so that no one will get carried away by an opening day win — even over last season’s runners-up.
Likewise, Liverpool will not descend into doom and gloom at one opening day defeat but what is undeniable — and this began to be obvious in their pre-season matches — is that Liverpool are badly missing their gifted Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso, sold for 30 million pounds to Real Madrid.
Liverpool failed to get the ball to Steven Gerrard as often as often as they used to when Alonso was distributing the ball, after putting his foot on it and finding the perfect pass.
Up front Fernando Torres looked jaded — he has hardly had a break after playing for Spain in the Confederations Cup — and Liverpool rarely threatened Spurs with a decisive attack.
The fact that Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel clashed heads with each other going up for a high ball in the first half was not the only reason Liverpool’s defence seemed disorientated, as young Argentine fullback Emiliano Insua was given a roasting by the pace of Aaron Lennon on the right wing.
Their bench looked devoid of depth too and generally Liverpool had an afternoon they will certainly want to forget, but one which may resonate for a few weeks yet.
It is now almost 20 seasons since Liverpool were last champions of England — the longest run they have ever had between winning titles (not including the break of competition for World War Two) since they entered the League in 1893.
They are desperate to be champions again — and stop Manchester United winning an unprecedented fourth successive title and an all-time record 19th.
Clearly they are still championship contenders. But they won’t be if they produce too many displays like Sunday’s at White Hart Lane. Benitez needs to strengthen now — but financial restraints off the pitch could yet add to his headaches.
PHOTO: Xabi Alonso waves as he leaves the pitch during Real Madrid’s friendly against Real Sociedad at the Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian, August 15, 2009. REUTERS/Felix Ordonez