Liverpool rise to the challenge but Spurs fall short (again). Plus: we need to fix Premier League’s VAR use

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Missed some of the action around Europe this weekend? Have no fear: Gab Marcotti is here to catch you up with all the talking points in the latest Monday Musings.

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Liverpool rise to the challenge vs. Spurs, who don’t

It wasn’t something to be taken for granted. A week before, you dropped league points for the first time all season. You did win big in midweek, but that was against Genk, who are playing more like Gunk right now, sitting sixth in the Belgian league with two wins out of eight ahead of Liverpool’s visit.

Manchester City’s victory over Aston Villa the day before leaves them three points back. Then you take the pitch against Tottenham Hotspur and within a minute, you’re a goal down.

In those situations, a wobble is not just understandable, but expected. But Liverpool took it in stride and seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. It wasn’t just the possession — Spurs chose to play on the break — but the intensity and the sense of unwavering belief that they were going to turn it around. Don’t let the scoreline fool you: it finished 2-1 but could have been more, if not for some massive saves by Paulo Gazzaniga.

– Reddy: Fabinho has become Liverpool’s key
– Spurs ratings: Alli, Eriksen underwhelm at Anfield
– Ogden: Mane’s opportunism wins the day for Liverpool

Manager effects are often overstated. Truth be told, whether teams win or lose in the medium term usually has far more to do with wage bill and net spend, chance and probability, injuries and suspensions. But you suspect Klopp is a bit different. When you get the sort of buy-in he has from players and fans alike, when you exude this level of up-and-at-them confidence in the face of adversity, it almost feels like a cult and its leader. That dynamic might not be great in real life, but it can be really useful when it comes to playing football.

Jordan Henderson and Liverpool played with such belief vs. Tottenham that they’d come back and win despite conceding in the first minute at Anfield.As for Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino looks like a guy searching for answers. He dropped Jan Vertonghen for Davinson Sanchez, left out record signing Tanguy Ndombele and brought back Christian Eriksen. We’re not privy to what happens in training and maybe there are reasons we don’t know behind his choices, but it feels like somebody unhappy with his current lot, opting to proceed by trial and error.

Playing on the counter after the early lead wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, but, again, the execution was poor. These aren’t necessarily bad players, these are players playing poorly and there likely are reasons for each. There’s a series of gambles that backfired.

In nine-and-a-half weeks’ time, Vertonghen and Eriksen can sign for any club outside the Premier League as free agents. (To remain in England, they’d need to wait until the summer.) Tottenham may have thought it was worth keeping them around in the summer either because they’d eventually extend their deals or they’d want to play well to impress potential suitors. That ship has likely sailed. Technically, Jan. 1 is when they can start talking to other clubs, but it’s hard to believe stuff isn’t already happening behind the scenes, stuff that won’t be influenced by lacklustre performances in the autumn.

Tottenham left Danny Rose out of their tour to Asia so he could move to another club; after it being made clear he wasn’t in their plans, he’s now their first-choice left back. The gamble was that he’d be galvanised and more realistic and might play better and get himself the sort of deal he wants at White Hart Lane. Don’t hold your breath.

Kieran Trippier was allowed to leave for Atletico Madrid, the gamble being that either Kyle Walker-Peters would establish himself as a viable right-back or Serge Aurier, without competition, would finally live up to his gifts and cut out the silly mistakes. We know how that one worked out.

As for the summer signings? Ndombele has played 90 minutes once all season. Giovani Lo Celso has yet to start a game. Ryan Sessegnon, who is injured, hasn’t played at all.

Transfers and contracts are, fundamentally, wagers. You win some, you lose some. If you’re clever or lucky, you win more than you lose. Spurs have been neither. To me, that’s a far simpler explanation than the popular one whereby they’ve gone stale and players are bored/indifferent to Pochettino’s messaging. It’s a neat idea — the old trope whereby every three years you either change the manager or change the team — but it’s

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