That’s how good the Anfield side were in a pulsating performance that should be remembered not as the end of Andre Villas-Boas but as the start of something great for his opposing manager.
Steven Gerrard, in the Sky Sports studio at White Hart Lane in a ground where Liverpool had lost on their previous five visits, described the victory as “Brendan Rodgers’ best game”; you could not accuse him of hyperbole.
Goals from Suarez (two), Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling ensured Liverpool moved to within two points of leaders Arsenal — with away games against Man City and Chelsea to look forward to over Christmas — and those statistics don’t even go half way to highlighting just how good Rodgers’ side were, or how far adrift Tottenham have been left in terms of their own progress in North London.
The home side did have Paulinho sent off after 63 minutes, for a studs-up challenge into Suarez’s chest, but they were already 2-0 down by that stage and so far behind the eight-ball it is hardly surprising that manager AVB, who has spent €187m in two years to assemble a squad that can’t manage a shot on target, is facing serious questions about his future.
But while the Portuguese must accept headlines that may well make his job all but untenable, Liverpool’s performance should be more worthy of debate in terms of the balance of the title race.
“It was probably the most complete performance since I joined,” said Rodgers. “This team has been evolving all the time. You have to go through a period of transition when you put your principles forward. But I loved our arrogance today, our arrogance with the ball, lots of angles. We looked a real threat while retaining our solidity.”
Not everyone at Anfield has always been convinced that Rodgers’ blueprint for success, which included totally transforming the style of play at a club that has under-achieved for so long, would reap long-term dividends. But the away end at White Hart Lane sung his name to the rafters during and after a performance so perfect it is almost impossible to find the superlatives to describe it.
Everything Liverpool did, from the energy shown by every single player to press the ball, to the way Henderson masterfully played the Gerrard role in midfield, to the dazzling dribbling of Sterling, to the sprinkling of magic from Coutinho and the stunning finishes from Suarez, was simply outstanding. And all this without Gerrard, without Daniel Sturridge, without Luis Enrique.
Rodgers’ players were sharper, quicker into the tackle and their passes were always played with vision, pace and intent — orchestrated by Henderson and taken to the next level by Suarez who was given the captain’s armband just a few months after it seemed he was destined to leave for Arsenal or Madrid.
“I wanted someone who could represent me and the club in that tunnel before we step onto the pitch,” said Rodgers. “If Luis Suarez is standing with the armband on, everyone knows this is a team that’s ready to go out and fight.”
The opening goal, after 18 minutes, highlighted all those positives for Liverpool as a revitalised Henderson won back the ball from Michael Dawson and Suarez burst through to score exquisitely past Hugh Lloris.
Henderson’s 40th minute volleyed finish, after Lloris saved from both himself and Suarez, sealed the match before Paulinho was sent off and Liverpool stepped up another gear to score with an excellent strike from Flanagan, a tap-in from the effervescent Sterling and a wonderful chip from their Uruguayan talisman who now has 17 league goals this season — two more than the entire Spurs squad .
That sums up Tottenham’s problems perfectly, even if Villas-Boas — whose side are eight points adrift of top place — is refusing to quit and instead focusing on the midweek Capital One quarter-final at home to West Ham.
“We have had difficult results at home. We need to instil confidence into the players because I admit it’s affecting us in some way,” he said. “I’ll work with the players to make sure they respond to this.” Whether he will be given that opportunity remains to be seen but for Liverpool there is no longer a debate over their management, their game plan or their quality. The only question is how far they can go.
TOTTENHAM: Lloris 7, Walker 6, Capoue 5, Dawson 5, Naughton 4 (Fryers 46, 5), Sandro 5 (Holtby 30), Dembele 5 (Townsend 61; 5), Lennon 6, Paulinho 5, Chadli 6, Soldado 5.
LIVERPOOL: Mignolet 7, Johnson 7, Skrtel 7, Sakho 7, Flanagan 7, Lucas 7 (Alberto 79; 6), Allen 7, Henderson 9, Coutinho 8 (Moses 90), Sterling 8, Suarez 8.
Referee: J Moss