At times it seemed like an obvious trap for Liverpool to even consider attacking. Every time they pushed forward, they left space. Boom, in a flash, in swift waves of uncontrollable white streaming forward relentlessly, Tottenham were always on the attack. Liverpool containing it at 4-1 felt merciful, an escape from a humiliation.
By the end Liverpool seemed broken, devoid of ideas, energy gone, fleeting moments of potency from Mohammad Salah and no-one else. The game had gone from them, in the first five minutes, authors of their own downfall once more. They had been overrun, brutally. This was Tottenham's first win in over ten attempts, back in the days of Gareth Bale. And they beat Liverpool at their own game, at the counterattack.
Last year, the Reds had outmatched Tottenham largely, dominating at White Hart Lane without the win, blitzing them in an early spell of high-pressure football at Anfield. Here Spurs were different, sitting off and sitting deep, but always waiting. If Liverpool had possession they didn't have penetration, nor did they have protection. They seemed impotent, and alarmingly vulnerable, Dejan Lovren having a nightmare showing.
By the end Jurgen Klopp cut a subdued man, much like his team. This was not a Klopp team, the identity that had so much clarity missing. There was little pressing, little pace and precision in attack. This season statistically, Liverpool have been fractionally slower in their ball recovery, sitting off slightly, pressing from deeper. It's been a plot both to conserve energy and lure teams out, to force them to play. But it's made them vulnerable, easy to attack. Tottenham did so with sadistic pleasure.
The problem for Klopp and his teams are that they're so defined by their energy in their passing and pressing that suck the tempo out of a game, and they struggle. This is a team that plays off space and into it, but isn't so great at creating it. The absence of a little Spanish maestro - Santi Cazorla for Arsenal, David Silva for Man City and Juan Mata for Man United - is telling. This team is creative, exciting and intelligent but not built in the manner of a team used to opening up deep, packed defences. Their natural game is to play on the counterattack, to pressure high, suffocate the opposition and overwhelm them by sheer force of numbers.
Anyone who watched Borussia Dortmund under Klopp will remember the team that won successive league titles, thumped Real Madrid twice on their way to the 2013 European Cup final. But by the end, Dortmund were diminished, embroiled briefly in a relegation crisis. Teams had figured out how to surprise their high-pressing game. Not just survive it, but beat it. When Pep Guardiola and Klopp met in the league, Bayern won 3-0 and Guardiola had done it through the long ball, bypassing Dortmund's pressing game almost entirely.
Here teams have worked out how to stop Liverpool, to go long, to search for the counter, and sit deep. Some of Liverpool's goals are not systematic but individual errors, too many of them and that has told in how they have this season lost the big games away so heavily. But it's clear right now that beyond errors this is a potentially devastating team currently blunted by their own tactical uncertainty. Every team evolves and that transitional period in fleshing out their style can be a troubling one. Liverpool can no longer rely on the counterattack, and in a league that cherishes high-tempo football, Klopp really is the normal one as he suggested.
This is not to deny the credentials of the man or the brilliance of his tactics. Liverpool under him have progressed, and ironing out defensive mistakes may be the final step towards winning trophies. And a manager like Klopp may actually do extremely well in somewhere like Spain. He is made for Liverpool, so similar in being a club with history and a passionate working-class base like Dortmund. But right now, he looks short of ideas.