Final Verdict – The Merseyside Derby

3 Oct

Everton 0 – 2 Liverpool

Money, Money, Money, Money….MONEY!

Unlike Derby’s gone by which has had the back drop of relegation and European qualification the most discussed issue around this weekend’s was the massive difference in finances how now appeared between the two clubs.  The Red side of Liverpool have had a turbulent 3 years with 2 different owners and 3 managers however with new owner Henry and the permanent return of Dalglish at the helm everything seemed rosy.  £100m spent on new players and an excellent close to the season saw pundits and fans alike heavily tip Liverpool to get back into the top 4 and even potentially challenge at the top.  This was supported by a strong start securing 7 points out of 9 including an away win to Arsenal and the sound thrashing of Bolton at home.  However back to back
defeats away from Anfield against Stoke and Tottenham started alarm bells ring particularly after the starting tactics deployed by Dalglish against Tottenham.  In addition some of the big summer signings have spluttered none more so than Andy Carroll who
seems to be getting a lot of criticism mainly due to his high price tag.

What Moyes has achieved at Everton has been nothing short of miraculous making them guaranteed top 8 team on a shoe string budget.  As looked at in last week’s Manchester City vs. Everton Preview a number of fans now getting restless with owner Bill Kenwright and only seeing 3 loan signings made with Arteta leaving on deadline day to help address Everton’s debt.

Starting Tactics

As is now coming more and more common both teams lined up with 4-4-2 and made one change in their starting eleven from last week’s fixture with Saha coming in for Neville and Kuyt replacing Henderson.  One of the big questions for me though this weekend was with all the money spent who actually had the best starting 11?  Everton have undoubtedly been weakened by the departure of Arteta, however Liverpool are still missing that killer quality Gerrard offers which was supposed by delivered by Adam and Downing. Where you could see the difference between the two squads was on the bench with Liverpool being able to call upon the established qualities of Gerrard, Bellamy and Henderson compared to Everton who had Neville, Drenthe and Vellios.

Opening Exchanges

Everton showed their intention straight from the kick off with Saha playing a ball back to Hibbert who then drilled a long diagonal cross field ball for Saha to challenge with Carragher which set the pattern for the first 30 minutes of the match.  The first key battle of the day came between Carroll and Distin which the later won for the majority of match.  Liverpool made it easy for Everton to defend with Carroll’s movement all too predictable pulling away to the back post for a cross.

Everton proved a threat from set pieces with Fellaini being the target on the far side to direct the ball back across the goal for players
to run onto.  Carroll was given the task of marking Fellaini and all too often gave him too much space to make unchallenged headers.

While being the away team Liverpool had most of the possession in the first 20 minutes making 25 more passes, it was Everton who
was making the best chances (6 vs. 1).  Interestingly Everton seemed happy to surrender the attacking 3rd allowing Liverpool to play the ball out of defence.  Where Everton tried to prevent Liverpool playing was through Lucas forcing the defence to look long.  This was first taken up by Cahill who instantly dropped onto Lucas when Reina picked up possession with Saha moving left before Saha picked up these duties when Rodwell was sent off.  As a result this forced Liverpool to play predictable balls long or down the channels where Everton closed quickly.

Suarezgate

Well I don’t think I really need to explain what happened here in too much detail but the game defining moment came on the 22nd
minute when Martin Atkinson showed Jack Rodwell a straight red for what can only be described as a great tackle which through some fine acting skills by Suarez made up Atkinson’s mind.  Obviously red cards are a common feature of Merseyside Derby’s with
Rodwell begin the 12th player to receive one in the last 16, but with this one happening so early it was always going to affect the outcome of the game.

Everton reorganised with Osman moving in to CM to partner Fellaini with Cahill being moved out to the right.  The thinking behind this I’m guessing was to a) keep Cahill out of trouble in the middle with his combative style and b) to enable to him to join Saha upfront when possible with Baines overlapping without weakening the middle.

To be fair this worked with Liverpool being ineffective when in position who continued to bypass the midfield allowing Everton to counter attack down the left with long diagonal balls to Cahill. From Rodwell’s red card to the 30th minute Liverpool had double the possession of Everton (11 completed passes vs.56) but the build up play was all too predictable. As mentioned Distin was winning the aerial dual with Carroll however Liverpool still seemed intent on playing direct to Carroll whether from the CBs or from crosses with only 2 completed crosses out of 17.

Liverpool's predictable play

Liverpool Start to Dominate

Even with Everton down to 10 men it took Liverpool until the 30th minute to actually start to make the extra man tell.  Where previously Cahill stopped the out ball from Carragher and Skrtel to Lucas, with only Saha to press, Lucas had more time to get on the ball starting the attacks by switching the play through midfield via Adam allowing both Enrique and Kelly to join the attack.  In addition Kuyt started to have more of a free role popping up across the front line.

Change in Liverpool's play

Everton mistake was in dropping the defensive line back to the 18 yard box leaving too big a gap between the defensive back four and midfield allowing Suarez the space he’d been denied when Rodwell was on the pitch.

As shown by the Stats Zone comparison you can clearly see the change in pattern of Liverpool’s passing from direct play from the back to building through the middle to the wings and across the front of Everton’s defence.  As a result Suarez came more into the game playing first time passes receiving the ball 14 times while completing 10/11 passes.  This resulted in the best move of the half

As shown by the Stats Zone comparison you can clearly see the change in pattern of Liverpool’s passing from direct play from the back to building through the middle to the wings and across the front of Everton’s defence.  As a result Suarez came more into the game playing first time passes receiving the ball 14 times while completing 10/11 passes eventually resulting in him winning a penalty against Jagielka which Howard saved well to his bottom left from Kuyt.

Even with 11 men and the lion share of possession Liverpool still looked cumbersome and unable to breakdown Everton mainly due to the speed of pass coming from Charlie Adam.  While having a fantastic rasping shot which looked in until it hit the cross bar, Adam while been more involved in the game still looked to spend too much time on the ball, consequently Liverpool’s moment sometimes stalled.

The Return of Gerrard

With the game becoming increasingly scrappy, realising something needed to be changed, Dalglish made a double substitution bringing Gerrard and Bellamy on for ineffective Downing and Adam.  This had an immediate impact on the game with the tempo of passing increasing instantly.  Within 6 minutes Bellamy combined well with Enrique down the left who crossed for Carroll after a great Kuyt dummy to get opening goal of the game and his first of the season.  After this there was no coming back for Everton already seemingly resigned to growing for a draw with the introduction of Neville.

With Everton 1-0 down and Liverpool using the spare man well they resorted to playing the long ball to Saha and Cahill but Skrtel and Carragher dominated the aerial duels snuffing out Everton’s final role of the dice.

On the 82nd minute Suarez still full of running put the match to bed with Liverpool’s second.  With Kuyt playing more central Suarez was allowed to drop deeper to pick up the ball and run at the Everton defence.  After a nice one two Suarez was eventually closed off the ball by Distin and Baines only for Suarez to nip between the two poke home.

Summary

There can be no debate that this game was spoilt by Atkinson’s decision to send of Rodwell, and that the result may well have been
different.  However you can only beat what’s in front of you.  For me both managers should be worried about the performance of their teams.  Everton for two weeks in a row have not had a plan B once the counter attack option doesn’t work. Also there is either a lack of depth in the squad or a lack of trust from Moyes in the players he has brought in all be it on loan.  Dalglish who will
have definitely been the happier after seeing Carroll get off the mark and Suarez get another, but must be wondering what happened to the team that dismantled Chelsea and Fulham in such a comprehensive way last season.  I think all fans will breathe a sigh of
relief that Gerrard is back and will hope that Kenny noticed Kuyt’s contribution in all their key attacking moments.

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