Liverpool 1 – Everton 1: Match Review & Analysis

Two things dominated the conversation leading up to kick-off of the Merseyside Derby: the snow and how many goals Liverpool would stick past their neighbours. There was a cockiness to Liverpool’s support base that I can’t remember experiencing for some time. It’s not as if the arrogance and assuredness was unwarranted. The Reds have been in sensational form of late, responding to the loss against Tottenham by shoring up the defence and scoring goals for fun. On top of that, Everton spent about £150 million in the summer and somehow seem to have got worse. The board felt it necessary to sack Ronald Koeman despite having no clear back-up plan, leaving the club in the lurch for the best part of three months.

Still, I was concerned about the degree of over-confidence displayed by a huge section of our support-base heading into this one. There are Evertonians who can legally drink a pint on Christmas Day this year but who weren’t alive the last time their team won at our place. They hadn’t won away in the Premier League for eleven months heading into this match, whilst the Reds had only conceded two league goals and were in brilliant form. I felt as though the game had an Everton 1-0 written all over it if Liverpool were anything other than on the ball and the referee wasn’t wary of the tactics that Sam Allardyce would have his team playing. We didn’t lose, but this one was a draw that felt like a defeat.

Did Klopp Get The Team Wrong?

There’s no question that the starting eleven was something of a surprise. Since the pair of games involving Sevilla and Chelsea, Jürgen Klopp has got himself into a situation where he’s been rotating the side in such a way that we’ve essentially been going as strong as possible one match and then a mixed-up side the next. For me, the issue is that he got his decision wrong in the first instance. By going as strong as possible in Spain and then rotating for Chelsea he started a course of events that has meant we’ve been less than at our best in the most tricky matches that we’ve had. The performance against Spartak Moscow was excellent but we were never likely to struggle against such a poor side. Klopp’s judgement would be proven right or wrong depending on the result against Everton.

On the one hand, then, a 1-1 draw is suggestive of the notion that the German got things wrong. Yet in reality Roberto Firmino had been complaining of fatigue before the fixture and Philippe Coutinho hadn’t trained properly since Wednesday. The manager has to think about the season as a whole, not just one or two matches. Had he played either of the Brazilians from the start he might have lost them for a number of matches, which would have been disastrous. It’s also worth noting that Dominic Solanke and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both excellent today. I was worried when I saw our team and thought that it would have given the Everton team a bit of confidence, but on reflection I’m not sure that the manager had much choice. He would rightly have expected that team to be able to beat Everton and it wasn’t the less experienced players who let him down in the end.

Mané and Salah Weren’t At Their Best

It’s slightly churlish to speak of Mohamed Salah having a poor game given the goal that he scored, but there’s no question that the Egyptian wasn’t in the best form of his Liverpool career this afternoon. He couldn’t make anything stick and his passing was quite poor. He was given numerous lovely knock-downs and passes from Solanke, but he just couldn’t do anything with them, running into Everton players too often or having a loose touch that took the ball away from him. We’ll obviously forgive him because he’s been our player of the season thus far, but when you look at the overall contribution from him in this game in particular it’s difficult not to feel that he could and should have offered more.

Then there’s Sadio Mané. Another player who is one of the best in the league when he’s on his game, but one who has been lacking in consistency this season when compared to last. I’m still convinced that his sending off at Manchester City turned his campaign on its head, with the Senegal international looking half the player since then. It’s felt as though he’s needed a decent goal to help settle him and I thought his thunderous shot against Spartak would do the trick. Perhaps he’s been feeling the pressure to score, however, and that why he failed to square the ball when he raced through with a number of players in support towards the end of the first-half. Had he passed instead of shooting we’d have been 2-0 up and that would unquestionably have been that.

It Wasn’t An Allardyce Masterclass

There are countless reasons why I don’t like Sam Allardyce. The allegations of his corruption that have dogged him throughout his career should also have ended it, for one thing. Then there’s the fact that he’s often lauded as some sort of hard-done-to character who could get a team playing brilliant football if only he’d be given the opportunity, which is an opinion that seems to be based on his time at Bolton Wanderers. That was over a decade ago, however, and the best win-percentage that he’s managed since is 37.6% at West Ham United. On top of that he’s also constantly banging on about the fact that young British managers don’t get big jobs when he’s one of the reasons why that’s the case. He’s in a bracket with the likes of David Moyes, Alan Pardew and Roy Hodgson of managers who are mediocre but keep going round and round on the managerial merry-go-round.

For some reason the press continues to buy into the narrative that he’s some sort of tactical genius and they’ll no doubt say the same thing after today’s result. Only, a tactical genius would have been able to set-up a team in such a way that it would have limited our chances to zero. They would have been able to get their team performing in such a way that it wouldn’t have depending on a dive and a weak refereeing decision to scrape a draw. There was nothing tactically brilliant about Everton’s performance, with the Blues wasting time from kick-off and continuing to do the same thing throughout the match. They did nothing but play long-balls and hope for a Liverpool mistake, which was genuinely painful to watch. Perhaps he’ll turn it around at Everton. Maybe he’ll get them playing amazing football at some point in the future. If I was an Everton supporters, though, I’d be ashamed to watch the sort of performance they put in today. It was truly woeful to watch.

We’ve Got Some Great Young Players

There are, unfortunately, sections of the fanbase that will want to do nothing but moan after that result. Yet I always believe that it’s important to look on the bright side, with one of the brightest things from today being the performances of our younger players. It’s easy to see why Jürgen Klopp thought his centre-back situation wasn’t too bad heading into the start of the season, mainly due to the genuine quality of Joe Gomez. The former Charlton man was clearly ear-marked to enter the centre-back rotation only for the injury to Nathaniel Clyne to mean that he had to be moved over to share the right-back slot with Trent Alexander-Arnold. Regardless of where he’s playing, he’s been excellent all season long. Today was no exception, with the England international mopping things up at the back when needed and offering plenty going forward, too.

I’ve mentioned Dominic Solanke a few times already and he deserves plenty of praise. I was surprised to see some negativity around his performance on Twitter, though I don’t know why considering that you’ll find negativity about almost anything on the social media platform. He looks like one for the future and offers so much more to the team than the likes of Divock Origi or even Daniel Sturridge. Andrew Robertson isn’t exactly young at twenty-three, but nor can he be considered one of the older heads in this team. He didn’t put a foot wrong today, getting in some excellent crosses and covering Everton’s slim attempts at attacking really well. I have been a big fan of Alberto Moreno’s performances this season and can see why the manager was reluctant to drop him, but the Scot stood up and took his chance brilliantly when presented with it today. Hopefully that will have given him a good degree of confidence and given the manager pause for thought in terms of deciding whether or not to rotate the two in the future.

We’re Still In A Great Position

Today’s result was disappointing, mainly because this Everton side is truly dreadful, but we’re still in a really good position heading into the new year. Some fans will look at us being sixteen points behind Manchester City and think that that’s a sign of us being weak, but it fails to take into account just how good Pep Guardiola’s team have been this season. They have dropped just two points since the campaign got underway; with those points being dropped to Everton, by the way.

We are just five points off Manchester United, though, and that tells us much more about where we are right now. When the season finishes, presuming that City keep going at the same pace as they have done so far, it’s where we are in comparison to the likes of the Red Devils, Chelsea and Arsenal that will be our marker. Dropping points against our neighbours is unquestionably a disappointment, but we’ve still only lost twice in the Premier League, remain unbeaten at Anfield, have a Champions League knockout match to look forward to and can look to gain revenge over Fat Sam and his negative tactics in the FA Cup. It’s time for some to stop being so tediously negative.

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