Everton v Liverpool Preview (November 23 2013, Goodison Park, 12.45)
Posted by PhaseOfPlay on November 20, 2013, 03:07:41 PM
Saturday November 23, 2013Everton v Liverpool – First Derby of the Season
With the international break over, and “real” football back on track, the first derby of the season takes on a different slant than the last few years, as one team tries to keep pace with the league leaders, and the other tries to break into the top four. That Everton have a new manager, only makes it more interesting, as the game should be more open, entertaining, and rely more on the execution of skill than the execution of percentages. The old saying is that “form goes out the window in a derby”, but a derby game is as much a battle of managers as it is a battle of players. Martinez versus Rodgers may just be the most interesting battle of the afternoon.Everton
Everton are flying high so far this season, with only one loss to their name in the league to date. Martinez has already changed their style of play sufficiently to make them a “Martinez” team with very few habits left over from the Moyes regime. They still have a tendency to rely on Baines’ effectiveness on set pieces to either score or engineer a goal. Of their 14 goals this season, 2 have been scored by Baines from free kicks – although both of those came in the same game. In fact, Everton’s 14 goals, while a good rate per game, have come in only 7 games, with 6 of their goals coming in two games (West Ham and Newcastle). They have been shut out 4 times already this season, which suggests that for all their new-found reliance on possession, they can have trouble scoring, and goals may still be a result of randomness than any engineered penetrative play.
Their danger men are Baines, Mirallas, Barkley and Lukaku. Lukaku is well known to Liverpool from his performances for West Brom – but the additions of Toure and Sakho in the summer transfer window means that Liverpool at least have options to deal with his physical threat. He is their main goalscorer, scoring 5 of their 14 goals so far, so stopping him (either directly, or by controlling the supply to him) will go a long way to stopping Everton. Mirallas is a good, quick, skilful winger who would grace many teams, and he has assisted 4 of their goals this season, and is a legitimate threat on the Everton right side. Baines is dangerous from set-pieces only, and that battle between him and Mignolet in the Liverpool goal will be interesting to watch. Barkley is the latest “Next Big Thing” from the Everton production line that has produced exactly one “Next Big Thing” in the last 10 years – testament to Moyes’ preference for bringing in established players from outside rather than trust the youth at his own (former) club. Young players at Everton, though, should have more hope in the future under Martinez. Keeping Barkley under wraps will also go a long way towards stifling the Everton attacking threat.Liverpool
Liverpool will be approaching the first Merseyside derby of the season with a tantalising goal in mind – if Liverpool win the match and Arsenal lose to Southampton later that day, Liverpool will be top of the league for the weekend, heading into games against Hull, Norwich and West Ham. A chance exists to put some real distance between Liverpool and 5th place over the next few weeks, and the biggest worry is the impact of the International games. Under Rodgers, we haven’t lost a game after an international break, but we have drawn three of them (and won two). The key concerns will be over Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard, although Coutinho and Henderson should be fresh, while Sakho should be full of confidence after his exploits for France.
Tactically, there is no reason to think that Rodgers will change from the 4-4-2 back to the 3-5-2 against a Martinez team. Even with Lukaku, Everton will try to play the ball through midfield, and if Liverpool can win that battle and keep the ball moving, there shouldn’t be many opportunities for Everton to score – and most chances should be manageable for Mignolet. The biggest question will be over personnel at the back. Cissokho is sure to start at left back, but one has to hope that Enrique is available and close to full fitness, if only because the left side will basically be dominated by Mirallas, and that side needs someone who can cope with him on their own. On the other hand, the Everton left side will leave plenty of space as Baines gets forward on the overlap. A fit Sturridge combining with Henderson and an overlapping Johnson could be a key area in this game, and the more attention paid to this side, the more space will open up for Suarez to weave some magic. Coutinho pulling the strings coming in from the left will also force Barry and McCarthy to play more defensive than normal, and this might subtract from Everton’s attacking effectiveness. It could be a very counter-attacking game from Liverpool, but there’s also an opportunity to try to win the possession battle given that Liverpool are more used to that style than Everton under Martinez (although he has done a good job imprinting his ideas onto them). Ultimately, the game could come down to whether Sturridge and Suarez are feeling the after-effects of the international break, and whether Liverpool can manage Lukaku and their set-piece organisation when Baines is on the ball.Key Areas
There are three key areas that might have a major impact on the game. The first key area is the space in behind Baines when he gets forward in the Everton attack. If he’s paired with Pienaar on that side, it might create a large gap in the Everton left channel that can be exploited by a quick counterattack. Given that Baines is incredibly inaccurate with his crossing in open play, this means that any attack down his side more than likely will result in a turnover to Liverpool with Everton in vulnerable positions for defensive transition. Hitting this area with quick combination play involving Gerrard, Henderson, Johnson and Sturridge should help create some chances for Liverpool:
The second area is more of a concern for Liverpool. In the corresponding fixture at Goodison last season, Wisdom had a nightmare time against Mirallas who played on the left. Rodgers’ solution on the day was to go to three at the back to give Wisdom some extra cover, and it almost worked a treat if an incorrect offside decision had not been called. Mirallas plays on the right for Martinez, and the major question is whether Rodgers will go to a back three again to cope with Mirallas, or will he trust whoever plays left back to have the pace and power to match Mirallas’ physical gifts:
The third key area is the space around Lukaku and Barkley. Lukaku is a physical force, and it’s important that we at least win the physical battle, especially as there will be a good relationship between Mirallas and Lukaku from their time on the Belgian squad (in fact, Lukaku often drifts to the right to combine with Mirallas). This creates space for Barkley (or Osman, if he plays – although Barkley is probably more dangerous) to make runs through the middle, get long shots, or create something for the left attacking mid (probably Pienaar). Lucas will be vital, first of all, in this area, as he will have to control Barkley and his runs. If we play with a back four, then it’s possible Sakho will get the nod, despite Agger having a good game in the last game. If we go with a back three, then Sakho will have the left side, with Agger probably the central defender. Skrtel has done enough to maintain his place, and his willingness to clear a ball might be an important unintended weapon in turning Everton after they commit numbers forward. Lukaku versus whichever Liverpool defender will be a physical battle, and this would suggest Sakho will play a part. Barkley, though, will require experience, and Lucas will offer that and more. The trio of Mirallas, Lukaku and Barkley will probably be the most dangerous combination Liverpool will have to look out for all afternoon. Get a handle on that, and keep Baines out of direct kick range, and a clean sheet might be possible – a good foundation from which to build towards a victory:
Overall, it should be an open game, but the scoreline might not reflect the quality of play from both teams. Either way, it should be an exciting game of football.
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