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Cheating the “Month of Death”

By Lyndon Lloyd :  04/02/2010 :  Comments (25) :

I hate the derby. Except, of course, when we win. Then I feckin' love the derby. We release DVDs and make desktop wallpapers of our derby triumphs because they're so rare these days. A win over Liverpool is something to be cherished... but mostly derbies are a source of utter dread and I'm glad that there are (usually) only two a season.

That, of course, partially stems from the intensity of the local rivalry, the recent bitterness of which gets dissected and beaten death by the media every time an all-Mersey clash rolls around. Losing to Liverpool just hurts more than any other defeat — unless of course it's a game of significance like last season's Cup Final loss to Chelsea which was just plain agonising, particularly given how much it meant to us — and it's that fear of losing that keeps your heart in your throat and your stomach tied in knots for 90 long minutes.

What drives the forboding nature of this fixture more than anything these days, though, is the infrequency with which we actually beat the Dark Side — for Heaven's sake, even after battering them for 90 minutes at Goodison earlier this season, they still managed to score two goals from about as many chances and come away with the most underserved of wins. Oddly, I couldn't even muster up the energy to be gutted about it — we'd given it our best and just been unlucky.

As they have consolidated their status among the Sky Four and the Europan cartel of "G" clubs in the past 10 years or so, our successes against Liverpool have become harder to come by. Six wins and a glorious five-year unbeaten stretch in the 1990s contrasts starkly with our paltry two Premier League victories in this last decade. Last season's FA Cup replay triumph was magical because, shorn of strikers as we were at the time, it felt like we'd triumphed over both Liverpool and adversity, but we're still owed some more joy against them by the footballing gods and they know it.

As this season's Anfield derby looms, there's much talk of the Blues' recent form, how it contrasts with that of the Reds and how it might portend the first Everton victory at Anfield since 1999. But, as any seasoned derby observer knows, such analysis is pure folly. That five-season unbeaten stretch we enjoyed in the second half of the 90s coincided with a genuinely dark period in the club's history whereas under the patient David Moyes evolution and the revival in our Premier League fortunes, we've lost nine of the last 15 league derbies. The old cliche, "the form book goes out the window for derbies" is so often true of these matches; just as apt is the feeling that they usually beat us when it matters.

It's true: with Fernando Torres out, the Reds in turmoil off the pitch, Rafael Benitez under mounting pressure after his team fell out of the top four this season and were then turfed out of the FA Cup by Reading, and Everton without defeat in the League since the Goodison derby last December there could be no better time to play them. But at the end of the day, it'll all be about what happens during the 90 minutes... who wants it more, how fair the referee is, and even then, as the first derby this season showed, the better side might not win.

Setting aside the pessimism that comes from watching derby clashes throughout the 2000s, though we've not won on ememy territory in ten seasons now, we've not actually done too badly in away derbies and are unbeaten in our last two visits there in all competitions. Importantly, our Talisman of this fixture with the last three goals scored by an Everton player at Anfield, Tim Cahill, is back on form and scoring vital goals. Having terrorised Liverpool last season, Tiger Tim will either be at it again or at least take up so much of Liverpool's focus that it'll open up opportunities for the other stars in the Blues' line-up to etch their name into Mersey derby folklore. I'll say it again: we're due success in the belly of the beast and we know we have the talent to achieve it.

There's a wider significance to the derby, however, as we enter this so-called "month of death". The Blues' record against the Sky Four since the inception of the Premier League shows that we've earned significantly more points against Liverpool than against Chelsea (26), Arsenal (24) and, in particular, Manchester United (just 14) and that speaks volumes for Everton's approach to games against the old enemy. Whereas we've consistently been tentative and conservative against the other three Big Four teams, particularly under David Moyes, the more gung-ho attitude that the derby provokes has reaped greater dividends.

Furthermore, it's no accident that a more attacking formation and less restrained approach led to Everton being the only team to score three goals at Stamford Bridge so far this season; likewise, the Blues came within an injury-time minute of beating Arsenal on their own turf having take the game to them from the first whistle.

If nothing else, these recent results, combined with the team's overall form in the League since the debacle at Hull in November, should be used as the foundation for how Everton approach the upcoming tests against Chelsea, United, Sporting and Spurs this month. For this weekend's derby, that should go without saying but we need to shed this inferiority complex against the big sides and adopt the self-belief that usually pervades in derby games. A first win at Anfield in a decade and we may well have the catalyst for cheating the "month of death."

Reader Comments

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Gavin Ramejkis
1   Posted 05/02/2010 at 07:53:12

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We need to go to Mordor with the same fire in our bellies as we showed at the Emirates, if we play like that we will win. If we give them any respect or time on the ball in midfield we will lose. I love and hate derbies for much the same reason as yourself. If we are to keep any remote hope of a qualification for Europe next season, this is a must-win game.
Kevin Sparke
2   Posted 05/02/2010 at 09:09:21

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Derby matches are a hate-hate situation for me. I can only truly relax if we’ve beaten them and then only with the help of noxious spirits and/or plenty of beer.

I’ll be sitting in front of my TV for this one — I really hated going to Anfield.

In one sense we’re lucky the fixtures have panned out in the way they have: if we beat Liverpool or play well, it will set the tone for the rest of the month; lose badly and Moyes will need all his resources to pull the team out of a post-derby slump.

However, the omens are good: the last couple of seasons we’ve ground out results against Liverpool... now we have a team to really outplay them.

My only nagging doubt is Senderos — I know he’s not had a chance to bed in yet and I know we should give the lad time to settle down. Unfortunately, I’ve watched him play for Arsenal and have not been impressed in the slightest. I’m so glad the ladyboy isn’t playing as fully fit he’d have ripped him to shreds.

I hope I’m wrong and Moyes can turn Senderos from a defender who once had lots of promise but has looked error prone and pedestrian in recent seasons, to an Everton/Moyes style central defender.
Dave Lynch
3   Posted 05/02/2010 at 09:37:02

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To my mind, there are no excuses this time. We proved we can take on the so-called elite. We battered the Arse and humiliated Man Citeh and their band of mercenaries. Liverpool are poor at the moment and if we go for the throat and get on top of them early, we can cruise this.
Ciaran Duff
4   Posted 05/02/2010 at 10:00:39

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Like a lot of Evertonians, I feel we have a good chance this time. Fellaini’s form in particular gives me hope.
However, the bookies don’t seem to share our view and let's face it they are as unbiased as you can get.
RS win - $1.80
Draw - $3.40
EFC - $4.50
Ken Buckley
5   Posted 05/02/2010 at 10:24:29

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As a seasoned derby watcher, I take these games in isolation to all the others. Form goes out of the window as tribalism takes over, everything in these games seems magnified 20 times and the result seems more about bragging rights than any indicator of either future success or failure for either team.

Saturday will be no exception: every Blue will have interest in only the score, the niceties of the game will be secondary to that all-important win. How we get it isn’t the point, just get it and fill County Road with a mass of singing scarf-waving Blues and the rest of the season will get back to normal and take care of itself.


Gareth Humphreys
6   Posted 05/02/2010 at 12:28:23

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Liverpool’s form over the last 6 games is the same as ours — calm down boys.
Tony I'Anson
7   Posted 05/02/2010 at 12:34:17

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Sorry, not related to this article directly, but can Lyndon please remove their branding from our unless you want the TW brand to be associated with all it stands for. I find myself scrolling up quickly so I dont have to see it.
Ciarán McGlone
8   Posted 05/02/2010 at 13:07:16

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For the first time — in a very long time — I’m actually looking forward to a derby with a sense that we can actually win it by playing better football!

Heavens above...
Jay Harris
9   Posted 05/02/2010 at 13:14:03

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Odd post, Lyndon, but I’m looking at this one with the fear that it will be Goodison Mark II.... ie, we’ll play them off the park but give away silly goals.

I’m still not happy that we’ve got it right defensively and Senderos or Distin both give me concerns. Also, Neville has been playing badly and while it is a team game, you’re only as strong as your weakest links.

I’ll be happy with a draw and delighted with an overdue win but feel we’ll have to score a few goals to do it. Also hope Atkinson is not too swayed by Carragher and Gerrard.

Spencer Ramsay
10   Posted 05/02/2010 at 13:29:50

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We have to have a good chance of winning this weekend for the first time in 10 seasons of trying... However, the flip side of this is that we usually go on a decent unbeaten run after defeat in the derby (such as the current one)... Would anybody take that if it was offered now??!! COYB
Chris Fisher
11   Posted 05/02/2010 at 14:41:49

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Spencer Ramsay, Noway! I just want to beat the buggers!
Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
12   Posted 05/02/2010 at 15:09:35

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...but can Lyndon please remove their branding from our unless you want the TW brand to be associated with all it stands for

As Michael always says, we put up the team crest of the next opposition with every preview and treat that lot the same as every other team. Over the last couple of derbies, I’ve used photos from previous derbies instead and we’ve lost them both (I think I used the FA Cup for those two games last season) so I’m doing a little exercise in superstition here. If we win, it’ll all have been worth it!
Tony Cheek
13   Posted 05/02/2010 at 15:32:09

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I agree Ciaran , for the first time in years I actually believe we are going into a derby with a BETTER team than them...Yes , player for player we are better team , now , what can mess it up is the team DM chooses and his tactics..get it right Davey and the day is ours....COYB
Rob Hollis
14   Posted 05/02/2010 at 15:55:52

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Why is it ’The Month of Death?’

Why do our supporters (and sometimes Manager) start off with a big inferiority complex when playing certain teams?

On our day, we can have good go at anybody. We should always EXPECT to win.

If you are scared of playing anybody then you should not be playing.
Iain Love
15   Posted 05/02/2010 at 16:49:38

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My Liverpool supporting colleages would settle for a draw on this one , i would not. Overall man for man we have a better team than them atm, we have been playing some nice joined up stuff and our midfield Felliani in particular is stronger than theirs, if we get to 90% of how we played against Citeh we will win.
My concerns for the game
1/ Osman, goes missing against better opposition, if Arteta fit, play him from the start, if not play Pienaar central Bily left, Ossie sub.
2/ Senderos, not had time to develop with Heitinga , if Distin fit would rather see him esp for pace.
3/ Saha, i almost want to see Vaughan start, then bring King Louis on to face defenders who have had to deal with Vaughan and Cahill for 45 mins and are totally fucked, it could work the other way round of course, but Saha the good is vital we dont want Saha the not really up for this one as i only got 7 hrs sleep last night and i usually have 8hrs, and i cut my finger on thurs so i dont feel right.
Getting worked up already , Fucking GET IN.
Tony I'Anson
16   Posted 05/02/2010 at 17:06:09

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OK Lyndon but can you photoshop the twig out of its gob just for me?
Ajay Timothy
17   Posted 05/02/2010 at 21:22:11

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Just nervous about how much our players have been "talking up" their game. Cant pick up a paper or web site without Fellaini, Osman, Baines or Neville saying how we should be beating them at Anfield.

I dont want to pick up the paper on Monday and have Gerard and Carragher saying that all this talk motivated them to beat us on Saturday.

Nice to be confident but their form is as good as ours recently and they do have that deal with the devil that spurs them on.
Ajay Timothy
18   Posted 05/02/2010 at 21:29:40

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Great - Now we have the manager of the month curse to deal with as well
Sean Patton
19   Posted 05/02/2010 at 22:02:21

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I completely agree we should be aiming for wins in this month not draws, not plucky performances and half arsed platitudes. There are no more excuses we are in good form,we have a virtually full strength squad plus the top four are weaker than ever.

This season alone the likes of Wigan,Burnley,Fulham and Portsmouth have all mamged to do something Everton have not done in three years and beat one of the CL cartel. Even Leeds and Reading are getting in on the act.

Those clubs dont see it as a big deal they dont freeze and blow their chance so why the hell should we.

It is high time the team abanded this attitude of being happy with a point and keep it tight. This month the manager and the players have the perfect opportunity to once and for all prove that we can compete on the pitch with anybody.

If we display an attacking intent identical to the City game in each match that we play In February we will win more than we lose.
Dick Fearon
20   Posted 05/02/2010 at 21:51:28

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I just hope that Moyes acts quickly to rectify any obvious faults. Too many times I have screamed for him to change a player or tactic that anyone with half an eye could see was not working. It sometimes seems he is caught in the headlights of an oncoming road train and paralysed of action.

A main difference between him, very good manager that he is and a truly great manager, is the ability to recognise, often before anyone else, if and when to make a change.

I agree with everyone who would rather our players ceased their childish boasting, shut their gobs and save it till after.

Eamonn Turner
21   Posted 05/02/2010 at 23:05:54

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If we are to qualify for The Europa league by finishing 6th, 7th or whatever it may be, then wins will get us there not draws. We haven’t been in this position (9th) at this stage of the season in recent years. We should be safe from a relegation scrap, therefore have nothing to loose.
Might be interesting to see how Moyes approaches this "month of death". Fucking go for it! Starting with a win against the shower of pricks across the park.
David Hallwood
22   Posted 05/02/2010 at 23:16:56

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Doesn’t this weekend bring home the paradoxes; My two best friends are RS, both of my neighbours, who I wouldn’t swap for the world are RS, but I FUCKIN HATE THE RS(don’t you hate people who use higher case to make a point). I want to win so badly I can taste it, I could’ve had a ticket but I wont go to Mordor(luv it Gavin!) I wont go to a pub full of knobheads so I’ll watch it at home.

We’ve got to be in their faces from the first whistle, this is the first time in 25 years that we can say our midfield is better than theirs. I thought the derby at GP despite losing is the 1st one I’ve seen which we totally dominated, I’ve seen us get played off the park on numerous occasions, or in the 80’s even steven and that what made the result all the more hard to take.

Come on Davey go for the win, as someone said we ain’t getting relegated so we might as well go for broke. COYB
Stephen Ryan
23   Posted 06/02/2010 at 00:36:05

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If we can somehow get a couple of wins in February, the final 9 games or so (on paper) are all winnable and who knows, 4th spot might still be there for the taking.
Jamie Crowley
24   Posted 06/02/2010 at 03:20:01

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We have the better team. This one’s there for the taking.

Mordor - hilarious. If we’re the Fellowship of the Blue, who’s wearing the ring of power? Gotta be Cahill — looks a bit like a hobbit. He’s gotta destroy it by knocking it with his head into the fire pit / LFC goal.

We have to win — I hate them so much it’s palpable. I never thought any team could surplant the NY Yankees as the most hated team in the free world. It happened - hate the RS that much more.

Into Hell in the name of all that is Holy!

Derek Thomas
25   Posted 06/02/2010 at 03:24:48

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We all know that, sometime in the late 60s, they sold their Shankly red soul to the Devil and that I have lost count of the number of times we have been if not always the better, then the equal of them and lost... There can be no other explaination.

But this time, this time surely, is the one.

I have no sympathy for the Devil and refuse to give him his due.

And now for something completely different... under the ’Only a woman could think of it’ heading. The wife has just come in with a packet of red!! reddish, well chestnut hair colour. WTF.

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