Merseyside derby musings

By Paul Traill 22/06/2020 25comments  |  Jump to last
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Everton 0 - 0 Liverpool

Those who regularly read my match reports would know that, as much as getting across (or trying to) what I feel about the team and how we are playing, I try to paint a picture of the general matchday experience. With that currently unavailable to us, I had no plans to write a report but, having watched the Merseyside derby on TV, there were a few things I wanted to get off my chest.

My pre-Merseyside derby build-up couldn’t have been further away from anything I’ve previously experienced. On Saturday evening, against my better judgement, I ate some bacon which looked off and smelt off and didn’t taste of anything. The next day, I awoke feeling very poorly with a high temperature and, remembering my tasteless bacon experience the night previous, I wondered if I had maybe somehow contracted Covid-19. And so I booked a test and travelled to Deeside in the morning.

Come the evening, I felt a lot better and even stretched to a couple of beers while watching the game at home. The test result arrived this morning and it's negative, but better to be safe... Not my typical pre-Merseyside derby build-up!

Come kick-off and, though I was undeniably very interested, the pre-derby nerves were nowhere near their usual levels. Having the game at the end of the day on a Sunday would usually have me fretting all day long, but it really didn’t occupy a lot of my thoughts. It felt odd hearing the Z-Cars theme tune and then seeing Liverpool players enter from a Portacabin, and then on kick-off, bar the loud shouting from the supporting casts in the dugouts, Goodison Park felt eerily quiet.

With Theo Waltcott unavailable and Carlo sticking to 4-4-2, I felt it was the most disciplined team we could have begun with. It was great to see Anthony Gordon make his first Premier League start and Alex Iwobi filled the other wing, with Tom Davies and André Gomes in midfield. There was no room for Gylfi Sigurdsson in the starting XI.

If the opportunity permits over the coming weeks, I would like to see how we get on in a 4-3-3. I think André, Tom and Gylfi would be quite well suited to it and Dominic, Richarlison and Theo (for now at least) could be handy in a three also. I’d be interested to see us give it a go anyway.

As for Liverpool, it really feels that Jurgen Klopp is trolling Everton with his team selections, with a few of their first-team regulars not participating. Given what such a fit team Liverpool seem to be and how well prepared they always are, I’m a bit surprised they haven’t got everyone firing fit. Despite Andy Robinson, Georgino Wijnaldum and Mo Salah not involved, Liverpool still had a lot of quality to bring in.

Let's not forget, we are talking about a £264M wage bill compared to £89.5M and we had plenty of injuries ourselves. Aside from Manchester United, Liverpool have the highest wage bill in the Premier League. I’ve never understood this “plucky Liverpool” notion. (Source: https://www.sportekz.com/football/premier-league-clubs-wage-bills/)

I was a bit dismayed with our first-half performance, particularly that of Alex Iwobi who offered nothing sensible in attack. Liverpool were well on top and Firmino should have done better with his first-half opportunity after he was nicely set up by Takumi Minamino. It felt like it was only a matter of time before Liverpool scored but we held out to the break, and perhaps came closest to scoring ourselves when Richarlison’s effort fizzed just away from Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

I have to say I was much more impressed with our second-half showing and really enjoyed our disciplined approach to the game. Carlo looked calm and composed on the sideline whenever the camera showed him. I have to admit to being dumbfounded by some of his tactical decisions in his short time at Everton so far, but our second-half display showed me what a wise and astute manager he is. We’re in safe hands with him.

I saw a different side to Alex Iwobi, who actually did a very good job of following team instructions and filling a lot of holes. André Gomes slowly had an influence on the game. Liverpool had some free kicks in dangerous positions (one from a shocking Mike Dean decision) but thankfully failed to seriously trouble the impressive Jordan Pickford. They looked threatening from corners though nothing came of them. I thought in the second half, we were comfortable.

Whether it was the initial game plan or not, or Everton scenting blood with the introduction of Dejan Lovren, I don’t know, but Everton went for the kill in the last 10 minutes and so nearly came away with the win. Joe Gomez, as he did at Anfield last season, saved the day for Liverpool with an outstanding block tackle from Tom Davies which deflected the ball onto the post. We twice came close after that also with a Richarlison drive and a Dominic Calvert-Lewin header. On another day, it could have been a rare Merseyside derby win.

And alas I turned off the TV reflecting on what might have been; it felt a bit like Groundhog Day. A lot was made of our terrible derby record over the years (17 October 2010 when we last won a Merseyside derby) but we can add this one to the list of Merseyside derbies that could have broken that hoodoo…

Sunday 16 January 2011 | Anfield | 2-2

Everton lead 2-1 when Maxi Rodriguez wins a very fortunate penalty to level the scores for the hosts.

Saturday 14 April 2012 | Wembley | 1-2

Everton take the lead but an uncharacteristic Sylvain Distin error gifts Liverpool an equaliser and swings the momentum in their favour. We lose the game very late on as extra time beckons.

Sunday 5 May 2013 | Anfield | 0-0

Sylvain Distin has the ball in the net with a good headed goal from a corner kick but Michael Oliver inexplicably disallows it and books Victor Anichebe for asking him why. Oliver later on apologises to Stephen Gerrard after Stephen calls him a “shithouse”. True story.

Saturday 23 November 2013 | Goodison Park | 3-3

Roberto Martinez’s first Merseyside derby is the most open one for years and, with 8 minutes remaining, Romalu Lukaku puts Everton 3-2 ahead. Liverpool win a pretty fortunate free-kick in the last minute which Stephen Gerrard displaces 10 yards, and at a much more acute angle, from where the foul was committed but Phil Dowd ignores Ross Barkley’s protests. Daniel Sturridge equalises from the resulting free-kick. Even after that, James McCarthy very nearly won it for Everton at the death.

Saturday 7 February 2015 | Goodison Park | 0-0

Liverpool edge a tight encounter with performance but, in the 89th minute, Seamus Coleman thrashes at goal and Simon Mignolet saves brilliantly.

Saturday 7 April 2018 | Goodison Park | 0-0

This one was probably the most like last night’s encounter. Sam Allardyce’s Everton are solid and compact against an under-strength Liverpool, with James Milner the closest to scoring for Liverpool early on, thwarted by a fine Jordan Pickford save. Late in the game, Everton make a bit of a play, and surely one of Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Cenk Tosun should score their golden chances.

Sunday 2 December 2018 | Anfield | 0-1

André Gomes misses a sitter with a free header from 6 yards out but the rebound is goalbound until Joe Gomez makes an incredible goal-line clearance. Still we should get a point until… well, you know what happened next.

Sunday 3 March 2019 | Goodison Park | 0-0

Everton battle hard and Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane both memorably deny Liverpool with their best openings. Everton make a late play in the game, bringing on André Gomes, and his influence nearly makes all the difference with Everton pushing hard in the closing stages but unable to get the goal.

Sunday 5 January 2020 | Anfield | 0-1

Mason Holgate, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Theo Walcott all miss gilt-edged first-half opportunities which would have set Everton up nicely against a very weakened Liverpool team. In the second half, Everton don’t continue to press home their superiority and allow Liverpool in. Still, the hosts are creating nothing until Curtis Jones dips in with a hit-and-hope effort that curls into the top corner. I want to see how many more of them he scores in his Premier League career. Everton don’t respond and lose.

Now I’m not suggesting we’ve been brilliant in Merseyside derbies over the last decade, far from it in fact, but – two abysmal Anfield showings under Roberto Martinez aside – we have always been competitive. There have also been a couple of other very narrow defeats in this time when draws have been snatched away from us due to bad fortune or soft player mistakes. But, in my opinion, in 10 of these 21 fixtures we have had real opportunities to win.

Why haven’t we done so? Bad luck? Not having the bottle? Poor refereeing? A mixture of all three? The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t believe the record over the last decade reasonably reflects how each of the games have gone in that period, and it’s inconceivable that not one of these aforementioned games have resulted in an Everton victory.

There’s always next season.

Player ratings:

Jordan Pickford: Was very comfortable with everything he did. Certainly one of them players who will perform better with no crowd, I imagine. 7

Lucas Digne: Very solid. Incredible that he got booked for that clean tackle. A big relief that didn’t result in a goal. 7

Michael Keane: Solid and dependable. Also had the good sense to bring down Sadio Mane when he was running at us dangerously. 7

Mason Holgate: Very good. I like his no-nonsense defending combined with his ability to pick a pass. Glad he seems to have carried on where he left off. 8

Seamus Coleman: I had a good feeling he would come good as he has been working very hard on his fitness, according to reports. He snuffed out all danger on his side and was feisty and competitive throughout. A great captain’s performance. My Man of the Match. 8

Tom Davies: Unlucky not to have won the game and I thought he was very good throughout. A few dicey moments when he lost possession towards the end but thankfully it didn’t cost us. Another one who should perform better in front of no crowd. A good effort. 7

André Gomes: Looked incredibly rusty and likely not fit, but his influence on the game grew late on. Expect more from him in the coming weeks. 6

Anthony Gordon: Showed glimpses of promise but a quiet if disciplined full debut. 5

Alex Iwobi: From an attacking sense, he was terrible, but he dug in very well in the second half and contributed towards us staying in the game as much as anyone. 6

Richarlison: Starved of service but was effective when in possession. 6

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Worked hard and almost scored the winner. 7

Gylfi Sigurdsson (for Anthony Gordon): Got involved quickly and mostly used the ball well. 6

Bernard (for Alex Iwobi): Didn’t get going in the short time he had. 5

Moise Kean (for Dominic Calvert-Lewin): Not on long, can’t judge.


Reader Comments (25)

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Alex Kociuba
1 Posted 22/06/2020 at 13:52:54
Richarlison for large portions of the game looked the best player on the pitch! How you have eight players ahead of him makes no sense - perhaps Coleman is valid, but as for Tom Davies and Iwobi... they would be lucky to get a 4/10 from me.
Jay Wood
[BRZ]

2 Posted 22/06/2020 at 13:57:34
Ease off, Alex. It's Paul's personal ratings. Never understand why people get so irate at them.

I could say 'right back at you' on your own ratings.

I agree Richarlison merited more, but for me your 4/10 for Tom Davies suggests you are a poor observer of the game. Tom was my personal Everton MoTM.

Opinions, eh?

Christopher Timmins
3 Posted 22/06/2020 at 14:17:54
Paul, great to have you back and glad to hear you got a negative test result.
Kevin Prytherch
4 Posted 22/06/2020 at 15:14:36
I see the “let's find a young player to hammer” brigade are out again!!!

It's no wonder Davies played well with no crowd.

Bring back Schneiderlin – don't let him go to Nice!!!!!

John Raftery
5 Posted 22/06/2020 at 15:39:02
I thought all the players performed their allotted tasks very effectively in a highly disciplined team performance. Seamus was man of the match with an assured defensive display, tracking and tackling the opposition runners and making sensible decisions with his use of the ball. Tom Davies was the best of our midfielders. As always Richarlison gave everything to the cause, supplying a threat up front while supplementing the defence when required.

I was impressed with the fitness level shown by our players in the closing minutes. Contrary to some rumours floating around a couple of weeks ago they seem to have trained hard and well. Tough work in training may explain why a couple of the older players, Walcott and Delph, have fallen by the wayside.

Finally enormous credit must go to the manager for the organisation and tactics. With a small slice of luck he might have been rewarded with an overdue win.

Mike Gaynes
6 Posted 22/06/2020 at 15:53:52
Paul, glad you're OK!

John #5, you make a great point that was pretty much ignored in the other threads... about the conditioning of our players. In most of the "restart" games I've seen, clubs used all five subs and could have used more, because so many players were staggering around at the end, clearly not game-fit. The only one of ours I saw who looked at all gassed was Gomes, and he still gritted his teeth and pressured the ball right to the end.

It was certainly an uncoordinated performance, to be expected after such a long layoff, but I was delighted with the obvious fitness and professionalism displayed yesterday. With the game on the line, nobody made any fatigue-related errors that could have cost us. And in my book that goes to the manager's credit as much as the organized, composed defensive effort.

Joe McMahon
7 Posted 22/06/2020 at 15:55:06
I thought Lucas was also solid last night and the Wanker ref gave him a ridiculous yellow card.

Paul you brought back some mainly horrible memories. The 3-3 at Goodison, I thought we had it. Was our best season in donkeys. The 2-2 at Anfield, Beckfords calm finish to put us 1-2 up then Howard lunged in for their obligatory penalty. Then a huge disappointment was Pickford 90th minute fumble/punch into his own net. It's the stuff of horror films. Referee blows as ball crosses the line off Fergusons arse, Gary McAllister injury time free kick when the allotted time was well over. It's a HEX, I'm convinced, and no I'm not some fairy Fairy type, I'm not religious or anything.

Thomas Lennon
8 Posted 22/06/2020 at 16:39:33
Joe #7 - pretty sure that was Hutchinson's arse - 2000?
Lev Vellene
9 Posted 22/06/2020 at 17:50:11
Maybe it's time to let a lot of the young/fringe players alternately have a go for the rest of the season?

At least with empty stands, the boo-boys won't be wrecking any careers by their harassing of anyone who doesn't play as well as a 5 year older international...

It really is such a British thing, I feel, like your journalists! How so many see no difference between the right to criticize the establishment, and virtually allowing the plainly mean to have a go at anyone...

Jason Li
10 Posted 22/06/2020 at 18:09:47
Davies a at least a 6, maybe a 7.

Henderson, full England international, years of experience... no better in my opinion last night than Davies. Davies looks like he has improved 10-15% on last year. Positionally much better under Carlo than Silva.

By next season and another 10% increase in development, we'll all be saying what a player Davies has become at just 22 years and a few months old.

Julian Exshaw
11 Posted 22/06/2020 at 18:11:11
During the match, I was a miserable sod, I admit. I couldn't get over the lack of cohesion, the basic ability to pass. The match was a hard watch and that's being kind. I couldn't understand why we didn't have more of a go at them, as they were poor enough.

On reflection, and having read a lot of comments from my esteemed fellow ToffeeWebbers who have a far better knowledge of the game than I, I began to realise that this was indeed a good performance and augurs well for this and next season.

Liverpool were ordinary because of the master tactics given by our Carlo. Had we won it I the end, we would have deserved it.

I regret my 'live match' comments. Well done boys.

Alex Kociuba
12 Posted 22/06/2020 at 19:11:44
Jay Wood #2 I'm not sure why you interpreted my comment as irate? I re-read it and still can't detect it. However maybe I was a bit harsh on Davies, his style (or lack thereof) of football really frustrates me and I am unable to tune into his bad elements rather than his good.
Alex Kociuba
13 Posted 22/06/2020 at 19:12:49
Last sentence didn't make sense but you know what I mean
Mark Andersson
14 Posted 22/06/2020 at 21:13:51
Interesting report, Paul... it's good to see ToffeeWebbers back to being entertaining.

I too will find it interesting to see how our players fair with not having the pressure of the boo-boys on their backs.

I have never understood this attitude of giving our players stick; unless they are being lazy, support your players!

Anyway, I hope Carlo can instil confidence into all that put on the blue shirt... and put us back where we belong..

Stay safe and never eat smelly bacon...

Martin Mason
15 Posted 22/06/2020 at 21:33:25
Alex @12, That centre-midfield position in 4-4-2 and in the modern game is the most difficult on the pitch to look decent and to perform well. They receive the ball often badly from defenders and facing goal. They are inevitably closed down by up to 3 players now and they have to keep the ball long enough to get it to a colleague. If they lose the ball, as they perfectly reasonably can do, then it looks terrible as the opponents then surge forward on the break.

Davies had a very good game last night and is growing well into that role. Don't forget too that he isn't supported by a defensive midfielder. As many say Evertonians are actually quite bad in not supporting and encouraging their own, it may be good for the younger players to play behind closed doors for a few games.

Mike Gaynes
16 Posted 23/06/2020 at 00:58:42
Julian #11, no problem, mate. You were only mildly cranky. The Forum is the perfect place for that.
Brian Wilkinson
17 Posted 23/06/2020 at 01:56:01
The 3 all draw you refer to was when Mirallas was ripping them to shreds but had to go off injured after a bad tackle in the first half from Suarez, who later then dragged his studs down Distin's calf but still remained on the pitch.

They knew the danger that day and made damn sure they would take him out of the game.

Mark Murphy
18 Posted 23/06/2020 at 07:20:46
Why did Stephen Gerrard call Michael Oliver a shithouse? Surely not for denying us a goal??
Charles Brewer
19 Posted 23/06/2020 at 08:19:30
Mark, it was probably because the ref had been well paid to give lots of free kicks a few metres outside the penalty area for non-fouls, but hadn't given enough. A bit like on Sunday.

Brian, surely Liverpool never target and continuously foul particular players in a manner likely to injure them. I'm sure Richardson would agree with that... after all, repeated stamps on his feet weren't going to do any harm, were they?

Paul Traill
20 Posted 23/06/2020 at 08:51:36
Brian @17

The game you refer to was actually a different one. It finished 2-2, Everton were 0-2 down early on but quickly levelled and Kevin Mirallas was running riot until Luis Suarez hacked him down. Suarez should have been sent off for that alone and then also got away with that horror lunge on Sylvan.

A lot was made, by Stevie Me no less, in the media about a goal Suarez scored late in the game that was incorrectly chalked off for offside, though little was made of the fact he should have been long sent off by then, nor that Kevin had to go off injured and was then out for a considerable period of time just as he was peeking.

Kevin did get retribution on Suarez the season after (in the 3-3 draw) and should have been sent off. I'm not an advocate of deliberately hurting players but I had no problem with that one, Suarez was a disgrace of a player in the Premier League.

Mark @18 - It was unrelated to the goal but was to do with a different decision he disagreed with. While Victor Anichebe got instantly booked for questioning why we had a perfectly good goal ruled out, Stevie Me gave the referee all sorts of abuse for something else and received an apology. Incredible.

Phil Gardner
21 Posted 23/06/2020 at 10:21:06
Absolutely spot on there, Paul. Not many saw or remember that incident at Anfield but I have never been able to take that clown Oliver seriously after that.

Distin scores a perfectly good header which the Red Shite, including the serial protester-in-chief, Carra the kid-spitter, never contested or questioned. Oliver then disallows it and Anichebe mouthed the words ‘Why did you disallow that?' and gets booked for dissent.

With minutes left, Everton are awarded an obvious and clear free-kick for a clear foul to the left of their box and in Baines territory. Gerrard, as clear as day, approaches Oliver and straight in his face calls him a ‘fuckin shithouse!' Oliver apologises and shrugs but keeps his card in his pocket.

That would have been a famous win at the shitpit, which was ruled out for no good reason. Funny old thing, no mention was ever made of the DJ puncher's conduct at all.

This was not the worst of dozens of dreadful refereeing decisions we have endured in derbies but it rankled with me. Great post, Trailly.

Geoff Williams
22 Posted 23/06/2020 at 17:23:34
I just don't understand why Tom Davies is constantly criticised by certain contributors to ToffeeWeb.
Ray Said
24 Posted 23/06/2020 at 17:34:10
Davies played pretty well in my opinion. He seemed more disciplined and worked very hard for the team along Gomes.

The thing that really cheesed me off was tactic of have two or three of our players in our box every time we had a goal kick. It surrenders any numerical advantage in midfield and, on most occasions, our players kicked it around the most dangerous area of the pitch taking risks for no reward and then ended up passing it back to Pickford to kick long! Lacking any logic for me but it seems that it's the growing fashion so we must join in.

Fran Mitchell
25 Posted 23/06/2020 at 18:16:00
The back 4 played brilliantly, and Pickford looked assured, commanding and made the saves expected of him. Coleman stood out, but Holgate was the pick of the bunch. Really top quality, he's got it all and can go on to be really really top class centre half. He mixes the finesse of the modern with the aggression and no-nonsense when needed. Future Captain.

Gomes was clearly too slow, and neither he nor Davies were managing to get the ball off them for long periods. Bringing Sigurdsson on helped, as we then played the 5-3-2 much more effectively – no criticism on Gordon here, he's a left/right forward and was being asked to play ball-winning midfielder, on his debut. No surprise after that change we actually started to get a foothold in the game and almost won it.

Iwobi did indeed track back, fill gaps and all, but he was incredibly lacklustre In possession. But again, a central attacking midfielder, or maybe an inside forward, being asked to play full back. So am willing to give some slack. Luckily Robinson was not playing.

Richarlison did spend a little too much time doing his Neymar impersonation, and I do hope he removes this part of his game, but the boy looks dangerous every time he gets the ball. He could have scored, maybe should have, but rustiness is expected, especially when living off scraps.

Calvert-Lewin put in a shift, working their defence, always a danger with his pace, and not allowing Liverpool backline to push further forward (thus keeping their midfield from pushing further forward). Real defending from the front. And showed great improvisation with his back flick that almost resulted in the winner. Sign of a top striker with confidence in himself.

Martin Reppion
26 Posted 23/06/2020 at 21:59:15
Geoff. The one thing I've learned from ToffeeWeb is that, after 50-odd years of watching football, I know nothing.

People watch the same game and the same players as I do and come up with totally different interpretations of what they see.

I rate Tom Davies. He is, in football terms, still a kid, but seems to have been around for ages. Yes, I have been frustrated by his ability to give the ball away. But he is a leader, and appears to sweat blue blood. That's good enough for me to look for the positives whenever I see him.

With other players that split opinions, from Michael Keane to Bernard, it seems to depend on what the individual critic is looking for. Once a player has been identified for an alleged or perceived weakness, some people will always have a go. I could never work out what James McCarthy did for a living, yet others told me he was good enough to play for Barcelona. I'd have driven him there myself!

As long as we watch this game, we will argue about it. Can't wait to be in the pub after a match doing it all over again for real. And I'll still know nothing.

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