Everton – Liverpool: Shots Galore But Cannot Break The Score (0-0)
Heated derbies can disrupt trends. Despite thirty-seven attempts from both Everton and Liverpool, neither team could break the deadlock; two rivals who desperately need to build momentum sooner rather than later.
Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker.
Merseyside derbies have fallen into very similar narratives: Everton clinging on for dear life, whilst Liverpool runs through their usual patterns.
Frank Lampard was hired, not just to keep Everton up last season, but to break the mould of sitting deep and bring more “possession-based” football. Everton’s attempts to replace Richarlison, a huge figure in the squad, came up desperate towards the end, but Everton now has better depth in other areas, even if the recruitment process seemed a little mixed. After three consecutive 1-1 draws, they started to look fresher away to Leeds United in a 4-3-3 system, but Lampard needs to pave a way that his team can create consistent chances.
Jürgen Klopp’s record at Goodison Park is strong, but their start to the season hasn’t ignited in the way so many people assumed. Going winless in their first three games has left them seven points behind leaders, Arsenal, but their means of chance creation hasn’t taken a hit so far. The deadline day addition of Arthur Melo, on loan from Juventus, is a gamble but a needed one with Liverpool’s midfield obtaining a lot of injuries.
Everton’s only change came in the forwards as Neal Maupay made his debut, at the expense of Dwight McNeil who moved to the bench. Demarai Gray was positioned on the right of their 4-3-3 formation, with Maupay as the striker.
Darwin Núñez returned from his suspension as Klopp made three changes from the last-gasp victory over Newcastle United in midweek. Konstantinos Tsimikas and Fabio Carvalho were also introduced to the starting eleven.
Liverpool’s misses midfield connectivity
Perhaps the more interesting dynamics of Liverpool’s play have evolved around midfield synergy. When it connects, very few teams can handle the never-ending control, but when it is off, Liverpool looks more rigid. A three of Fabinho, Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott contains two exciting ex-Fulham youngsters, but Klopp’s team couldn’t find the combinations to make it work in controlled possession.
That being said, the first five minutes looked promising. Trent Alexander-Arnold sat in a half-back space, whilst Elliott pushed high in the right halfspace. Twice Liverpool produced a bounce pass, to Alexander-Arnold or Mohamed Salah pinning wide, to find the runner in-between James Tarkowski and Vitaliy Mykolenko. But after these first few moments, Klopp’s team had a tough time breaking into the final third.
19th minute: Example of Liverpool’s buildup problems. With no player pinning the wide-right position, Alexander-Arnold’s infield passes became predictable. In this phase, Onana swept up the loose ball.
Passing out of the back was slow, with Liverpool fixed on building down the right channel. Mykolenko was fixed onto Salah, but Alexander Iwobi filled into the space behind, whilst the coordination between him and Tarkowski meant that Everton had the inside space covered without them being unbalanced. Alexander-Arnold’s quickfire balls were not the ideal ingredient for the right Liverpool cook, but the right-back was consistently forced infield with Salah permanently sitting next to Núñez up front and Elliott not entirely pinning the right side.
Liverpool had moments where their 4-3-3 (turned 2-3-5 formation on the ball) was in place, but this was a game where the 4-2-4 system was the focus: without the extra winger outside. The infield passes would be swept up by Amadou Onana, the deepest midfielder in a flat 4-5-1 formation out of possession for Everton.
This was still Liverpool, but a U-shaped and unproductive one. Their shot count is rarely low, but two shots in the first forty minutes were very reflective of both the disconnected midfield and a stern defensive job from Everton.
A very ugly Liverpool passing network.
Chaos on the horizon
Having just 18% of the ball at Anfield, here Lampard encouraged his team to circulate more of it. Liverpool sat zonally in their 4-3-3 system but didn’t engage aggressively on the Everton center-backs. That being said, Everton doesn’t have the patterns to flow the play through the middle or provide rotations to pull opposition blocks apart.
The hosts moved the ball out towards the sidelines, whether it would come from shorter passes to the full-backs or a long pass towards Onana, who took up a much higher position on goal kicks. Anthony Gordon struggled to get behind in one-versus-one situations, whilst Gray could carry but always seemed to take a touch too many. Nevertheless, an actual midfield presence from Everton meant that they could still retain the ball: Iwobi was a reliable option on the left to carry, whilst Tom Davies took up good positions on the opposite side on a few occasions.
31st minute: Consistent pattern when Everton was in the final third. Liverpool’s midfield clustering, without stopping Onana, resulted in space opening up laterally and a potential overload on the far-sided fullback.
Everton posted the best chance of the game, up to that point, just after the half-hour mark. After Onana and Nathan Patterson scooped up loose Liverpool touches as they tried to relieve pressure, Joe Gomez failed to clear Patterson’s cross. This led to Tom Davies curling a shot from the outside of his boot onto the post from close range.
Liverpool still had progressive issues, a cross from the right towards Núñez at the back post remained their only source of shots: but a frantic phase was a sign of things to come. A long ball from Gomez put Núñez behind Tarkowski, who had made a run into the opposite channel. His shot, from an acute angle, took a slight deflection but Jordan Pickford flicked the ball onto the crossbar. Luis Díaz recovered the ball, ran the ball back inside, and smacked the inside of the opposite post.
Klopp reinforces the 4-2-4 system
Fabio Carvalho was taken off, replaced by Roberto Firmino who positioned himself next to Núñez, as Liverpool yearned for more connectivity in the center. Everton must have smelled blood, as chances to transition forward were met with Onana trying to break out from the six position, with his fellow midfielders still in the attack.
As a result, space massively opened in the middle third and once Liverpool won the second ball, they could quickly move possession onto the wingers, who were now in a lot more one-versus-one scenarios. They generated early chances for Núñez, whilst Tsimikas failed to hit the target with Everton desperately defending deep.
48th minute: Space opened as Everton attempted to transition forward and Liverpool won the second ball.
From controlled possession, not much changed in terms of Liverpool’s imbalance, but this was a whole different playing field compared to the first half. More space was created and the tempo was increased, an environment that benefited Liverpool to pile on a lot more pressure at the start of the half. Núñez was given another excellent opportunity to strike at goal, through Conor Coady awkwardly clearing the ball out of the box but into the strikers’ path, but his attempt was straight at Pickford.
Out of possession, Klopp’s team were more aggressive on the defensive line, with Firmino tracking Onana, whilst Díaz and Salah could meet Patterson and Mykolenko much quicker. Everton attempted to feed the ball quickly into the wingers, or Iwobi who took up a wide-left position, before feeding the ball into Onana who ran in the middle, but Everton was unable to break out of Liverpool’s clutches, for the time being.
Floodgates with no goals
Shot taking had ramped up as the game had progressed, but exploded into madness in the last half hour of the match. After being on the ropes, Everton was able to build some momentum once Onana and Iwobi were engaged. Gray and Gordon switched flanks, not the first time they had done so in this match, but now their better dribblers were in proximity of each other.
From the left, Everton worked the ball back to Tarkowski and switched play to Gordon on the right. Patterson charged through on the underlap, the deflection off Virgil van Dijk wrapping round the wrong side of the post. Liverpool still moved the ball through Everton’s block very quickly as Pickford was forced into action a few times from Roberto Firmino and Fabinho.
Despite their pressure from corners, Liverpool conceded a lot of transitional chances from these scenarios for Everton to exploit. Onana fed Gray, who jumped through a poor attempt from James Milner, who replaced Alexander-Arnold. His carry took Everton towards the box, five-versus-three, finding Maupay in the process, but his shot straight at Alisson Becker, with the defense in disarray.
Shots: with extra shots due to popular demand.
Everton bundled the ball into the net, through the second phase from a corner. Maupay drove the ball straight into Coady’s path, who scored but from an offside position. Lampard’s team continued to benefit from Onana’s midfield work, even more now that Idrissa Gana Gueye had replaced Davies and sat behind the two midfielders.
One pattern that Everton utilized was the opposition attracting towards Iwobi’s side and conceding space laterally on the right. Iwobi moved the ball out of his zone several times, one of which substitute Dwight McNeil capitalized, once he had got the ball towards the box. His shot deflected off Van Dijk, dipping over the goalkeeper but a strong Alisson glove kept the ball out.
Pressure from the hosts slowly diminished by this point, as Liverpool moved closer and closer to breaking the deadlock. Firmino was the first, a cross from Salah was connected by the Brazilian, but an excellent save from Pickford denied him. Klopp’s team continued to work the ball down the left side, as Andrew Robertson was constantly in space and in good crossing positions.
In the game’s dying moments, Pickford came up huge again, Liverpool working the ball through Everton’s block at an alarming rate. Robertson carried around McNeil, passing laterally to Díaz, who had made an opposite run towards the edge of the box, as Everton defenders dropped. Salah connected, and Pickford was able to get a touch to take the ball onto the near post, instead of grabbing a last-minute winner.
When twenty-five shots are taken in one half alone, tactical trends can be blurred as both teams take an insane amount of attempts. How neither team scored is a mystery, but sharing a point is probably the correct outcome.
Everton is in a healthier place, having recruited strongly in both defense and midfield. This game was reflective in that, Coady and Tarkowski make a solid pair, whilst Onana and Iwobi are the most influential pair in the team. Everton needs to build in this 4-3-3 system: four points, with only four goals, scored in the first six games. Lampard isn’t under pressure, but meet a tough schedule with more performances like this and the improvements will be quick.
Going into the season, the chances of Liverpool posting their worst start under Klopp was pretty slim. The unpredictable chaos Sadio Mané brought to this team is being missed more than anticipated, but questions on this team are perhaps a little overblown for the time being.
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