Liverpool – Everton: A very merry Mané seals Silva’s fate in crushing a victory (5-2)
In a Merseyside derby for the ages, an exhausting battle to find the net leant its hand towards Anfield’s rampant reds. Everton’s defensive setups in general play as well as in transitions left them all too exposed and so they paid the price, with Sadio Mané lighting up the path to another thrilling victory for Jürgen Klopp’s men.
Tactical analysis and match report by Peter M.
There is nothing quite like kicking off your busiest month of the season with a clash against your local rivals. Despite having gone close in so many games this season, it has been the performances which have helped them on their way to such a glorious unbeaten streak. Having only dropped two points all season, and with a lead to maintain, Klopp went all in for this one… or did he?
Outside of an unchanged backline, only Georginio Wijnaldum and Mané survived the drastic number of changes to the eleven, which saw Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri join Mané up front, while Adam Lallana and James Milner pivoted Wijnaldum, and Adrián stepped in for the suspended Alisson.
Marco Silva, whose lonely iceberg appears to sink that bit more game-by-game, approached this match in much more predictable fashion, as he looked to keep his side from dropping into the relegation zone.
The 3-4-3 setup, which seemed to withstand Leicester on Sunday right until the very end, was used once again with an identical eleven out on show.
Liverpool sound the alarms early on
As they did on Sunday, Everton were looking to frustrate their possession-oriented opponents using their 5-4-1 shape.
They shifted carefully towards either side, meticulously covering midfield receivers, marking out the number six and suffocating wide progression attempts. In this sense, the visitors were pretty resolute. However, the one vital flaw was that they were playing an incredibly high line. Without pressure applied on them, Liverpool’s center-backs had all the time in the world to ping passes wide and in-behind, since the away side’s defense was not drilled to drop back on cue.
As early as one minute in, a Virgil van Dijk sweeping diagonal pass to find Andrew Robertson’s run beyond Djibril Sidibé got him to the byline, where the fullback then whipped it back across for Mané to get an aimless header on it.
Outside of some loose touches which were half-provoked by the Everton press, Liverpool found it comfortable retaining possession in the first phase. Their 4-2-3-1 formation varied at times but mostly consisted of Milner dropping in front to either overload When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. the first line or the second, which would create better connections in front and across.
The positioning and movements ahead, though, were key. On the frontline, Shaqiri was consistently wide on the right stretching Everton’s backline across, whilst Lallana was mostly in the ten spot and Mané constantly attacked the inside channel, typically starting quite narrow too. This narrow starting point would then allow Robertson to be a key recipient of switches A pass from one side to the other. as Milner’s deep positioning freed him up to attack the flank.
Although this all proved to be crucial in the long run, it was not what set the home side on their way. In fact, it was another fault of Silva’s side – defending counterattacks.
At almost all times, Silva’s men looked woefully underprepared and undermanned to deal with the renowned threat of Liverpool’s counterattacks. On the edge of the box at corners and open play crosses, there was nobody there to block access into Mané or Origi, who would split wide and ahead on counterattacks.
With Gylfi Sigurðsson edging forwards in attack leaving Tom Davies isolated, the second ball protection was quite limp, especially given neither him nor the wing-backs hanging deep were even near to being tight to the edge of the box or each other, meaning Lallana, in that ten position, could waltz onto these loose clearances and set off attacks.
We only had to wait just short of six minutes to see its effects. Lallana picked up the ball and slid it wide to Mané through one of the gaping holes in the counterpress. After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. From there, it looked like Everton had the attack covered, with three men back and in a solid shape, but what they did not anticipate for was Mané’s next move – a devastating through ball. A simply sublime weaker-foot pass found its way past the sprinting central defenders to locate Origi’s surging run to a tee, where he rounded Jordan Pickford with ease and slotted it away.
Everton were victims of another lethal transition attack just ten minutes later when Mané received a diagonal switch ahead of Sidibé – who had not recovered his position so quickly. Mané then had all the time to cut in find Shaqiri’s run in from the far side of the pitch, where he nudged it past Pickford to make it two.
It was not all rosy for Klopp’s side, though. A few minutes later, Everton had found themselves back in it with a rather fortuitous goal from a failed short corner routine. With the ball eventually finding its way back to the corner kick taker, Alex Iwobi, they had successfully managed to draw open the space in front of goal, which Michael Keane exploited shortly following Iwobi’s driven cross into the space, where Dejan Lovren proceeded to stumble over his own interception, consequently allowing Keane to step in and lift it over Adrián.
Everton short of ideas moving forwards
Liverpool’s 4-4-2 press was effective in aggressively man-marking the near-sided deep midfielders to prevent easy circulation, not having to worry about the threat of Iwobi overloading that space, who dropped in to create a three, since Everton aimed to attack down the left. Because of that, they resorted to playing directly into Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s feet. However, with only one player truly occupying the host’s backline, neither center-back had any issue pressing right up onto the striker and forcing an error from the consistently overhit passes into the Englishman.
In fact, it was only Origi’s goal ten minutes after Keane’s which encouraged a necessary change in approach. On the half-hour mark, Lovren played it over the top for the Belgian striker to run onto, where he managed to pluck it out of the area and coolly lob Pickford in fine style to restore their two-goal lead.
Origi’s goal and the poor defensive play setup that allowed for it to happen.
Changes afoot for the visitors
Having to think on his feet, the Everton manager replaced Sidibé with Bernard and switched to a more familiar 4-4-2 system. This saw Iwobi and Bernard come in off the flanks to receive more centrally, creating a kind of box midfield, which could help to relieve some of the pressure in the central areas.
For the most part, this helped them progress the ball and become more of a threat. Iwobi was now seeing more of the ball and the transitions to the left flank were far more fluid, with Liverpool’s midfield unable to cover all four deep receivers. It also allowed for far better connections across Liverpool’s deep defensive shape in their own third, meaning Iwobi could offer freely, deep, across from the left, which he did on a couple of occasions, including in the 44th minute when he found Richarlison wide of him in the box. The Brazilian proceeded to drill a diagonal ball across the face of goal, and were it not for an agonizing interception from Lovren, Calvert-Lewin would have had a simple tap-in at the back post.
Iwobi’s connection across in the buildup to the chance above.
Disappointingly, from an Everton perspective, it was the defense following the resulting corner which let them down. As players on the edge gradually pushed into the area, all that was left was Iwobi and a fullback. With the latter being easily eliminated by a Mané cut-in, Liverpool were away, with a three-versus-one to capitalize upon. Mané was there centrally at the end to get the return ball off Alexander-Arnold and finish expertly into the bottom left corner on his weaker foot.
But, again, Everton refused to keep quiet. On the brink of half-time, another established piece of transition play with the effect of having two strikers pinning Liverpool’s defense back coming into play saw Calvert-Lewin have the freedom to drop in and link across. Meanwhile, Richarlison’s position kept the left flank more open for Bernard. It eventually worked its way out to the wide attacker, whose delivery found his Brazilian counterpart deep of Lovren, before the shoulder of the attacker found the far corner.
A dreary second half
Despite Liverpool’s second half adjustment to a 4-1-4-1 shape, trying to solidify the midfield, Everton were getting more joy through quick switches out to the left before combining inside, which was an improvement on the helpless long balls to Calvert-Lewin they had been attempting previous to this improved spell.
They created a handful of good crossing positions but all of the deliveries ended up being very high balls into the center, which were easily contested by the towering Liverpool center-backs.
The match reignites itself for the final ten minutes
From nothing to absolute chaos, the last ten minutes were a whirlwind of big chances, mostly falling Mané’s way.
Everton were continuing to be undone on counterattacks with Liverpool’s long passes in behind working perfectly, and it was the player of the night getting on the end of them but failing to convert them each time, even with the most blatant of opportunities.
What was key was substitute Moise Kean’s miss through on goal with five minutes of normal time left to play, following a good linkup between Iwobi and Bernard to progress through the lines before accessing Kean since he came back from an offside position to resume his run. With Van Dijk unaware, Keanhad the central channel to himself but only managed to drag it just wide of the left post.
To seal the deal, Wijnaldum got on the score sheet following a delicate piece of skill from Roberto Firmino.
What appeared to be a big gamble from Klopp turned out to be a much-needed masterstroke. As pivotal matches in the league and Champions League approach, they were in need of contributions like this from the non-starters to keep them ticking over.
Unfortunately for Marco Silva, it appears the end of his tenure at Everton is drawing ever closer, and it is hard to see things getting better as they continue to battle through what might be the toughest run of leagues games any team will have to suffer through this season. Next up: Chelsea.
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