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Tactical Analysis

Everton 3-3 Liverpool: Tactical Analysis

As International breaks go, the previous one wasn’t the worst. In addition to a few intriguing friendlies, there were the World Cup playoffs to enjoy and yet the return of league football was welcomed by all. And what better way to start the weekend than the Merseyside derby? A fixture steeped in history and known for its feisty nature. With Everton settling quickly under Roberto Martinez and Liverpool flying high this season, all eyes were on Goodison Park as they locked horns in Saturday’s early kick off.

Lineups created using Tactical Pad. Click here to know more.

Lineups created using Tactical Pad. Click here to know more.

Everton figured in their regular 4-2-3-1 formation with their first choice back 4. McCarthy and Barry formed the midfield duo in the centre of the park. Barkley played in the number 10 role behind talismanic Belgian striker Lukaku. There were question marks about the fitness of Daniel Sturridge in the lead up to the game and the striker had to be content with a place on the Liverpool bench. France’s goalscoring hero Sakho was left out of the XI with young Flanagan featuring at left back. Liverpool featured in an interesting formation close to a 4-1-4-1 with Lucas sitting in front of the back 4 with Gerrard and Allen playing in front of him. Henderson and Coutinho played on either flank with Suarez taking up the mantle of the lone striker.

Liverpool’s defensive shape

Liverpool sat deep and made a lot if interceptions in their own half via squawka.com

Liverpool sat deep and made a lot of interceptions in their own half via squawka.com

In the early minutes it seemed like Liverpool would press high up the pitch with Henderson, Gerrard, Allen and Suarez all pressing the Everton players as soon as they got the ball. However, after the initial phase of play it became apparent that they were willing to sit deep and stay compact. Henderon put in a great shift on the right hand side of midfield. One of Gerrard and Allen were willing to help out Henderson and Suarez when they pressed the ball high but by and large they were willing to sit deep and stop the supply to Everton’s attack. Henderson did a good job of tracking back and did well to contain the attacking threat of the overlapping Baines until the latter’s forced substitution early in the 2nd half. This set up worked well in the 1st half as Everton were mostly limited to long range efforts barring the set piece goal by Mirallas. The only real other occasion where Everton caught Liverpool out in the 1st half was through a quick break which led to nothing as Mignolet came off the line well to thwart his countryman Lukaku.

Everton’s attacking failings in the 1st half

Everton resorted to playing long balls in the 1st half via squawka.com

Everton resorted to playing long balls in the 1st half via squawka.com

Credit must go to Liverpool’s effort but Everton’s attacking display in the 1st half wasn’t one to brag about. Faced with Liverpool sitting deep, they looked devoid of ideas and were mainly limited to shots from range. Their goal came from a set piece (the theme of the day apparently) and as the half wore on, their style of play moved to a more direct approach with the likes of Jagielka, Distin, Barry and McCarthy all not shy of passing the ball long to Lukaku and to a lesser extent, Mirallas. Indeed the above mentioned 4 attempted a combined 29 long balls through the course of the game.

Lucas’ role in front of the defence

Lucas sitting in front of the defence via squawka.com

Lucas sitting in front of the defence via squawka.com

Right from when the team news came out, I was curious to see not only where the players featured but also what roles they’d have off the ball. As mentioned above, Lucas was given the role of sitting in front of the back four and providing additional protection to the Liverpool defence. He was also designated with the job of keeping Ross Barkley quiet something that he did a decent job before Barkley moved to a deeper role in the 2nd half.

Everton benefiting from substitutions

Everton upped the ante before their 2nd goal via squawka.com

Everton shots between the 60′ and their 2nd goal via squawka.com

Baines was forced off due to injury early in the 2nd half. This led to a defensive reshuffle with Barry moving to left back and Barkley into a deeper central role. Mirallas moved in-field to link up with fellow Belgian Lukaku. The exciting young talent Gerard Deulofeu, coming off the back of a successful international break, slotted in on the right hand side of midfield. This helped Everton as Barkley now proved to be a creative force from a deeper role. As elicited above, Everton had struggled to find a way through Liverpool’s compact shape in the 1st half. This problem was circumvented by Barkley’s move to a deeper role. Indeed in the spell leading up to Everton’s 2nd equalizer, he played a key role in putting the opposition under pressure which eventually resulted in Lukaku’s 1st goal.

End to end nature of 2nd half

 

Liverpool's 2nd half heat map via squawka.com

Liverpool’s 2nd half heat map via squawka.com

Barkley might have provided the attacking impetus for Everton’s rejuvenated attack but the absence of Barry’s assuring presence in midfield was felt. Liverpool saw the opportunity to catch Everton out and indeed should have gone 3-1 up had Joe Allen not passed up a chance that plenty of us would’ve put away. It was not to be for the Welsh international and at 2-2 both sides were always going to go for the win. Rodgers unleashed Daniel Sturridge but that man Lukaku popped up again from another set piece to put Everton ahead. With Liverpool chasing the game and the likes of Deulofeu more than pleased to bomb forward on the break it was a frantic end to the game. In the end it was from yet another set piece (both defences will have some work to do in training this week) that Sturridge headed home to make sure that the spoils were shared.

Conclusion

Ever so often we build high profile games up which eventually turn out to be cagey affairs. No such misfortune befell the latest installment of the Merseyside derby as both teams gave it a good go, especially in the 2nd half. Liverpool fans will point to the fact that Mirallas should’ve been sent off in the 1st half and bemoan Allen’s horror miss while Evertonians will be disappointed that they couldn’t see out the game after taking a late lead. Distin had a good game but his needless foul late in the piece cost his side 2 points. Overall, on the balance of play a draw was perhaps a fair result. 6 goals and plenty of entertainment; this is one game that will not be forgotten soon.

Did you notice a tactical aspect of the game that we missed? If so, do leave a comment below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested.

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Arnab Ray

Arnab Ray

Arnab is an opinionated Bengaluru FC and Manchester United fan. Always up for a good football discussion/ petty argument.
Arnab Ray

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