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Liverpool v Everton A Liverpool Perspective
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This match almost encapsulated the whole season in a nutshell. Injury disruption, ridiculous refereeing, missed chances and an opponent who sat in and played a patient waiting game, picking Liverpool off on the break. This season is going from bad to worse and now onto downright disastrous, as that is what a defeat to Everton is for Liverpool. It would not matter if Everton are top of the league and running away with it, while Liverpool are in the relegation battle or vice versa, it is always a disaster for the fans of whichever team loses. Unfortunately that is the way it is in football.
However it must be said that Everton deserved the win. They may not have deserved the margin of victory, but they fully deserved the win. They had a plan, they implemented it well and took their chances when they came. Sometimes you just have to say that, for all the criticism and reasons for Liverpool’s bad form, that is not Everton’s problem. They can only beat what is in front of them and they did that. My job with these is to point out the problems though, so I had best get on with that now.
It does feel like a major recurring theme now, but injuries have become a huge problem this season. With no chances for breaks to rest players, as in a normal season, it is noticeable that teams are picking up more and more injuries. What is not unusual is how a few teams have suffered so much more than the rest, but the oddity is that two of them, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool, have been particularly noticeable for being better able to avoid injuries over the course of recent seasons. It would be silly to ignore the disruption injuries cause when spread throughout the team in the numbers Liverpool have suffered. It would be idiotic to ignore the increased disruption it causes when those injuries happen in such numbers to just one position on the pitch. It clearly is a major problem, which is showing no signs of easing.
Even more of a recurring theme is the match officials. They were poor. The penalty incident did not really impact on the result, but it was symptomatic of just how the refereeing went. If that was not a referee desperate to give a penalty then I do not know what is. The fact is that it was a terrible decision, Calvert-Lewin, who was falling over anyway, commits the first foul by kicking Alexander-Arnold in the back of the head, accidentally, clearly, but it was still a foul. How that then becomes a penalty, I do not understand. I have seen all sorts of nonsense reasoning about Alexander-Arnold deliberately reacting to the kick and pulling Calvert-Lewin down as the reason it was given. That is simply lies, because the referee would have had no choice but to give a red card if that was why he was giving a penalty. So clearly it was because Calvert-Lewin kicked a prone player and fell over as a result. Awful decision.
The main reason for Liverpool’s drop in form is due to the failure to take chances, which, in my opinion, is in large part down to confidence. The confidence in the team is non-existent right now. The team responded initially after van Dijk got injured, but you only have so much in the tank before mental tiredness begins to affect you. When that is also being hit by injury after injury on top of the van Dijk one, it does become a problem. This is a squad in desperate need of a break, a reset to get their heads right and go again. Unfortunately, this season has not really provided any chances for that to happen, unlike normal.
It is all becoming an ever-decreasing circle, injuries feed more struggles and bad officiating (as the bits that stick in your head when on a bad run are only those decisions that go against you) leads to a feeling that the world is against you. That becomes a difficult spiral to break out of. Thankfully the team have a gap this mid-week to spend some time working on getting out of the rut.
First off, to reiterate what I said above, Everton fully deserved the win, regardless of what is going on with Liverpool, they beat what was put in front of them and that deserves to be congratulated. There are signs of the early days under Howard Kendall there, but they do need to break out of this feeling of inferiority that still surrounds the club, particularly in the media treatment of a match like this. This is not Joe Royle’s put together on a shoe-string ‘dogs of war’. This is a very expensively assembled squad that should be looking at winning trophies. Clubs do not hire Carlo Ancelotti in an attempt to finish 4th.
They have the foundations of a Champions League team there, especially now Ancelotti is unlocking the potential in Tom Davies. They have owners with money to invest and are starting to recruit much more wisely. It is time to stop talking about Everton as plucky underdog and remember these are one of the most successful clubs in England and a big club in their own right.
Klopp – I do find it odd that he continues to perservere with Henderson in the defence, until the injury. Not that Henderson is a bad centre-back, but it is just that he is so much better in midfield and it could mean Wijnaldum could finally be dropped out of the team. To then pass on the armband to Wijnaldum when Henderson went off was surreal.
Alisson – had a good game and, thankfully, pretty much error-free.
Alexander-Arnold – he really must be wondering what he has to do to get his assists tally back up. Among the best performances from a Liverpool point of view, broke forward well, put in some good balls and threatened to score himself. He does show some signs of petulance of late when the results are not going LFC’s way. Alexander-Arnold will need to learn to calm down a bit and just concentrate on his game, rather than reacting.
Kabak – he really worries me. His judgement on aerial balls was poor, repeatedly so, far too bad to be put down solely to the wind. Worse for me is that Kabak only half-went with the runner to allow Richarlison in to score. There was no pressure on the ball, so he should have been dropping off immediately anyway, but he just allowed Richarlison to run off him and was worryingly slow on the turn. It is a consistent theme with him of being slow to react and allowing players to run off him. The lack of communication Kabak displays is also something to concern me.
Phillips was completely surprised by Calvert-Lewin jumping from his blindside to beat him to a header, but Kabak was in the perfect place to see it all and give Phillips a shout. Maybe that will come when he gets more established, but it is a problem at the moment. Watching him stand off Richarlison to allow the Brazilian to play a pass was also a moment to increase my fear that we have made the wrong signing with him. It is early days, he came from a struggling team as well, so confidence is probably low, but he needs to do better. Much better.
Henderson – he wants the ball too much at the back, which is not what is needed at the moment. He also made a mistake on the first goal as he was indecisive. As a midfielder, Henderson’s first instinct would have been to go and put pressure on the ball in front of him. But as a defender the right things to do is to drop off and let the midfield put the pressure on, while he deals with the Everton forward running in behind him. In the end he did neither and allowed the play to bypass him. It just highlights how much better it would be if he was in his natural position.
Robertson – he has not been at his marauding best for a while now. Partly because he is hindered by the lack of cover from midfield when he does go forward and partly because, I believe, he is tiring. He looks in need of a break.
Thiago – I find it frustrating watching him, not because of what he is doing, but because you can see what he wants to do but that no one else is on the same wavelength. He looks up and no one is offering an option to pass to, so he ends up either holding on to the ball too long or playing a sideways ball he really does not want to do. I really do not understand why he is getting the criticism for being unable to magic movement out of the other players around him. He is doing what he should do, he passes and immediately moves to set up an angle to receive the ball and is constantly putting himself into a position to be an option. If only more of the team would do so, results would be much better.
Jones – he worked hard, he constantly looks to get on the ball and helps out the team all over the pitch but he was shut out of the game. Everton hounded him as quickly as they could get men to him when he received the ball and made it difficult for him.
Wijnaldum – I think his performance can be summed up in the fact that it took me ten minutes to notice he had the armband after Henderson went off. He just spends his time hiding from the man on the ball to make sure the pass does not go to him. But the worst thing for me, and would have resulted in him being hooked immediately if it was up to me, was when he let Gomes outrun him. Gomes was slower than the week at work before your big holiday before his bad injury. Now he runs like he is illustrating Peter Kay’s dad’s run, where he moves at the same speed as he would if he walked. But he just ran away from Wijnaldum like he was Usain Bolt being chased by my grandad after he lost a lung.
Players run off him constantly and he just stands watching. It is little wonder that he was fresh enough to burst forward in the dying seconds. I suppose at least he is saving the club on washing powder as his kits will be as fresh coming off as they were going on. There is so much more Wijnaldum has to offer than this. He is a passenger right now.
Firmino – we know what he can do, but right now it is just not happening. His energy levels are not what they usually are, his finishing has got worse and he is not able to get on the ball in dangerous areas to make things happen with the regularity he once did. With the full-backs not getting forward as much as usual, and Mane and Salah playing wider as a result, even if he does drag a centre-back out of place, there is no one making the run into the space left. He needs to be pushed further forward for now to engage the centre-backs and make it difficult for them.
Salah – should have scored. He is still causing problems, but he is not on top of his game.
Mane – all his best work is coming far too deep now. And his finishing is as bad as FIrmino’s right now.
Phillips – replaced the injured Henderson in the 29th minute. He came in and initially won everything in the air, right up until I noted that down, when he missed the very next header! He did make a mistake leading up to the penalty award, but he was mostly very good. It just seems all the more bizarre that he is not starting games. It is not like everyone is playing well so Klopp cannot decide who to drop. There are a number of candidates who could be pulled out of the team right now to allow him to start and Henderson could then be in midfield.
Shaqiri – came on in place of Jones in the 62nd minute. Lots of huff and puff but offered little of consequence. In fact the most memorable moment involving him was Godfrey’s excellent challenge to take the ball off him.
Origi – was brought on in place of Thiago in the 87th minute. Offered little.
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Written by Tris Burke February 21 2021 15:32:20