The FourFourTwo Preview: Liverpool vs Everton
The Merseyside derby that would have killed Alan Hansen.
- Liverpool p2-2 M'brough (LC)
- West Ham 3-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 2-1 Ludogorets (CL)
- Liverpool 0-1 Villa (Prem)
- Spurs 0-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Everton (LC)
- Everton 2-3 Palace (Prem)
- Everton 4-1 Wolfsburg (EL)
- WBA 0-2 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 3-6 Chelsea (Prem)
You can see it now. The former Liverpool captain, assessing the collective defensive ineptitude from his Match of the Day recliner, simply keels over in a state of complete and utter disgust.
Tim Howard letting the ball squirm under his body, Martin Skrtel tackling his own team-mate, John Stones getting caught on the ball, Mamadou Sakho miraculously heading into his own net from the halfway line: it’s all too much for the Scot, who carks it on live TV.
It’s just as well, then, that the stylish defender turned punditry miserablist has retired from all forms of post-match dissection. Because this has the potential to get messy.
Everton travel across Stanley Park with the worst defensive record in the Premier League, having conceded 13 goals in five matches, two more than QPR and Newcastle, 18th and 20th in the league.
At the same stage last season, the Toffees had only shipped four goals, and were yet to lose a game (they’ve lost two so far this season – it wasn’t until Boxing Day that Roberto Martinez lost his second).
The most troubling aspect of all this is that the porous defence is largely down to individual clangers, something difficult to correct on the training ground.
So far, the Toffees have let in five goals as a result of defensive cock-ups – painfully evident in home defeats to Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
It’s why Martinez has repeatedly talked about the need to concentrate during games, in the hope that mid-game focus will eradicate these lapses in concentration.
Speaking of lapses in concentration, Liverpool haven’t been much better. Against Manchester City, the Reds were comfortable until an Alberto Moreno error turned the game, while defeat to Villa came courtesy of a Gabriel Agbonlahor goal from a corner: an oversight bemoaned by Brendan Rodgers after the game.
But the biggest (and funniest) gaffe came at Upton Park, where Sakho’s aimless headed clearance on the near touchline ballooned straight to Stewart Downing in the middle of the park, who played in Morgan Amalfitano for West Ham’s third goal, killing the game as a contest.
The unfathomable direction of Sakho’s header led Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville to tweet: ‘Has Sakho ever headed a ball where he wants it to go.’ It’s a line that hints at things to come this weekend; a game where the winner may well be determined by who makes the fewest errors at the back.
A quartet of Liverpool players – Philippe Coutinho (groin/pelvis), Jordan Henderson (hip/thigh), Glen Johnson (hip/thigh) and most importantly Daniel Sturridge (thigh) – may be in line to return for this one. For Everton, Seamus Coleman (head) and Steven Pienaar (groin/pelvis) will have late fitness tests.
Player to watch: Steven Naismith (Everton)
We’ve already mentioned him and, like Hansen, we don’t want this to deteriorate into a big moan up about defenders. Instead, we’ll shift the attention to the attack, and focus on who may be best placed to walk through a back door hanging in its hinge. It’s could have been any one of six forward-thinking players, but we’ve gone for Everton’s Scotland international.
Everton’s only win in the league this season so far was the 2-0 triumph at West Brom. While he didn’t score, Naismith was Everton’s most influential attacking player in the game, effectively connecting midfield and frontline. It was a similar story on the opening day of the season against Leicester, where he combined clever probing with a goal in what should have been a win for the home side but for a late Chris Wood equaliser.
Whichever combination of Dejan Lovren, Sakho and Skrtel the Reds opt for, they will be kept busy by the burly presence of Romelu Lukaku; Naismith may be the main beneficiary of any stray headers and clearances from Liverpool’s centre-backs preoccupied by the big Belgian.
He will also be important defensively. Don’t be surprised if like Agbonlahor for Villa and Downing for West Ham, the Scot is asked to ‘sit on’ Steven Gerrard when Liverpool are in possession, stifling their ability to build from the back. Naismith will have to have a good game if Everton are to get anything from this one.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L'pool 4-0 Everton (PL, Jan 14)
- Everton 3-3 L'pool (PL, Nov 13)
- L'pool 0-0 Everton (PL, May 13)
- Everton 2-2 L'pool (PL, Oct 12)
- L'pool 2-1 Everton (FAC, Apr 12)
A clash of two former Swansea managers now impressing in the North West. While the first game between the two sides last season at Goodison Park ended in a frenetic 3-3 draw, the match at Anfield quickly turned into a 4-0 drubbing. Martinez will be keen to avoid a similarly sluggish start by his travelling Toffees this time around, although the Spaniard can take comfort in the fact that Liverpool aren’t in the blitzkrieg, pulverise-any-visiting-team-in-the-first-25-minutes form of late spring. Which means Everton have a chance. And if anyone can engineer a result through a combination of tactical ingenuity and contagious enthusiasm, it’s Martinez.
Facts and figures
- Liverpool have lost only 1 of their last 15 Merseyside derbies in the Premier League.
- Raheem Sterling has been involved in 9 goals (6 goals, 3 assists) in his last 10 league games.
- There have been a league-high 24 goals in Everton’s league games this season, an average of 4.8 per game.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
2-2 or 2-3 to Everton. 2-2 or 2-3 to Everton. Errrrrr, sod it, we’ll have a punt. 2-3 Everton.