Sunday’s derby pits two managers with differing ideologies but with certain tactical similarities together in what should be an interesting battle. Rodgers is an idealist; Moyes of course is a pragmatist and this article will take a look at our neighbours strengths and weaknesses and suggest where the game will be won and lost…
Strength in Possession
The horrible term of ‘tika taka’ has been used to describe Liverpool’s brand of football since ‘Professor’ Rodgers took the helm with pass completion stats aplenty. Liverpool’s style is all about keeping the ball with a 3 man midfield capable of dominating the opposition in this zone using a high passing tempo. The below player importance visual from their last away outing demonstrates this;
I’d expect them to have more of the ball than us but ultimately this means little; last season against Swansea for example, we won both games comfortably without conceding despite the Swans having 60% plus possession.
If we look at the respective sides passing figures this season we can draw the following conclusions;
- Liverpool overall make more passes and complete a higher percentage than we do
- The passes made and completed in the opponents half is roughly the same
- In terms of final third passes, the amount of passes is even although our completion is better
- We create more chances and have much more penalty box touches than Liverpool
(This data was drawn prior to last week’s games)
Both sides have similar type setups in 4-2-3-1 with attacking width for both sides coming from left backs (Baines & Johnson). In defence, Skrtel and Agger will hold a high line with Johnson /Sterling the more offensive left flank with the right side Widsom / Suso likely to be more defensive given our attacking emphasis on the left. As the only striker, Suarez is obviously the big threat. Aside from the colossal baggage he brings the forward can obviously do damage. As he did at Wembley, he’ll look to arrow into the pockets of space Baines vacates when he marauds forward so Distin will need to be on guard.
Moyes has been considerably more proactive this season than in recent campaigns given the players he now has at his disposal but he loves a spoiling tactic. It’d be surprising if he didn’t look to use a similar blueprint that he used against Swansea last season i.e. stop Liverpool playing at the source (Reina/Jones) and press to disrupt rhythm and cut off the ball from Allen to Gerrard, the most used combination as shown from the above player importance visual.
I’d expect us to line-up like this…..
We are sweating on the fitness of Fellaini and Gibson and it’s probably a long shot that both will make it with Fellaini more likely and if were being honest he is the more important player. Pienaar’s suspension will mean a reshuffle on the flanks; expect Mirallas left and Naismith right with Coleman’s status as a liability meaning that Hibbert will more than likely return after playing in the u21 game vs Arsenal on Monday.
It’s the midfield area which poses the biggest risk to us securing a positive result. The Reds play a 2 + 1 midfield triangle with Allen/Gerrard as the base and Sahin further forward. The below average position visual from last week’s win against Reading demonstrates this with the trio circled….
With Fellaini nowadays deployed as more of a forward we often go with just 2 men in midfield. Against Liverpool’s 3 there is a risk we could be swamped. Therefore its crucial Fellaini does a job for the team and drops in on Allen when the ‘Welsh Xavi’ gets on the ball. It’s likely this area will become congested with both sides playing high lines and compressing play in the centre so the side who uses the space on the flanks better will be the likely winner.
Weakness off the ball
Whilst we have scored the most headed goals in the top flight, Liverpool are very good at defending set plays – they have conceded the fewest headed chances in the league. However, their defensive weakness lies in the fact they try to play out from the back without necessarily aving the players to do it. Stoke showed recently that by pushing your wide men up and pressing from the top -starting with Reina- that you can disrupt rhythm and force mistakes. Prior to the last round of games they had made the most errors leading to goals in top flight (5) with Skrtel – a player ill equipped to implement total football – making the most of any player in the top flight.
Form / Previous Meetings
Form wise, in 2012 we’ve picked up double the points of our visitors; our form is top four whilst theirs is bottom six. Still, in this period we’ve lost two in two against them. Psychological issues have been suggested by some as the root cause and in the past Moyes has been happy to depict us as the plucky under-privileged neighbour which is perhaps a factor in us accepting this role as being inferior. The Scot’s record against the Reds is beyond abysmal after all with 3 wins and 7 defeats from the 10 League Derbies at Goodison. If we look at the home games in isolation, disciplinary issues have perhaps played more a part than any mental block; out of the 10 games we have received 8 red cards and crucially the 3 wins we have registered have come in the games we have not had anyone sent off. As a caveat, Liverpool’s 1-11 has invariably been of greater quality than ours in Moyes time at the club. Now however, 1-11 we have better players in most positions than the Reds and any inferiority complex doesn’t correlate with the current situation at the respective clubs. Keeping our discipline combined with a strong mental outlook and belief to change this perception as plucky up-starts will see us kick on and enforce ourselves on the derby in a way we haven’t done in the past, notably at Wembley last season.
Paddy Power are offering 13/8 on a Blue victory with Liverpool best priced at 17/10. The draw is offered at 9/4. Moyes four wins vs Liverpool in all competitions have all come without conceding, so if they score first were pretty much goosed as whenever that’s happened previously under Moyes we’ve lost. As a guide, in the last four derbies at Goodison exactly 2 goals have been scored although given his role as chief dead ball ‘technician’ the Baines goal/Everton win-cast double at 17/2 looks the best bet from a Blue perspective with the card’s market also worth a blimp.