Tactical review: Everton 2-2 Liverpool

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By Hashim

A game riddled with controversy and littered with VAR incompetency, reanimating one thing: behind closed doors football is absolutely bonkers. Sadio Mane was excellent (as usual), Mohamed Salah continued his excellent early season form (rifling in another goal home midway through the second-half), Thiago Alcantara was, well, Thiago– but the Reds were ultimately denied – by VAR, or better: by the rules which guide VAR and the officials using the technology.

Tactical analysis:

0-1: Mane [3′]

The move started down the right-side touchline with Trent Alexander-Arnolid shaping a side-footed forward pass through the midfield – to Mo Salah (circuled).

The forward is not your traditional winger who hugs the touchline, instead he drifts into half spaces, receives the ball in front of the CBs/LBs, and is ultimately given the licence by Jürgen Klopp to roam – as seen here.

In the next phase, he roamed in behind Allan and played a one-two with Roberto Firmino with a few options at his disposal.

  1. A ball outside to Thiago who is in the centre circle -> pass out wide to Andy Robertson could then be played
  2. Incisive pass to Mane allowing him to take the ball in his stride and split the RB and RCB
  3. Or, a ball directly out wide to Robertson which he can then run onto and cross first time

In this scenario, Salah over hits what appears to be a ball to Mane which perfectly falls into the path of the oncoming Robertson to gallop onto.

A fortunate ricochet past Seamus Coleman affords Andrew Robertson time and space, and from there the Scotsman strides into the box and cuts a pinpoint ball back to Mane who fires home and give Liverpool the lead…

Pickford’s atrocious challenge on Van Dijk [6′]

A poor corner was cleared out at the near post by Coleman with the ball rebounding to Fabinho on the edge of the area…..

In the graphic above, you can see that Everton’s defensive line following the corner has pushed away from the penalty spot with Fabinho’s picking out Virgil Van Dijk at the far post, who has a free run on Lucas Digne.

The move concluded with Jordan Pickford coming off his line and lunging recklessly with Van Dijk the unfortunate recipient. Van Dijk subsequently departs.

1-1: Keane [19′]

School-boy defending.

Keane splitting Firmino and Fabinho, in blue

From a naked eye, the shape, marking and picking up of zones looks normal however there is a glaring issue; the lack of an imperious CB – leading and commanding. Gomez is no slouch in the air himself but the physical dominance of Van Dijk was a big miss.

Liverpool have gone man for man on Richarlison BUT the smart positioning of Michael Keane off the shoulder of Fabinho as well as Yerri Mina lurking around Adrian is a major issue.

Keane’s superior leap gives him a massive advantage over Fabinho

Keane’s leap is impressive, rising high and above Fabinho to divert a virually unchallenged header towards goal. The goalkeeping’s suspect. It’s practially straight at him, but credit where credit’s due – it’s a thuderous header.

Richarlison hits the post [59′]

As the ball is cleared out, Keane rakes a half volley across the pitch to James Rodriguez bypassing the Liverpool forwards and midfield…..

….. from the graphic above you can see the ball in the feet of Rodriguez, with Liverpool’s CMs (Thiago + Fabinho) ahead of the ball.

Tactically, Robertson has made a ‘blunder’ here. We all know the wicked directness of Rodriguez’s left peg, a fact which should be at the forefront of Robertson’s mind.

The latter, however, allows him time and space to whip an arching ball with his stronger foot to the back post.

Nonetheless…..

…..Richarlison breaks free of Trent, but a combination of Adrian and the post spares Liverpool’s blushes.

1-2: Salah [72′]

Liverpool once again lead thanks to well-worked team goal. Trent-AA brought the ball out as is able to pick out Mane, who roamed into the same area of the pitch as Salah was for the 1st goal, in acres of space.

A failed one-two with Firmino resulted in the ball being played to Fabinho who is able to pick out Henderson who is in acres of space.

Tactically Everton are all over the place.

Both Allan and Andre Gomes are attracted to Mane, the back four shape is a mess with Godfrey dragged into the centre of the pitch to Firmino.

A cross from Jordan Henderson is cleared by Mina but only to Salah who on the edge of the area. The Egyptian volleyed home.

2-2: Calvert-Lewin [81′]

Everton pegged Liverpool back once again nine minutes from time as Dominic Calvert-Lewin leapt highest to head in Digne’s cross.

The goal was built from the back as Keane looked for options for the pass – as seen below.

Mane, who’s now playing upfront, has cut the passing lane to Gylfi Sigurdsson with Diogo Jota/Thiago ready to press Allan if the ball made it that far. Therefore, the defender looked to pick out Rodriguez further up the field with an incisive pass.

A mistimed lunge by Henderson allowed James to receive the ball, turn and initiate the attack.

Henderson being the wrong side of Rodriguez allowed the Colombian to advance with Digne on his outside.

Tactically, Trent should be aware of Digne’s advances down the left and be prepared to close him down as soon as he received the ball.

Instead, he’s caught flat-footed and gives Digne acres of space on the overlap to cross into the box from which an outstanding leap and header by Calvert-Lewin made it 2-2. Desmond.

2-(3): Henderson’s disallowed goal [90+3′]

In the final few minutes of the game, Liverpool looked to leverage their one man advantage (Richarlison had, three minutes earler, been sent-off for a challenge on Thiago).

Tactically, you can see a 4-4-1 defensive shape below. But there were two issues from an Everton perspective which almost cost the Blues the derby.

  1. The lack of pressure on Thiago who’s allowed plenty of time on the ball
  2. Mane has not been picked up by Ben Godfrey

This allowed Thiago to play a perfect reverse ball into the pocket of space Mane was in, thus bypassing the Everton midfield.

In the box there was effectively just one man: Jordan Henderson, with Jota arriving late.

Mane’s perfectly weighted cut back on his weaker left foot allowed Henderson to scuff a shot which was fumbled in by Pickford.

But the England goalkeeper was spared grimace with a bemusing offside call — you can make up your mind on this one. Onside or Offside? Comment below.


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