Revels and records

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A lot of pundits are remarking on the fact that Everton hasn’t won a game at Anfield in 20 years and hasn’t won a game in the derby since 2010. Those are cold facts and so it’s probably understandable that a lot of current fans of LFC don’t look on facing the Blues as any big thing, other than that they’re less than a mile away across Stanley Park and half the city is blue and the other half is red and blah, blah, standard intra-city rivalry blah. I get it. But Everton was formerly one of the biggest clubs in England, just like LFC. When the original Group of Six was formed to force their way out of the Football League and change the top division into the Premier League, Everton was part of it. During the 80s, the Merseyside derby was one of the biggest- if not THE biggest -games in England, as Liverpool and Everton traded blows over the top division title and the FA Cup. It was huge.

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It’s not so huge anymore but I still revel in every win over the Blues (and why I enjoy Robbo’s general level of shithousery) because I remember the days when it was a date circled on the calendar, not just for fans of the two clubs, but for fans of football, in general. Thankfully, Ballon d’Origi shares my passion for beating them and, fairly often, humiliating them, as well. He’s now scored in all four games in which he’s faced them at Anfield, with more goals against them than Mané, Salah, and Firmino put together. Only God and Stevie G (the other god) have scored more. But despite that great performance, among many others, there’s no way to argue against the idea that Mané, beyond doubt, was the man-of-the-match:

  • Goal #1: The break is started as a regular counter, with a header from Trent, followed by a decent feed from Lallana to Mané, with the latter than putting in the perfect curl to Origi, who taps it out of Pickford’s way and feeds the open maw.
  • Goal #2: The extremely deft touch by Lovren to start it in our end, the brilliant switch from Trent (That pass!), and then the brilliant feed from Mané, with Cube being aware enough to switch direction on it as he runs through.
  • Goal #3: Lovren again, this time with the killer pass, and Origi with the masterful first touch and then the easy chip over Pickford. Who plays Route 1 football? We play Route 1 football.
  • Goal #4: Once again, the counter, with Virg heading it to Mané, who starts the break with a great pass to Trent, and then takes the return gift, steering it into the corner with the perfect control of his off foot.
  • Goal #5: Insult to injury, as Bob sends Holgate for the paper (or was that into the boards…?) and then serves up a nice one that Gini toe pokes home; thus necessitating the usual round of celebrations from chapter president, Ryan Borg, long known as Gini’s biggest fan.

We haven’t put five past Everton since 1982, when Ian Rush did it and added the refrain to a song. Six goals is also the most that have ever been scored in a half of the derby. Oh, yeah. Sadio could have scored at least two more in the second (off two spectacular passes from the captain), twice with an open net, and Everton also scored a couple. Whatevs. That’s a 5-2 beatdown that means someone is

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Getting Shaq’d in the morning. The Athletic is reporting that Everton has a board conference call coming in the morning to “discuss the next step.” It’s hard to take too much glee in that, since Silva looked absolutely shattered for most of the match, not even bothering to celebrate either of Everton’s goals. You feel for the guy. And then you realize it’s Everton, who’ve spent £465 million in three years under majority owner, Farhad Moshiri, and are currently in the relegation zone. In December. (tee hee) Meanwhile, this win sets the record for Liverpool’s best ever unbeaten streak in the top division, at 32. It also equals the best start ever in the top division, alongside Tottenham (1960) and Man City (2017.) It was also Klopp’s 100th victory in the EPL, out of 159 games, the fastest in Liverpool history and the second-fastest to that total in the Premier League’s history, behind only Mourinho 1.0 at Chelsea, who did it in 142. We also have as many wins this season as Everton have points. (tee hee)

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So, here’s the difficulty with xG. I tend to trust Caley’s formula because his tends to comport with reality more often than most others that I’ve seen. He’s also using Opta’s data, which tends to be considered the gold standard. I mention this because I’ve seen a couple totals on Twitter that show the game almost even according to xG, which is patently ridiculous. Yes, Everton had chances. No, they didn’t have nearly as many (or as many good ones) as Liverpool did.

Klopp sent out a very changed lineup because he said he wanted fresh legs for the intensity of the derby. In adding those legs, he also started us in the 4-2-3-1 from the outset, with Gini and Milner in the double pivot and Lallana occupying the pseudo-Bob slot behind Origi up front (Route 1 football!) This came up against Everton in a 5-4-1 (ugh), but playing high fullbacks/almost wingbacks, which frequently left a back 3, 2/3 of which was the slow Yerry Mina and Michael Keane, whom Origi promptly got behind on the regular. After all 3+1 vs 3 is, uh, advantage Liverpool. James Pearce made the salient comment after seeing LFC fans’ complaints about the starting roster: “You know who else doesn’t know what to do with this lineup? Marco Silva.” After the first two goals, Silva also realized that Djibril Sidbé was not going to be able to deal with Mané at all and swapped him out for Bernard and switched to a back 4 in a 4-4-2 because, hey, Napoli did it, right? Yeah. Good luck with that.

And that lineup showed up all over the pitch:

That’s our 20-year-old FB (most assists in the EPL since the start of last season), the man-of-the-match, and Ryan Borg’s favorite player. We shouldn’t leave out James Milner, robot warrior, who made a few crushing tackles while mixing it up in the middle third, slowing down Everton’s efforts to get back in the game. Oh, and there’s the Cube:

Know what happens when we leave out two of our best attackers? Ask Barcelona. Seriously, though, this is Shaq’s first EPL start since January after dealing with a recurring injury in the off-season and he looked great, including tracking back on D, which is the one thing that Klopp has always insisted upon for his playing time. Oh, and we had 5 shots on goal… for 5 goals. Maybe Pickford shouldn’t be so talkative before the derby? (tee hee) On the defensive end, it’s also the first time we’ve given up more than one goal in the league this season. So, yes, no clean sheet again, but it was certainly a more watchable game of football, IMO.

Next up is a trip to the lovely south coast and the smallest stadium in the Premier League… and the Championship… and all but, like, five in League 1. Seriously, how has Bournemouth spent five years in the top division without expanding Dean Court? How much zoning trouble can there be in a town of 200K?

Oh, yeah. Merry Christmas, Everton!

Savage. (tee hee)

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