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Everton v. Liverpool: Merseyside Derby Tactical Analysis

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Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers were locked in a tactical battle at the 226th Merseyside Derby. Martinez lost the first half, but Rodgers lost the second half and ultimately his job.

Is this Brendan yelling, "Come on lads, save my job!"?
Is this Brendan yelling, "Come on lads, save my job!"?
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Everton entered Sunday's match against Liverpool with perhaps its best chance of pulling out a derby win in years.

The Toffees didn't quite do enough to take all three points, but they earned a deserved draw, which was followed by Liverpool's sacking of Brendan Rodgers.

In many ways, the Merseyside Derby was a tale of two halves. Liverpool was clearly the better team in the opening 45 minutes, while Everton was the better side in the closing 45, but couldn't quite find a winning goal.

A look at the lineups will help us see what went wrong for Everton in the first half.

Martinez's side lined up in its normal 4-2-3-1, while Rodgers sent out Liverpool in a 3-5-2.

On paper, a side playing with wing-backs could be quickly countered on the wings, with Everton taking advantage of the advanced positions of Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne, as well as the lack of mobility of Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel.

Ideally, such counter attacks would look like this.

Steven Naismith, who lined up wide left, lacks the speed to lead counters, so the best plan would have been to try to get Gerard Deulofeu in behind Moreno down the right. However, this didn't occur for two reasons.

First, the majority of Liverpool's attacks came down the right. Below is a comparison of the passes of Clyne, the right back, and Moreno, the left back (courtesy of EvertonFC.com)

Clyne was significant more active down the right, signifying Liverpool's preference to attack down that wing. This meant that the ball had to travel a very long way to get to Deulofeu and spring a counter attack.

Second, and related, Liverpool made a point of pressing the young Everton back-line consistently with its pacey strikers, Danny Sturridge and Danny Ings. With no Seamus Coleman, John Stones, or Leighton Baines, the back-line lacked its usually solid ability to distribute out of the back under pressure.

Instead, Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway, filling in at right and left-back, failed to consistently get the ball forward. Under pressure, they frequently played the ball back and to the middle, leaving Phil Jagielka, Ramiro Funes Mori, and Gareth Barry to try to play the ball forward.

With the Sturridge and Ings constantly pressuring, those players did not have adequate time to pick out particularly good passes, which lead to failed passes of the following nature.

Almost all of the missed passes of Jagielka, Barry, and Mori were long balls out of the back.

You'll also notice that most of these passes actually went to the left side, where Naismith was, rather than Deulofeu's right side. I talked about how the Toffees did this last week as well, and the cause for this overflow down the left against Liverpool is the same as it was in the first half against West Brom.

With Naismith checking back and and cutting inside, both Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku tend to come to the left as well, filling in the space vacated by the Scotsman. With all of the bigger targets on the left side, the ball usually went there.

As a result, Deulofeu was completely isolated on the right side once again. His heatmap (EvertonFC.com) and passes received (FourFourTwo.com) show this clearly.

As a result, Everton did not create many chances from wide positions. Martinez's side was a little lucky to find an equalizer at the end of the first half, on one of the team's only chances from a wide position. In all, Deulofeu completed only six of ten passes, missed both of his attempted crosses, and succeeded in one of five take-ons.

In the second half though, Everton turned things around by capitalizing on Liverpool's weakness in the center of the pitch.

Once again, let's look at the starting lineups, so that we can get a better idea of what happened.

It was difficult to illustrate Liverpool's midfield trio, because the exact role being played by James Milner and Philippe Coutinho was unclear. Constant tactical changing and lack of understanding of roles were two of the major issues with the Rodgers' regime at Liverpool, and they were on display at Goodison Park on Sunday.

Lucas had a very clear role, and his heatmap reflects that.

He sat in front of the back three and provided defensive cover, much as we see Barry do every week.

Milner and Coutinho, on the other hand, were less predictable.

They are all over the place, in both the defensive and attacking halves. Were they supposed to have defensive responsibilities? It is tough to tell, but they clearly left space in the middle of the pitch, which Everton's central midfielders could exploit.

Liverpool's player influence map makes this clear.

Liverpool has a giant hole in the middle of the pitch, which is exactly where James McCarthy and Gareth Barry like to operate.

Sure enough, McCarthy in particular had his greatest influence on the match in an area which no Liverpool player consistently occupied.

Stack these maps on top of each other, and you get something like the following.

Space is there to be exploited, and McCarthy was the player who used it the most.

The Irish midfielder got significant credit post-match for keeping Coutinho in his pocket all match, but McCarthy also played an important role in keeping possession for Everton, particularly in the second half.

McCarthy only misplaced four passes the entire match, and helped to put Everton in the driver's seat for the majority of the second half. Ultimately, the Toffees could not find the winning goal, but they definitely had a much better performance in the second half once they started playing more consistently through the center of the pitch, rather than down the left.

So what have we learned from this match that we can take going forward? First and foremost, Everton needs its best back-line players back as soon as possible. Funes Mori and Browning did a solid job of defending, but Stones and Coleman are much better at playing out of the back, which is necessary to play in Martinez's system.

Second, it seems like the Toffees have begun to grasp how to create chances in different ways. Last week, Deulofeu led the charge from the right wing, a few weeks ago Steven Naismith led from the left wing, and this week, McCarthy controlled the second half from the center of the pitch.

If Everton can continue to create chances from different places, Martinez's side can become even more difficult to beat.