Everton’s right side was exposed
With a brutal international break leaving Everton looking quite thin on the back line, some changes were obviously in order. Enter Matthew Pennington and Mason Holgate who were slated to play center back and right wing back respectively. Holgate has seen his fair share of minutes this season, but this match was the first appearance of the season for young Matthew Pennington.
Early on in the match it was clear that Everton’s right flank was going to be the main avenue of attack for Liverpool. James Milner and especially Phillipe Coutinho were constantly pressing down the wing and more often than not getting through on goal. Two of Liverpool’s three goals were a direct result of Coutinho shredding Pennington and getting into the box.
Obviously Ronald Koeman was left with no options other than to play the defenders he did, but it was clear that neither player was entirely up to the task of such a massive match. Pennington, for all the excitement he caused scoring Everton’s lone goal, was burned badly by Coutinho and Liverpool took the lead for good.
Ineffective and sloppy counter attack
Everton’s strategy was a clear and reasonable one: absorb Liverpool’s fast-paced attack and get their chances on the break. A good strategy given the opposition, but Everton were rarely able to take advantage when given the opportunity.
The biggest culprit was Everton’s inability to keep the ball at their feet. Liverpool were moving the ball exactly the way Everton wanted to, quick and crisp passes that found teammates in dangerous areas. Instead Everton were bogged down by heavy touches, intercepted passes and were frequently dispossessed by opposing defenders. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, for all his upside, does not have soft feet. Same goes for Romelu Lukaku who could not effectively hold up the ball at any point. The only player who could effectively posses the ball was Ross Barkley and he was often left without many options to pass the ball to.
Eventually Everton resorted to passing the ball to Joel Robles who would hoof the ball up the field in hopes of springing an attacker free. Overall, this is less of a tactical issue and more of a personnel one. The quality is just not there with Everton’s current roster. Sure the younger players will develop and come along, but that is obviously not an immediate fix. The senior players that Everton do have, don’t seem capable of running the type of attack that Koeman expects. This is an issue that I expect Koeman and Steve Walsh will address during the summer.
Romelu Lukaku was nowhere to be seen
I should preface this point by stating the obvious, football is a team game and no one player, short of Lionel Messi, can be expected to win a match for his team. That being said, this was a very disappointing match for Romelu Lukaku. He is an immensely talented player, no one will argue that. But the league’s top scorer has a nasty penchant for disappearing during big matches.
How a team’s best player and striker and end a match without registering a single shot is beyond me. Granted Lukaku’s teammates often failed to find him in dangerous areas, but that does not change the fact that he was getting bullied by Liverpool’s defense all afternoon. For a player as physically imposing as Lukaku it is unsettling to see him get pushed around as much as he did. Fans are so used to seeing Lukaku do the bullying that when he is the recipient of said bullying, it raises questions of effort.
We have seen Lukaku sulk up and down the pitch when things are not going Everton’s way and this match was an unfortunate example of that. Lukaku shares just as much blame as the rest of the team for this loss. His first touch was dreaful and he often failed to assert himself in the match. The blame for this loss cannot be solely laid at the feet of the defense as the attack was just a troublesome.