Too conservative for too long
In just about any other match, Sam Allardyce’s conservative game plan would have been the objectively smart thing to do. As Everton try to claw their way further up the table in the closing weeks of the season, a point against the team sitting in third is not a bad result. However, it didn’t seem as though Allardyce realized this was the Merseyside Derby and his conservative tactics were simply not good enough.
The match started with an energy that is to be expected from a derby. Tackles were flying and both teams had their share of possession. But around the 30 minute mark, the game devolved into an absolute snooze-fest as Liverpool were left in control for most of the match and Allardyce was more than happy to have his team sit back and defend. In the few instances that Everton did win back possession, there was either no one up top or Cenk Tosun was left utterly alone with no options.
In the end, this match was a battle between the heart and the mind. Considering Everton’s record against the top-six, a draw is nothing to be ashamed of. But I don’t think I’m alone in wishing that Everton had put their foot on the gas a little earlier and gone for all three points.
Despite close calls, Everton come up short
As the supporters at Goodison and those at home were being lulled into a catatonic state by Sam Allardyce’s defensive tactics, Everton finally came alive in the last 20 minutes. Seamus Coleman’s run in with Liverpool’s Danny Ings appeared to be the catalyst that got the supporters and the team back in the match.
From that point forward, Everton were all hands on deck trying to get their first derby win in nearly eight years. As the midfield pushed forward and Theo Walcott finally got involved in the match, Everton missed a number of heartbreaking opportunities to put themselves ahead.
I can’t help but think that Everton were operating with one hand behind their backs on account of Allardyce’s second half substitutions. Clearly the inclusion of Dominic Calvert-Lewin was a huge boost for the team, but the replacing of two attacking midfielders with defensive ones certainly doesn’t help in making an offensive push in the last few minutes.
We obviously cannot know for sure if this late push was part of Allardyce’s plan, but if it was, he made two boneheaded moves by bringing on defensive players when his team were in all out attack mode.
Unable to beat half-strength Liverpool
If Everton can’t beat the Liverpool squad that Jurgen Klopp sent out today, then I don’t know what squad they can beat. Having played a midweek Champions League match and without two of their best players in the starting line up, Liverpool were anything but fully fit.
Even if we take Mo Salah’s absence off the table, six of the players in Liverpool’s line-up against Everton had played significant minutes on Wednesday against Manchester City. And with the reverse fixture only a few days away, Klopp was clearly not playing for the full three points. Liverpool even started a 6’ 2” center back on the left side of the defense and one of the fastest players in the league in Theo Walcott couldn’t get in the match.
Long gone are the days of Brendan Rodgers incompetence on the touchline at Anfield. With an actual world-class manager leading their side, Liverpool are only going to get tougher to beat. Everton are rapidly falling behind their rivals and it will take some serious changes at the club to compete with them year in and year out.