04 October 2015

Liverpool 1-1 Everton

Ings 42'
Lukaku 45+2'

In isolation, a draw at Everton isn't the worst result. It's the same result Liverpool have gotten at Goodison in the previous three seasons. It's the sixth Merseyside Derby draw in the last seven meetings. Everton were the more dangerous side throughout the second half, if not the entire match; Everton have played better than Liverpool since the start of the season.

In context, it's supremely depressing. Because it's the fifth 1-1 in the last six matches. Because it's the fifth time in six matches that Liverpool have scored first only to concede a quick equalizer. Because it's the fifth goal – from 13 in all competitions – that Liverpool have conceded when a Liverpool player made the penultimate touch before the opposition scored, setting up the opposition goal through either ricochet or error or both. Because, once again, the opposition only equalized because of an individual mistake and unfortunate bounce of the ball.

Once again, Liverpool were mediocre in open play: mostly decent at the back, if needing a couple of wonderful saves from Mignolet, but outmuscled in midfield and isolated in attack. After 40 minutes of meh, with Liverpool marginally on top in possession and territory but Mignolet saving the best two chances, from Lukaku and McCarthy, it's no surprise that Liverpool's goal came from a set play, as Liverpool at least kept racking up corners and a goal didn't look like coming from open play. And it a very Dirk Kuyt goal against a side that Dirk Kuyt loved to score against from Liverpool's new Dirk Kuyt: Milner's corner, Ings in the six-yard box, beating Barkley and Howard failing to come off his line.

But – unlike Bordeaux, Norwich, Carlisle, and Sion – Everton didn't need 15 or so minutes to find the equalizer. Just five. Everton possession, Deulofeu's cross, Can's mis-hit clearance deflecting off Skrtel straight to Lukaku, easily hammered in from seven yards. It was the exact mistake which should have cost Liverpool against Aston Villa. But Romelu Lukaku is not Rudy Gestede, especially when he's about 10 yards closer to goal. And it happened a minute before the halftime whistle, when – you'd assume, maybe incorrectly – that Liverpool would be able to regroup and solidify for the second half onslaught. Sigh.

And then came the second half, where only one team looked like winning. Where only one team appears to want to win. Nine Liverpool shots in the first half, just four in the second (just one on-target, from Coutinho, straight at Howard). Five Everton shots in the first half, nine in the second.

At least Liverpool didn't concede? At least neither Can nor Lucas picked up a second yellow; Emre Can especially regrouped well after a first-half yellow and at fault for the equalizer. Browning's header from a corner was luckily deflected just over thanks to Sakho, Mignolet denied Lukaku on a second clear-cut chance. For all of Everton's possession and better play, Liverpool actually defended well. In the previous five 1-1s, Liverpool hadn't been put under much pressure after conceding, the "better" side, at home, in all five. Not this time, but they still held on. That's at least a bit of progress, I think.

The story of the match – other than the sloppy concession, of course – is that Liverpool got nothing from its two most important players: both Coutinho and Sturridge were marked into isolation by Everton's makeshift back-line, neither given space to create something from nothing, neither supported by the teammates who need to create chances for them. Everton are not Aston Villa; it was going to take a lot more work to pass and dance through the back-line, while any attempted pressing wasn't anywhere near as effective because of Everton's ability to quickly pass over the midfield to Lukaku.

Even though he was a big reason why Liverpool had little control in midfield, Milner played well, Liverpool's most creative player, full of running and contributing more from set plays than in any previous match. Even though he picked up a stupid yellow and was at fault for the goal, Emre Can regrouped well in the second half. Even though he's not Christian Benteke, Ings worked hard to be an outlet for Liverpool's hoofs from the back, and scored the needed goal on a set play, his third in the last five matches. Even though he's been mostly terrible all season long, featuring a disturbing low save percentage, Mignolet kept Liverpool in the match.

But that's not good enough, not after what we've seen over the last month, over the course of the season so far, not with Liverpool's horrific record away from home against the Top 4 and Everton throughout Rodgers' tenure. That's not good enough when Liverpool have won just once since August 17. The 3-1-4-2 wasn't good enough in providing Liverpool a platform to attack, nor the 3-4-2-1 after Lallana replaced Ings. Liverpool should have been good enough to pose more of a threat against a back line that featured a new signing at center-back and two inexperienced under-21 full-backs. Liverpool "should be good enough" to have gotten much better results than they have all season long. But it hasn't happened, for a plethora of reasons that we've discussed time and time again: impotence in attack, little pattern to the play – mainly due to questionable tactics and an unbalanced midfield – and mistakes in defense.

So, yeah, a draw's both disappointing for all we've seen before and acceptable based on the run of play in the match. Will that be good enough to save Rodgers' job through the upcoming international break?


Anonymous said...

While I'm not Rodgers biggest supporter, and while I agree the game was a bit limp, I'm inclined to allow someone who is under pressure a fair crack at showing what they can do when up against it. While I acknowledge he's on thin ice, I really would not like to see the manager fired at this stage of the season. In context a draw with Everton is more of the same, but I'd take it over a draw with Villa or Sion - and it is several games unbeaten now. LvG has had to eke out points the ugly way at Utd at times, and they are now near the top of the league (admittedly having done little to warrant it). Four points of top four, struggling but with some glimmer of hope in Sturridge and Ings - a run of wins and we are back in the mix. And lets face it, given the past 25 years, the futile and melancholic hope 'maybe getting close again this time' is pretty much why we keep supporting a team that will probably never win the league again in our lifetimes. If Rodgers can keep up that emotional roller coaster, albeit with his own unique brand of frustrating almost-success (and no manager has actually achieved any more than that in 25 years, except Rafa on one impossible night in Istanbul) then I'll keep supporting liverpool - and keep believing in impossible romance.

Anonymous said...

Well look what happened while I was typing out my support for Rodgers ... so, another three year of another manager 'rebuilding'. And so the roller-coaster continues

drew said...

There's no rebuild needed. All the pieces are in place for this Liverpool squad to be successful. And after the next month, the fixture list will be substantially easier, so any "new gaffer" bounce has every chance of continuing well into the new year, and CL qualification is still there for the taking.

This was a decision that had to be made now, or else it's just twisting in the wind. To date, Brendan showed no ability to come up with a consistent, coherent plan for bringing the club out of this malaise, and by the time the next international break rolls around—after the matches at Spurs and a reeling Chelsea, and home to a surging Southampton and Palace (not to mention the home-and-away with Kazan to stay in the Europa, and the League Cup against Bournemouth)—Liverpool might already be completely out of contention for 3 of the 4 competitions this season. (And with that, any chance of retaining or attracting top talent for next season.)

Maybe that happens under the new boss. But I believe that's less likely than the same thing happening under current management, and that you have to play the percentages in this case. (Of course, if FSG botches the hire, all bets are off.)