07 January 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 2-1 Everton

Previous Match Infographics: Burnley (a), Leicester (a), Swansea (h), Arsenal (a), Bournemouth (a), West Brom (h), Everton (h), Spartak Moscow (h), Brighton (a), Stoke (a), Chelsea (h), Sevilla (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Maribor (h), Huddersfield (h), Tottenham (a), Maribor (a), United (h), Newcastle (a), Spartak Moscow (a), Leicester (a), Burnley (h), Sevilla (h), Manchester City (a), Arsenal (h), Hoffenheim (h), Crystal Palace (h), Hoffenheim (a), Watford (a)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

I'm actually amazed that Everton had a go. Everton actually tried to make a game of it.

That's not what happened a month ago, with Everton sitting as deep as possible, with Everton having the fewest possession and attempting the fewest passes of any side to face Klopp's Liverpool. That's not what happened in the previous two Anfield derbies, both routs, finishing 3-1 and 4-0.

This was a contentious, closely-fought, often ugly Merseyside derby. One where Everton nearly succeeds in dragging Liverpool down to its level. It's been a while since we've had one of those. It's almost refreshing, although it certainly didn't feel like that while watching.

Average position maps can lie, but compare Friday's to last month's league match at Anfield.

Liverpool's forwards, midfielders, and fullbacks were far deeper; Everton's midfielders and fullbacks much further forward. Aside from Allardyce actually loosening the reins a little, there were two reasons for this. One, the absence of Salah allowed Martina far more license to get forward. Two, and more importantly for Everton's point of view, Yannick Bolasie was available.

Bolasie posed Liverpool a lot of problems, especially early on. He's fast, he's good with the ball at his feet, and he's a more-than-capable crosser.

And Liverpool dealt with him surprisingly well.

Five successful tackles for Andrew Robertson, a tackle and two interceptions for Van Dijk on that flank. Four of Robertson's five tackles dispossessed Bolasie. Six of these eight defensive actions came in the first quarter of the match, with Everton at their most attack and the game very much in the balance.

Robertson's becoming a hell of a left-back with increasing game time, just as we'd hoped he would. And boy does Virgil van Dijk look the part. Of course, we'll never fought a debut derby winner, but happy to shout at everyone to direct his defense, even though he's been with the club less than a week, and comfortable in both battling aerially, defending in his box, and playing out from the back.

To be fair, a more "attacking" Everton took all of one more shot than they did in December's Anfield draw. Four shots versus three. Just one came from inside the box: Calvert-Lewin's off-balance and errant header.

And, of course, Everton still defended, and fairly well. As you'd expect from a Sam Allardyce side. Liverpool struggled to break into the final third. Which is obviously worrying given the absence of both Coutinho and Salah, Liverpool's star attackers. I'm really hoping that's because Merseyside Derby and not a sign of problems to come.

Regardless, five of Liverpool's seven first-half shots came from outside the box – all of them bad shots – with only Milner's penalty and wide box volley inside the area. Liverpool only took 14 shots in total, with only four on-target. Only one Liverpool player created more than one chance: Oxlade-Chamberlain with four, but with three of those coming from set plays.

Which is helpful, because Liverpool very much needed set plays.

During this 17-match unbeaten streak, Liverpool have learned how to score from set plays. Although, to be fair, Liverpool have scored any and every type of goal.

In the first 15 matches of the season, Liverpool scored three set play goals: direct free kicks from Alexander-Arnold and Coutinho against Hoffenheim and Leicester, and a free kick goal from Firmino in the rout at Maribor.

Since then, Liverpool have scored eight goals from corners, two from free kicks, and another Coutinho direct free kick. And a lot of them have been important goals: openers against Sevilla and Brighton, the often-crucial second goal against Huddersfield, West Ham, Bournemouth, and Swansea, and now game-winners in the last two matches, both in the last 10 minutes of the match.

Eight goals from corners is only two fewer than Liverpool scored through all of last season. Six free kick goals already equals last season's total.

Coutinho had been responsible for the delivery on almost all of them during this stretch, so it's been heartening to see the last two coming from Oxlade-Chamberlain: both the free kick at Burnley and the corner against Everton. And given that Coutinho is not a Liverpool player anymore, Oxlade-Chamberlain is going to have a large role in replacing him. Not just from set plays, but set plays sure help.

As usual, I'm fairly content to take a Merseyside Derby in isolation. My main takeaway is that Liverpool won, and that's all that matters. The good things are good, the bad things are *shrugs*, and hopefully won't turn into trends. There were signs for concerns, but there were far more positives than negatives. Robertson and van Dijk. Set plays. Another comeback despite conceding an equalizer, a match that Liverpool would almost certainly have drawn a month ago – as they did a month ago. A 2-1 win, the third in a row, and another late winner.

17 matches unbeaten. Liverpool keeps rolling on and over.


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