Monday, 3 October 2011

Five Tactical Points from the Everton - Liverpool game

The Football Front's Nick Meredith evaluates the tactics behind Liverpool's win at Everton in the Merseyside Derby.

Formations once Jack Rodwell had been sent off. Note Leon Osman’s attempt to shuttle between two positions, and how he ended up more in the centre than out wide.

1.) Andy Carroll playing deep

Liverpool’s £35 million man, Andy Carroll, started today looking to improve on his lacklustre beginning to life at his new club. Being a tall, strong striker, Carroll is usually deployed as the furthest forward player, the ‘No. 9’ - the head of the team, using his aerial ability and hold up play to bring others into dangerous positions. With Dalglish also trying to fit the much more effective Luis Suarez into the same side, the Uruguayan has often been played just off Carroll, drifting around and finding pockets of space.

Today, however, the roles were reversed, and each player put their own spin on the situation. With Carroll dropping back behind Suarez, he battled to win headers (relatively unsuccessfully: he only won two out of six aerial duels) and played possession passes to more creative players. While Suarez had a relatively quiet game by his standards, but his movement opened up space for others and his selfless work rate got him into good positions.

2.) Osman left Baines exposed

Due to the hideous refereeing decision that got Jack Rodwell sent off, Leon Osman was left to try and pick up the pieces more or less by himself on the left flank. As Marouane Fellaini was having to try and track the two Liverpool midfielders plus deal with Andy Carroll by himself, Osman was moved into a centralish position by Moyes, who presumably thought that the energy of Leighton Baines would allow him to cover two positions at once.

This worked somewhat – Baines got up and down the flank well – but it left him exposed to Dirk Kuyt, and removed the direct opponent of Martin Kelly. The young Liverpudlian right-back could then get forward unopposed, stretching the play and forcing Baines into two-on-one situations with him and Kuyt.

3.) Liverpool’s unbalanced wings

On a similar note, whilst Liverpool’s play was spread across the pitch, much of the movement of the players happened on the right. Part of this could be down to the aforementioned extra space caused by Osman’s move into the centre, but much was also to do with the players. On the left, Liverpool played Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing, two left-footed players who work hard and cross well. As a result, both stayed wide, and their movement was mostly vertical. On the other flank, Dirk Kuyt played arguably his most effective role, shuttling between a wide right position and a support striker. With Kelly bombing on and Downing and Enrique stretching play on the left, Kuyt could move inside without fear of compromising width, and he roamed across the Everton left side at will.

4.) Dalglish got it spot on after Rodwell’s dismissal

Rodwell’s sending off was the big talking point of the match, and arguably the turning point. Everton had been marginally the better side, and were coping well with everything Liverpool had to throw at them as well as constructing some good attacking moves. After Rodwell’s dismissal, Moyes did the usual trick of a team a man down and had Everton clam up. They played deeper and more narrow, inviting Liverpool pressure and looking to play on the counter.

Kenny Dalglish recognised that, and immediately moved to get Liverpool playing higher and wider, stretching the play and forcing Everton’s players to move wide to close down opponents. Everton held on, but eventually Liverpool players ended up finding gaps and exploited them ruthlessly.

5.) Louis Saha was left too isolated

It is often the job of a lone striker to hold the ball up and wait for midfield runners, particularly when the striker is big and strong as Louis Saha. Today, however, whilst Saha held the ball up well and generally looked lively, the midfield runners weren’t anywhere near quick enough in getting to him to provide support. As a result, Saha was left too isolated, losing the ball through no real fault of his own. It didn’t help that he was up against two rugged, aerially strong defenders in Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel either: Saha only won 14% of his aerial duels, which meant that the classic way of relieving pressure, a long ball to a target man forward, often meant that Liverpool won possession right back and were able to assault Everton’s goal once more.

This article was written by Nick Meredith, you can find all of his work for The Football Front here. Make sure you follow him on Twitter too: @NTMeredith. Nick also runs the fantastic Dots & Crosses website too -

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