It’s Merseyside Derby time. We preview the latest instalment between Liverpool and Everton, including our supercomputer’s pre-match prediction for this Premier League clash at Anfield.
The Quick Hits
- The Opta supercomputer predicts that Liverpool will win this Merseyside derby against Everton, with a 65.8% chance of success.
- Should Liverpool win, they’ll register their first league win in 2023.
- Despite arrival of Sean Dyche, Everton are still third favourites to get relegated.
Eleven points and eight league places separate Liverpool in 10th and Everton in 18th, but despite both clubs enduring poor seasons thus far, the mood surrounding each camp couldn’t be different.
Liverpool are, seemingly, in free fall – winless in their four Premier League games so far in 2023 (D1 L3) and have scored just once across those matches – albeit with an FA Cup win against Wolverhampton Wanderers sandwiched in that run.
Only Bournemouth have picked up as few Premier League points as Jurgen Klopp’s side in 2023 (one), and Liverpool would sit rock bottom of a 2023 Premier League table.
Only once in the Premier League era have the Reds endured a longer winless run at the start of a calendar year (five games in 2017) and there are now genuine questions swirling around Klopp’s future.
Usually this season, the tonic to any clubs’ woes has been to play Everton. A sure-fire way to get your campaign kickstarted once more.
But now a crucial thing has changed: the man in the dugout.
Despite still sitting in the relegation zone, Everton will be buoyed by the recent managerial appointment of Sean Dyche. The former Burnley man has already made an instant impact at Goodison Park, watching his new charges outplay league-leaders Arsenal last weekend in his first match in charge. The 1-0 win, courtesy of a James Tarkowski goal, was just the Toffees’ fourth victory of the season, and just their fifth clean sheet.
Dyche looks to have brought immediate stability and a clear tactical identity to Everton. Back-to-back victories against Arsenal and Liverpool would be an incredible way to start and if he were able to record a win at Anfield then he’d make history. Just two of the 22 individual managers to have taken charge of Everton in a league Merseyside derby have won their first ever meeting with their greatest rivals – Joe Royle in November 1994 and Dick Molyneux in October 1894. Sean Dyche will be the 10th manager whose first such game is away from home, with none of the previous nine winning (D4 L5).
Everton 0-0 Liverpool: 3 September 2022
These two sides shared the spoils last year, battling out a 0-0 draw at Goodison Park.
On one hand, you could say that was to be expected: The Merseyside derby has finished 0-0 more often than any other fixture in EPL history, with this meeting the 12th time the match has finished goalless.
But on the other hand, and as the xG shot map of the game shows, this was anything but a drab affair. There were 37 shots in this match (14 for Everton and 23 for Liverpool) – only one game this season (Newcastle vs. Crystal Palace) has seen more shots (42) without a goal going in. The combined 3.9 xG that Everton and Liverpool racked up is the highest in a single game this season without a goal going in.
When that happens, it’s often down to spectacular goalkeeping performances, poor finishing, or a bit of luck. This game arguably had all three.
Jordan Pickford and Alisson put on a goalkeeping clinic. Pickford made eight saves in the game, his most in a Premier League fixture this season, while Alisson came up big with a huge one-on-one save to deny Neal Maupay a debut goal.
Pickford’s finest save of the day was either a leaping dive to tip a Darwin Nunez volley onto the crossbar or a smart stop to turn a Mohamed Salah shot onto the post. Those were two of three times Liverpool hit the woodwork that day – no side has done that more in a single league game this season (Brentford also hit the woodwork three times in their 1-1 draw against Everton in August). Pickford’s goal obviously lives a charmed life.
Everton thought they’d snatched a winner, but Conor Coady’s goal was overturned after VAR intervened, correctly judging him offside.
This goalless draw ended a run of 25 consecutive league games that Liverpool had scored in.
Only once in a Football League season between Liverpool and Everton have both fixtures finished goalless. That came in the top-flight in 1974-75 when Bob Paisley and Billy Bingham were in charge.
Everton: Protecting the ‘V’
It’s hard to make sweeping statements off the back of 90 minutes, but Everton looked extremely well-coached in Dyche’s first game in charge, particularly when forced into a low block against Arsenal’s possession-heavy style. This is a phase of the game that we know Dyche is a master at controlling from his Burnley days.
One concept that the Englishman recently referenced in an interview with The Coaches’ Voice is the idea of ‘protecting the V’. The ‘V’ he is referring to is the zone from the edge of the six-yard box to each corner of the penalty box.
Put simply, the idea is to prevent the opposition from getting on the ball in that area.
It starts when the opposition get the ball in wide areas. Dyche likes his full-back and wide midfielder to get across to the player with the ball, while the rest of the back four and midfield compact central areas inside the box.
This congests the play and effectively prevents any clear-cut shots within the ‘V’.
And it’s clear that his players are doing as instructed. The still below is from the 10th minute against Arsenal. Full-back Seamus Coleman and wide midfielder Dwight McNeil close down the wide attacker. The back four is narrow and compact, and the midfield funnels back to support.
The V is protected. The role that McNeil plays in this example is something that Alex Iwobi also did extremely well against Bukayo Saka on Everton’s left.
A look at Arsenal’s shot map in that game paints a clear picture: no central shots close to Pickford’s goal.
To add a little science to that, Arsenal generated 0.9 expected goals from 15 total shots against Everton last weekend. That equates to an xG per shot of 0.06, the lowest they’ve managed in any game this season.
Liverpool’s Press is Broken
Liverpool’s press is so integral to the way they play under Klopp. The effectiveness of that press massively dictates their performance, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint.
So it becomes a massive problem then when the intensity and efficacy of that press breaks down.
And it has massively. A comparison between this season and last season is stark. Liverpool’s PPDA – the number of passes they allow their opposition to make before making a defensive action – has risen from 9.9 to 12.0. That’s taken them from the most active pressing team in the league to just the seventh most. Similarly, the numbers of high turnovers they’re forcing has dropped.
Teams are having much more joy at keeping the ball against Liverpool now, too. They’re able to make more passes per game and are also able to string together longer passing sequences, as Liverpool are unable to affect the game out of possession as much.
Liverpool’s pressing engines like Jordan Henderson and James Milner have aged, while Fabinho has struggled with fitness and Georginio Wijnaldum has moved on.
The likes of Thiago and Harvey Elliott have replaced them and while they are gifted players, they are more technical midfielders than mobile pressers.
Klopp might need to start adapting the way his side set up in the realisation that his press isn’t working as it should.
Players to Watch
Liverpool: Darwin Nunez
When is Darwin Nunez not the player to watch? The Uruguayan is a whirlwind of chaos and often at the heart of Liverpool’s play going forwards. Despite his struggles in front of goal, he still leads the league for non-penalty shots per 90 (5.5).
The problem is he’s part of the wider malaise that has afflicted the side. Since the resumption of the Premier League following the World Cup break, Nunez has had more shots (22) and shots on target (10) without scoring than any other player in the competition.
Liverpool’s big chance conversion of 26.2% as a team is the lowest in the league. Darwin’s personal record of 20% is not helping matters.
Expect him to be his usual hive of activity. With Salah struggling for form and Diogo Jota and Firmino still out, Liverpool really need Nunez to start converting shot volume into goals.
Everton: Abdoulaye Doucouré
After playing just 222 minutes of Premier League football for Everton under previous boss Frank Lampard in 2022-23, Abdoulaye Doucouré was fantastic in the heart of Dyche’s midfield against Arsenal. He played a crucial role in pressing Arsenal’s deeper-lying players (Thomas Partey and Oleksandr Zinchenko) while simultaneously blocking passes into the Gunners’ two creative No. 8s.
The Mali international made more total pressures (48) than any team-mate and covered more ground than anyone on the pitch (12.1km).
Doucouré will again be a key cog in the Everton midfielder if the Toffees are to upset their city rivals.
Liverpool vs Everton Prediction
Despite their poor run of form, the Opta supercomputer still reasons that Liverpool against Everton is a talent mismatch. It has the Reds as strong favourites on Monday (65.8%), which is second only to Manchester City (75.9% at home to Aston Villa) in terms of an overall winner this matchweek.
The chances of Everton pulling off another upset are a slim 12.3%. Liverpool have lost just one of their last 22 home league games against Everton (W12 D9), going down 2-0 in February 2021.
You’ve seen how the Opta supercomputer thinks the match will play out this weekend, but what do you think will happen? Let us know…
How will the 62nd Premier League Merseyside derby play out? #LIVEVE— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) February 10, 2023
More important to Evertonians will be their quest for survival. The latest supercomputer predictions have them at a 54.9% chance of dropping down into the Championship, which is only below Southampton (86.4%) and Bournemouth (78.9%) and just ahead of Leeds United (41.8%).
Liverpool’s Champions League hopes are hanging by the thinnest of threads, with the supercomputer’s 18.5% chance of them making the top four surprisingly bullish. That’s lower than fellow top-four hopefuls Newcastle United (45.8%) and Tottenham (24.7%) but higher than sixth-placed Brighton (14.9%). Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd are all but in.
Klopp’s host Real Madrid in two weeks. A deep European run might be their best shot at silverware this year.