This fixture had become so painful as the years stretched on after 1999 that by the time Roberto Martinez had overseen two 4-0 defeats at Anfield, many Evertonians had developed a self-protective numbness to the derby. A certain level of defeatism and realism in the run-up to the game helps one cope with the agony of defeat and no one really gave Everton a chance tonight. But there’s always a part of you that whispers “what if?”, instilling you with that little bit of hope that will usually have turned around and stabbed you through the heart by the time the 90 minutes are up.
Whether this latest drubbing was as bad as feared or simply just depressingly predictable probably depends on who you ask but at the base level, the Blue faithful were failed by Marco Silva, the majority of his players and a defensive strategy so surprising in its naïveté that it’s hard to see how the Portuguese can remain in charge any longer.
The injuries to his three preferred central midfielders continue to provide somewhat mitigating circumstances but where Silva arguably erred was in persisting with Gylfi Sigurdsson in midfield alongside Tom Davies rather than restoring Morgan Schneiderlin, a player more used to playing in a withdrawn role in front of the back four, to the team.
Just as he did at times against Leicester on Sunday, Davies struggled with the demands of covering more than just his usual duties alongside the Icelander who was anonymous for long stretches even by the holographic standards he has set this season. According to Sky Sports statistician Matt Cheetham, Sigurdsson — and bear in mind he was the captain, playing in the middle of the park — didn’t touch the ball at all for a period of 17 minutes in the second half; a simultaneous illustration of Liverpool’s control of the contest at 4-2 after half-time and the vacuousness of Silva’s midfield. Then there was that high defensive line and the hapless trio charged with employing it.
Given the reds' form and reputation and the calamity that befell Everton in the final half hour at the King Power Stadium, at the very least, one might have expected a tight, compact and concentrated performance during the first half; one designed to nullify a Liverpool attack that, even without two of it’s much-vaunted forward trio — Jürgen Klopp was confident enough of brushing Everton aside that he made five changes to his starting XI — posed significant threat. Indeed, in Divock Origi, the German has a player who has a habit of scoring important goals when given half a chance…and seeing as he is given more than that every time he faces Everton, he now has a depressing proclivity for netting in Merseyside derbies.
Instead, however, the Blues were cavalier in the early going and, just as they were by the Foxes on Sunday, were undone with depressing ease by fast transitions in some instances and then balls over the top in the first half that were so simple in their conception that you were left wondering how Silva’s defence was still being caught out by them in the final 10 minutes when, in truth, Sadio Mané should have completed a hat-trick rather than squandering two clear chances. Far from learning from the error, Silva persisted with the high line and was probably fortunate to escape Anfield without an even bigger deficit as Klopp’s side very quickly demonstrated that all they had to do was catch Everton on the counter-attack or ruthlessly exploit a ponderous and shambolic back line with long balls behind the defence to tear up the Portuguese’s game plan.
They took all of six minutes to get the humiliation underway and it came from Everton’s first promising opening at the other end. Sigurdsson dispossessed Georginio Wijnaldum and collected Richarlison’s return ball to cross but Andy Robertson headed clear. Within seconds, the reds had powered into the opposition half through Mané and his precision pass caught Michael Keane flat-footed and Jordan Pickford in no-man’s-land off his line, allowing Origi to take it past him and roll the ball into the empty net.
10 minutes later, it was 2-0. Trent Alexander-Arnold raked a ball to Mané in space behind Sidibé and the forward carried it to the edge of the box and waited for Xherdan Shaqiri’s run across him before slipping it into the Swiss’s path, where he cut it past the stranded Pickford. Cue remonstrations between Mason Holgate and Sidibé and earnest conversations between Keane and Davies.
To their credit, Everton didn’t immediately fold and they were back in the contest within just four minutes. A short corner routine almost broke down with a poor ball by Sidibé but the ball broke to Davies, he slid it to Alex Iwobi who drove the ball into the box where it came off the sliding Dejan Lovren and Keane knocked it over Adrian to make it 2-1.
Four minutes after that, after Iwobi had just failed to put Richarlison in behind the Liverpool defence, the Nigerian sent Calvert-Lewin away with a beautiful slide-rule pass but the striker delayed his shot just long enough for Virgil van Dijk to make up ground and barge him over just as he was pulling the trigger. If there was a VAR check, Everton were never going to get a decision off Martin Atkinson and play continued.
Unfortunately what could, on another day, have been a turning point in the contest in Everton’s favour was followed by a third goal for Liverpool and, again, it was galling in its simplicity. Lovren looked up and sent a missile over the top behind Keane and Holgate which Origi brought down and then steered high into Pickford’s net.
That prompted an early change from Silva who hooked Sidibé, who had been dreadful, and threw Bernard, moving Holgate to fullback and pushing Richarlison further forward alongside Calvert-Lewin. And after Iwobi had side-footed disappointingly wide from 20 yards, Everton almost forced an own goal that would have reduced the arrears back to one.
Iwobi was involved again, moving the ball to Richarlison near the corner of the penalty area and when he slammed the ball low into the six-yard box, Lovren almost toed it past his own keeper but was relieved to see it bobble wide off his boot.
It was from the resulting corner that a rampant Liverpool accelerated away to score their fourth. Mane turned inside Iwobi in his own half and sent Alexander-Arnold away into a two-on-one situation and the young left-back waited for the Senegalese to arrive before teeing up for a tidy side-foot finish inside Pickford’s right-hand post.
If there was a beacon of light for Everton on an otherwise bleak and harrowing evening it’s that their two Brazilian lads never not lost their heart or desire and they combined to great effect in first-half stoppage time to send the visitors into the dressing room with some hope. Played down the left by Lucas Digne, Bernard despatched a left-footed cross towards the penalty spot and, throwing himself at it between the two centre-backs, Richarlison sent the ball flying past the goalkeeper off his shoulder.
Klopp had evidently seen enough because there was a clear intent by Liverpool after the break to get a stranglehold on what had occasionally been an end-to-end contest in the first period and slow it down. It meant that chances for Everton would be few and far between from then on.
Digne fired a direct free kick narrowly over from 25 yards in the 52nd minute, Richarlison planted a decent headed chance from a corner into Adrian’s arms and Davies tried his luck with an effort that was, perhaps, too accurate and the keeper made a routine stop.
It wasn’t until the last 10 minutes that what had at times been a typically fractious derby, opened up again and Mané was gifted two great chances in the space of five minutes to turn a 4-2 lead into a rout. One more long raking ball over the top, this time by Jordan Henderson, found the forward untracked and racing in behind Keane and all he had to do was control it and slot it past Pickford but he somehow stroked it wide.
Five minutes later, from another Liverpool counter, the same two players combined with the former putting Mané into the clear but this time a combination of Pickford and the retreating Holgate did enough to crowd him out.
If there was to be an opportunity for the Blues to sow some unease in the home crowd it came straight away at the other end. Iwobi picked his moment to split the Liverpool defence to put Kean in for a one-on-one confrontation with Adrian. Sadly, the moment got the better of the young Italian and he put his shot from 20 yards a few inches the wrong side the upright and the chance to score his first Everton goal went begging.
That just left time for the reds to add insult to injury with a fifth goal in the 90th minute. Firmino twisted and turned Holgate near the byline, cut it back to Wijnaldum and he sent an early shot through three Blue jerseys and inside the far post.
With his hands dug into his pockets, Silva had spent much of the second half with a largely expressionless demeanour, perhaps knowing that his team was struggling its way to another defeat. In truth, it was men against boys for much of this match and Liverpool toyed with the visitors at time, before ruthlessly exposing their defensive frailties. It's usually a given that you'd want to see your side go into a local derby on the front foot but, with Everton in a crisis of confidence, hovering over the relegation zone and with the manager hanging by a thread, tonight called for a wholly more pragmatic approach that Silva never seemed willing to entertain.
It was another psychologically damaging defeat and it felt like not much has tangibly changed since the defeat at Leicester – everyone of a Blue persuasion knew that the current difficult sequence of games until Christmas would yield few points given the team’s form this season – the sight of Everton in the bottom three with 15 games gone could be the trigger that finally ends Silva’s tenure at Goodison Park.
He will rightly point to injuries to key players, cite awful officiating and injustice by VAR and bemoan some pretty rotten luck but the scale and nature of this defeat unfortunately underscore that in a very Martinez-ian way, he isn’t good enough; he doesn’t learn from his mistakes; and his team selections and tactics (the decision this evening to bring Morgan Schneiderlin on for Davies at 4-2 smacked of damage limitation and job preservation rather than ambition and it was not looked upon favourably by the Blue faithful) continue to confound even the last holdouts among those backing him to stay.
With reports that the Board of Directors will discuss the manager’s future by conference call tomorrow, the axe could well fall swiftly now, albeit weeks too late for many. Whom they bring in to replace him will be just as important as the decision to finally put Silva out of his misery and it will say a lot about the state of play in the boardroom and just how much sway Marcel Brands now has.
Everton started the 234th Merseyside derby starstruck by Liverpool's attacking quality, pace and accuracy that saw them score 4 simple goals in the first half, and surely now forcing the Everton hierarchy to sack Marco Silva.
It's an unchanged side for Everton tonite, with Calvert-Lewin up front on his own against the massed red defenders. No surprises on the bench. No place for any upcoming scouse midfielders who might have relished the challenge of this local rivalry.
Liverpool kicked-off and got the ball upfield, their pacey movement already challenging the Everton defence. But Everton responded by getting the ball up the other end via route one to Calvert-Lewin and the Blues held the Reds in check reasonably effectively.
Sigurdsson stole the ball well and advanced, but Calvert-Lewin could do nothing but lose the ball and Liverpool went up the other end, that menace Origi rounding Pickford and scoring far too easily.
The utter wastefulness, whenever Everton did get the ball, was maddening, just gifting it back to the Red shirts so that they could swarm forward again. Liverpool showed their long ball over the top would create instant panic in the moribund Everton defence.
Digne did get forward and crossed accurately to Van Dijk's feet. Davies tried one of his raking forward passes, straight to another red shirt. Keane, forced to do the same, let Lallana in but he handled the ball.
Davies got smashed over by Robertson, initiating an early bout of Handbags, Dean giving Everton the free-kick. But a brilliant ball from the back out to Mane saw him jink and dink through the Blues defence, setting it up for Shaquiri to slot home with ease under zero pressure from a dismal Everton backline.
Richarlison headed over form a corner, but then won a free-kick wide on the left, which went out for another corner, worked short and eventually through from Iwobi to Keane, who did brilliantly to beat the defender and clip it over Adrian into the Liverpool net.
The Blues showed more signs of life, penetrating the Liverpool area but kept making crucial mistakes, giving the ball away again and again with poor passes. Digne crossed with Calvert-Lewin marshalled by Van Dijk, Adrian catching it cleanly.
Iwobi played in Calvert-Lewin to run at goal, he was clearly fouled by Van Dijk as he shot, penalty and red card... No, not even a VAR check. Digne's foot was trodden on by Alexander-Arnold. More horribly scrappy midfield play saw Everton pushed back.
Liverpool got better control of the ball and mounted a sustained attack on the Everton area after Mane had tumbled over Sidibe's hip: no penalty check.
Richarlison was lat with his challenge on Robertson and was the first name in Mike Dean's boo. And another long ball from Loveren over everyone found Origi, one touch and another easy easy goal.
Keane had to foul Origi in the centre-circle as the Blues became increasingly desperate. Silva decided to act, Bernard coming on for Sidibe in a rare change of formation: can't score? Pile on attackers. But Everton were in chaos at the back, more desperate intervention preventing Shaquiri's second goal.
Mane again sliced open the Everton defence but his cross was too close to Pickford. Everton worked the ball in well but Iwobi's shot was very wasteful. Davies did well to release Calvert-Lewin who was pushed over by Roberston, for a fair set-piece chance, but Sigurdsson's flat delivery was still too high for the Everton players and the in the second phase, the cross was sloppily overhit out of play.
Everton should have scored a second When Richarlison powered in a low cross but Lovren touched it away from Calvert-Lewin for a corner that saw the Blues shape all over the place as Liverpool galloped up the other end, Mane scoring easily again.
But Everton finally put together a decent move, Bernard crossing for Richarlison to score off his shoulder. Half-time: Everton score 2 at Anfield... but Everton torn apart by Liverpool time and again for 4 far too simple goals.
Everton restarted the game, and help the home side at bay, getting a dangerous set-piece chance when Richarlison was clattered but Digne fired it off target. Liverpool attacked, winning a series of corners after shots were blocked, Van Dijk getting the sandwich treatment on one of them.
Origi threw himself to the ground under minor contact from Mina, Liverpool called for offside after the free-kick. Keane tackled Mane a little too robustly, giving away another free-kick as Kean was readied for through the customary lengthy pre-sub lecture.
Kean finally replaced Calvert-Lewin and soon won a corner with some strong work down the flank. But it was Richarlison who got on the end of Sigurdsson's decent corner, heading it too close to Adrian this time.
Everton mounted a half-hearted attack thanks in part to some new energy from Kean, the ball falling to Davies for a poorly hit half-volley. Davies caught Alexader-Arnold and got a yellow card.
Davies gave the ball away in the middle and Liverpool were quick to attack but the Blues defended better this time. Kean showed some fine physicality against Wijnaldum.
With a two-goal deficit to 'protect', Silva then replaced Davies with Schneiderlin, aware perhaps of his yellow card and how much the youngster had tired on Sunday.
After a long spell of nothing football, Everton won a corner going into the last 10 mins and again saw the ball go all the way to the other goal, Mane missing a sitter for 5-2.
On another decent Everton attack, Digne clipped the ball to the far post but there was none there. A couple of corners threatened briefly but again Liverpool broke, Man e through again but Holgate caught him as he rounded Pickford and foiled him. At the other end, Kean's best chance for his first Everton goal finally came but, with time and space, he drove it hopelessly wide.
Both sides were still attacking but the goals were not coming as easily as in the frist half and it was not until the 90th minute that the final dagger to the heart was executed by Wijnaldum... and hopefully also to the festering corpse of dead-duck manager, Marco Silva... his goose surely now well and truly cooked.
Scorers: Origi (6', 31'), Shaqiri (17'), Mané (45'), Wijnaldum (90'); Keane (21'), Richarlison (45+3')Liverpool: Adrian, Alexander-Arnold (84' Gomez), Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Milner, Shaqiri, Mane, Origi (73' Firmino).
Subs: Keita, Salah, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kelleher.
Everton: Pickford, Sidibe (33' Bernard), Holgate, Mina, Keane, Digne, Davies [Y:67'] (71' Schneiderlin), Sigurdsson (c), Iwobi, Richarlison [Y:30], Calvert-Lewin (60' Kean).
Subs not Used: Lössl, Baines, Walcott, Tosun.
Referee: Mike Dean
Everton go into the 234th Merseyside derby looking to find an unexpected spark to lift their ailing Premier League campaign as uncertainty over Marco Silva's future continues to be the dominant talking point.
Few expected the Portuguese to still be in charge of the Toffees at this point after he and his team were booed off the pitch at Goodison Park 10 days ago following the 2-0 defeat to Norwich but the club have stuck with him for the time being and he has an opportunity to bank some significant currency if he can cause an upset.
Liverpool's current status as clear league leaders, Everton's terrible form so far this season, the injury problems afflicting Finch Farm and the burgeoning weight of Anfield derby history are all against Silva. He was reminded in his pre-match press conference that an Everton side hasn't won this fixture in 20 years but he insisted that that represents an opportunity for his team and that everyone should go there to enjoy what is always a big occasion.
“It's always a fantastic game with a fantastic atmosphere,” Silva said. “Of course, we'd prefer to be playing in our stadium but when it's Liverpool vs Everton, the players have to enjoy [these kinds of games]. It will be a tough game for sure. It's tough for all the clubs who go there but it's a special game for the city and our fans as well.
“But let's enjoy the game. Let's go there with big motivation, with big courage to play and to enjoy the challenge like we did last season.”
Silva will take largely the same squad to Anfield as the one he had available against Leicester on Sunday.
Everton were forced to deploy a central midfield of Tom Davies and Gylfi Sigurdsson operating in a deeper role because of a biting injury crisis in that part of the field but Morgan Schneiderlin, who came on for the last quarter of an hour at the King Power Stadium could be fit to start against Liverpool if needed.
Meanwhile, Theo Walcott has recovered from illness and will be available and, with three more days behind him, Bernard might also be deemed strong enough to take a place in the starting XI. Seamus Coleman and Fabian Delph are ruled out, however.
“Theo will be okay for tomorrow,” Silva explained in his pre-match press conference at Finch Farm. “He was sick but he worked the last two sessions with the team and he is in condition to. be in the squad.
“Coleman tried this morning again but he's not in condition to be fit for the match and Delph is not training at this moment with the team. Let's see in the next few days how they will be and whether they will be fit or not for the next match.”
Given the injury problems in midfield where André Gomes is sidelined until the later stages of the season at the earliest, Delph has struggled with a succession of soft-tissue problems and there is uncertainty over when Jean-Philippe Gbamin might be ready, the manager was asked whether Everton would consider going into the transfer market next month.
Director of Football, Marcel Brands, is on record as saying that he doesn't favour trading players during the January window but Silva didn't rule it out.
“We have to sit down and to talk about the situation,” the Portuguese said. “At the moment we have a number of injuries in our midfield zone which are really different than normal so we will have to sit [down and discuss] the situation and let's see what we can do, not just in that position but in others as well.
“But for the next month there will be full focus on the [current] squad… full confidence in the squad, even with the problems we have. I have to be fair to the players — they are fighting, they are working really hard to get the results we need.”
Until then, Silva has to make do with the players available to him and it will be interesting to see what, if any, tactical shifts he makes for the trip across Stanley Park. He used a three-man central defensive unit against Leicester but while Michael Keane said afterwards that while he thought it worked well on the day, he admitted the players were still getting to grips with the system.
Schneiderlin's availability could lessen the need to string an extra defensive player across the back and it's possible that Silva will revert to the 4-3-2-1 formation that he has fallen back on so often this season. The concern is, of course, that with Bernard and Walcott potentially able to start and the manager having given Sigurdsson the captain's armband, it will be Alex Iwobi, who played a crucial role in the Blues' last two goals, who gets shafted and dropped back to the bench.
It's been a while since Evertonians came into a derby this despondent about their team's chances but if there are reasons to be optimistic, they centre around the two matches against the old enemy from across the Park last season in which Silva's side made Jurgen Klopp's eventual Champions League winners look decidedly ordinary.
Indeed, had André Gomes's close-range header gone in and Jordan Pickford not flapped the ball to Divock Origi in stoppage time, Everton might well have won the Anfield derby for the first time since 1999. In the reverse fixture, Pickford kept a clean sheet at one end but, much like this season, the Blues simply lacked the cutting edge at the other to claim victory. And, let's face it, Everton have ended long Liverpool unbeaten runs in the past and thoroughly enjoyed doing so.
The odds are longer this time but while the old adage that the form book goes out the window for derbies has largely been debunked when it comes to this fixture, it is still a local grudge match between two teams of eleven human beings and anything can happen.
Kick-off: 8:15pm, Wednesday 4th December, 2019
Referee: Mike Dean
Last Time: Liverpool 1 - 0 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Sidibé, Mina, Keane, Digne, Schneiderlin, Davies, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Walcott, Richarlison