We’d like to think we don’t care what the Red Side say… but unfortunately, as it is usually a reminder of them having the upper hand, most of us probably do.
With the negative circumstances surrounding the build-up to the 239th Merseyside derby, it would be understandable to forget that Everton are unbeaten in the last three matches against their own noisy neighbours. Picking up two draws and, of course, in February, returning from Anfield with all 3 points for the first time in over 20 years.
A lot of the talk surrounding Everton’s recent run of poor results has focused on the numerous injuries to key players. However, it is worth remembering just who was missing in securing that victory earlier this year. Everton’s much-missed centre forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin was fit enough only for the bench that day and centre back Yeri Mina was not involved at all.
These two players will almost certainly not be available on Wednesday but, on this evidence, should that really be enough to raise the white flag of surrender?
The other noticeable aspect of the starting XI that day was that it included the much-maligned trio of Mason Holgate, André Gomes and Tom Davies. Again, none of these will be available to start this match. Although, going by the most vocal opinions, these three players will not be a huge loss.
Conversely, two players who should be available to make their derby debuts are the popular additions of Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend. With the possible signs of an emergence also of the real Fabian Delph at Everton, the options for the starting XI are, on paper, arguably stronger now than they were in that victory at Anfield.
Previous manager Carlo Ancelotti received plenty of criticism last season for his tactics and formations, often leading to a dull experience and many dropped points, particularly at Goodison Park. However, opting for a three-man midfield away from home in this match proved an inspired move as a more aggressive Everton pressed the opposition into mistakes.
This observation though, is one of the worries regarding current manager Rafa Benitez. Benitez appears extremely reluctant to deviate from his preferred 4-4-2 formation, often leaving Allan exposed against a more mobile opposition midfield. With the mobility and quality of the midfield three he is likely to be up against on Wednesday, this is a huge concern. In Doucouré, Allan and Delph, Benitez does have the personnel to call upon to make this change, but will he?
A formation change to 4-3-3 would also provide a front three with pace, directness and mobility to allow Everton to play to their strengths on the counter-attack. Richarlison returns from a one-match suspension and Demarai Gray was, by some distance, the most dangerous attacking player after coming off the bench on Sunday. Leaving a choice between Andros Townsend and Anthony Gordon to complete the front three.
This would also allow Benitez to drop those players who have become a stick with which to beat him. The continuous reliance on Alex Iwobi and Salomon Rondon is in danger of turning the tide of support against Benitez. More than anything else, Everton supporters are losing patience with an insistence on turning to these two players without giving a chance to the younger players at his disposal.
Leaving attackers Ellis Simms and Lewis Dobbin on the bench on Sunday, when the team was chasing goals, was to most, totally baffling. Benitez’s reasons are unclear; is it a sign of stubbornness or simply a lack of trust? Either way, it is not proving popular with large sections of supporters.
In short, contrary to many people’s opinions, Benitez does have options at his disposal – in both formation and personnel. Some of these options would arguably ensure a stronger starting XI than the one which secured victory in the last Merseyside derby.
As always, this is a hugely significant fixture for everyone connected to the club, but perhaps even more so given the recent run of results. It is, however, impossible not to underestimate the significance of this match in the future of Rafa Benitez as manager of Everton Football Club. Will he once again turn to his trusted methods and selections, or will he take note of recent history and try something different?
This particular Evertonian is hoping for the latter. But mostly just hoping… and praying.
Reader Comments (8)
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1 Posted 30/11/2021 at 15:41:42
My concern is the usual one, if we allow the visitors to have the lion's share of possession, it's probably inevitable that they'll make the breakthrough and this Everton side is so goal-shy that it will be a mountain to climb possibly an insurmountable one. I don't envisage anything but a 'backs to the wall' performance with the hope that somehow we can capitalise on a breakaway goal, similar to how West Ham beat them a few weeks ago.
Benitez said the following in today's press conference: "We have to go back to principles of defending as a unit, solid and compact together. After, we try to play the best way possible on the ball. If we have to play counter-attack, do it. "So the main thing is to go to the basic principles of having to be strong in defence, physically and mentally. "I've had the opportunity to talk with the group after every game and now, before this game, with some individuals. Just to be sure they don't give up.
"I think we have to stay really focused," he said.
"We have to go back to principles of defending as a unit, solid and compact together. After, we try to play the best way possible on the ball. If we have to play counter-attack, do it.
"So the main thing is to go to the basic principles of having to be strong in defence, physically and mentally.
"I've had the opportunity to talk with the group after every game and now, before this game, with some individuals. Just to be sure they don't give up.
2 Posted 30/11/2021 at 15:56:10
3 Posted 30/11/2021 at 16:54:16
4 Posted 30/11/2021 at 16:58:53
Everton v Liverpool (20:15 GMT)
This was the game where Virgil van Dijk got injured last season so if it is possible to have any more spice than a normal derby, Wednesday night will be it.
However you look at the game, Liverpool have to be favourites. Everton have not won since the end of September and when I watched them against Brentford on Sunday, they never ever really looked like scoring. The Bees could even have won by another goal or two.
Benitez will be hoping his defensive block will hold out, but I don't see it - especially when Everton have got so little to offer at the other end. They won't be able to give themselves a breather during the game, when I think they will need one.
Quite often going into these derby games, I think it doesn't matter whether teams are at the top or bottom of the table because they feel so different but, this time, the sheer quality of Liverpool means I cannot see them creating chances without taking some of them.
Lawro's prediction: 0-2
He just couldn't wait to get the injury to virgin van Shite in!
5 Posted 30/11/2021 at 17:07:25
6 Posted 30/11/2021 at 17:57:06
Sadly we have no one to get the retaliation in first.
7 Posted 30/11/2021 at 18:18:41
8 Posted 30/11/2021 at 21:09:40
Our current problems are not down to Rafa but persistence with Rondon and Iwobi, playing two in midfield and not using strikers from the bench are all down to him and the clamour to ditch him will reach fever pitch if tomorrow becomes an embarrassment. With the right selection and formation and the right attitude it doesnt need to be like that.
Which Everton will turn up?
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