Merseyside derbies aren’t usually this one-sided, but Liverpool got the right tactical fix from Brendan Rodgers, allowing Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge a lot of freedom and space up front, Steven Gerrard doing a great job as a defensive midfielder against a side that simply didn’t show up.
It’s hard to say what Roberto Martinez was thinking. There’s nothing wrong by trying to play possession based football and make Everton the initiators which is rare in the derby between these two teams, but playing with so many injured players which leaves a back four that isn’t the quickest in the world and playing in a very high line against a lightning quick trio that were ready for this exact scenario.
Rodgers didn’t change the names and players in his front six from the home draw against Aston Villa, but he moved them to the right places so it was no longer the 4-4-2 that made it so difficult for them to defend. Steven Gerrard can’t run around like he used to, so making him the more regressed midfielder, sitting in front of the defense and behind Jordan Henderson is the better role for him. It didn’t stop him from joining the attack early on or scoring the header in the corner, but it was never without coordinating with Henderson, remaining further behind to cover for him.
We hardly saw Aly Cissokho or Jack Flannagan attacking from the wings – Liverpool know they have some very big issues defensively, so Rodgers played it safe. It might have been a problem if they were playing against a team trying to defend as well, but Liverpool are best equipped to succeed in counter attacking style with these players – just like their impressive win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane, everything on both sides of the ball fell in the right place.
Luis Suarez might not be scoring at the scary pace he was before the turn of the new year, but he creates something for someone on almost every touch, especially when almost every Liverpool counter attack left a player in a one on one situation. Suarez’ goal in the second half wasn’t too special – just him outrunning defenders halfway across the pitch, but it was the last example of Martinez completely botching up tactically, and Liverpool having the talent and smarts to take advantage of that.
This doesn’t change the fact that Liverpool are still a step or two behind Manchester City and Chelsea, and probably Arsenal as well – three teams they got 0 points against in the first half of the season on away games. This might change soon enough, but it’s going to take more than relying on the scoring ability of Suarez and Sturridge to make that happen.
Brendan Rodgers has been hit and miss with his tactics this season, not to mention some of his defensive decisions along the way (limited by injuries). Showing this kind of acumen in another big match against a rival that’s been very difficult to beat since he took the job is a sign that Liverpool are heading in the right direction, and dreaming about 4th place and even more isn’t too much to ask.