A Merseyside derby used to be a fiery affair with red cards and injured players scattered across the pitch. Times have changed, especially for Liverpool football club, about to finish beneath their city rivals for a second consecutive season, while all the talent in the world, from Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and an energetic Steven Gerrard couldn’t give Jamie Carragher a nice farewell present, sending him off from the derby with a home win at Anfield.
Everton didn’t come to win the match – a draw was fine by them, knowing their chances of catching up with the European group were quite slim even before kickoff, but finishing above Liverpool for the second straight season, something that hasn’t happened since 1937, can be achieved by simply keeping a distance. So they did, while the Reds fruitlessly tried to make it look like another visit to Newcastle.
The spaces were gone; the unintelligent defending has disappeared. Coutinho didn’t have the time and the opportunity to easily get by the full back tracking him and make his way to the middle, because there isn’t a single player on Everton except for the striker that doesn’t come down to help on defense. It might not be the prettiest thing to see as a neutral, but year after year, it’s what keeps Everton a part of the top flight and usually the top 7.
Jamie Carragher wanted to leave his last derby match against the team he was a fan of as a child, presumably even having some secret tattoo of them somewhere on his body, but I guess he’ll have to become an analyst without the memory of winning his final derby match. Carragher seemed to be erased from the plans when the season began, but a terrible campaign from Martin Skrtel borught him back up to the lineup, where he has done mostly a decent job, although it’s quite clear why he’s no longer being thought of as a first team regular for a club which at least has high ambitions.
A match for pride, nothing else. At this point of the season, there’s not enough fuel in the tank to make pride a worthy enough cause. Liverpool can’t reach Europe, and finishing above Everton is not worthy enough of a cause to give more than you got, especially because Liverpool are limited, hampered, even crippled by the absence of Luis Suarez. Against Everton and David Moyes, coming to Anfield without the intent to get anything more than a 0-0 draw, it’s quite difficult.
It’s all about building for next season, while trying to keep fans pleased at the ending of this one. Giving Coutinho, Henderson and Sturridge more chances to show they’re ready to be part of the leading bunch next season. But it’s also the opportunity Rodgers has to see who shouldn’t be a part of what he’s planning next season, only hampered by the fact that he won’t have too much money to spend on making those changes.