Ugh, this game… I do not even know where to begin. Let’s start with managers. Carlo Ancelotti is one of the best managers in the world and his resume shows it. He has been everywhere and consistently won at every level. When Brendan Rodgers was fired, I dreamt of having Carlo. He was the first manager I wanted to come in, because Jurgen Klopp had said he wanted a full year off. Klopp was the only manager in the world I wanted more than Carlo, it is fair to say I hold Carlo in VERY high regard. If a Carlo-led team beats Liverpool, we tip our cap and move on. But as well know, that is not exactly what happened (see the title for more info on how I truly feel).
When we look at the xG for the game, Liverpool won the game 2.2-1.3, well within the realm of being a decent game. Liverpool was the better team for large stretches, but Everton did have times when they controlled and played well. But let’s all be honest: had Jordan Pickford been correctly sent off for his demolition of Virgil Van Dijk, the entire game changes and Liverpool get to play against 10 men for 83+ minutes. I cannot see into alternate time lines like Doctor Strange, but I can say with pretty high level of confidence that Liverpool would win that game pretty handily, playing against 10 men and a backup goalie. That being said, let’s dig a bit deeper into the numbers.
Andrew Robertson was fantastic all game long. He played well defensively and was a massive catalyst down the wing. He had an assist on the Sadio Mane goal early, and was good all throughout. Robertson was very aggressive with the ball with 10 progressive passes. He was second on the team with five shot creating actions and led the team with two goal creating actions – actually, he was the only one with any goal creating actions. Robbo also led the team with four passes into the penalty area. Even though he is supposed to cross and take some risks – and he did – he still completed over 80% of his passes. He was arguably the MOTM with his play down the left flank.
This is not a formal statistic, but if there was a stat called ‘times Vijay said “HOLY CRAP!” after a pass’ Thiago leads the team with 11 per game. Thiago is exactly who was advertised. He is silky smooth with the ball and does not just pass sideways – he moves the ball forward and into space. You can see that in the passing chart below from StatsZone.
He led the team with seven passes into the final third, he led the team with 12 progressive passes and he led the team with three key passes. He also completed all four of his dribbles successfully.
Ahh, but he is just a good offensive player and we still struggle defensively, right? Well, he was 2/2 on defending dribbles, he led the team with two interceptions, he had one blocked shot, was second on the team with 14 ball recoveries and won four tackles. I still think Robbo was the MOTM, but Thiago was absolutely fantastic in his first Merseyside derby.
After the Virgil Van Dijk injury at the eighth minute, Matip had to take over as primary center back. And he performed well. I wish he had the zone that Fabinho had during the corner kick – I am certain he would have been able to get in Michael Keane’s way on that first goal. He will never be confused as being imperious. He does not look like Virgil nor does he carry himself like Virgil. He runs like a professional speed walker who is in their off time, getting upset at the manager for not taking the coupons he brought into the store. Despite his awkward gait, he is actually a really good footballer. Offensively, he was 42/51 passing with most of his misses going long down the field. In addition, he put the ball into the final third four times which is not half bad for a CB.
Defensively, Matip was what he always is. Very good, didn’t make any mistakes. He was 4/7 pressing which is excellent. In addition, he won both of his aerial duels (again, part of why I think he gets in front of Keane on their goal). He also chipped in with one tackle and two blocked passes.
Matip may not be Virgil, but he is very good. The issue his entire career has been injury. If he can stay healthy, Liverpool likely cannot play as high a line (he is not as fast as Virgil), but LFC will still be a very good team defensively. Matip can handle the pressure of being the lead defender. And it is his time to shine.
This game was defined by VAR. This game, worst case, should have been 3-2. But if Pickford is taken out, I think this becomes a blowout. VAR really (unfairly) hurt Liverpool in this game. In spite of that, Liverpool played well at Goodison against a very improved Everton team. What to do? Shake it off, hope we do not have to play against the referees again, and move on.