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Quarterly Reports: Power shifts at Merseyside

  The fight for dominance in Merseyside has been a long drawn out one, and this season is again seeing change in the air as the Blues are flying high over the Kop. If there is a single trait that makes Everton stand out ahead of Liverpool over the...

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The fight for dominance in Merseyside has been a long drawn out one, and this season is again seeing change in the air as the Blues are flying high over the Kop.

If there is a single trait that makes Everton stand out ahead of Liverpool over the past few seasons, it is their Unity in Diversity. Infact diversity is a huge understatement to describe the financial turmoil within the club, and the only driving force that led the Toffees to drag along in their rags was a Scotsman named Moyes.

Following the sale of a well settled and highly rated Mikel Arteta, the cashing in on a sure-to-be-future-star Jack Rodwell just shows the plight of the manager. Though Moyes has had to compromise on such talents over the years, he has made some shrewd signings this year. Kevin Mirallas was brought to the club amidst interest from Arsenal, and the capture of the Greek League’s topscorer certainly brought in some optimism to Goodison. Another Moyes decision that has borne fruit is the re-signing of Pienaar from Spurs.

The situation at the other side of the river has been just the opposite in all accounts. The fact that Anfield has seen 4 new men at the helm in the last 3 years, and has also seen an insane amount of money going down the drain, just reinstates the power of stability. Though judging Brendan Rodgers this early on in his tenure is sheer injustice, the manager along with the Board needs to take part of the blame for the Transfer Window fiasco.

The current position of both the clubs in the league is a fair reflection of the work put in behind the scenes. Where Everton sit strong at 4thwith 5 wins and 5 draws out of their 11, the Reds are languishing at 13th place after winning just 2 of their opening 11. The start of the season was so hapless for the Reds, that a combination of tough opponents and rough scheduling saw them go into deep September until they got their first Premier League victory; and even later in October to get their first home win.

Just putting out a few stats, maybe to roughen up few of the Kopites or else to just amplify the strength of the Goodison lot:

Liverpool’s striker’s category is now the definition of one man team. Luis Suarez is the only player in the team who has scored more than 1 goal.

SHOTS per game18
SHOTS ON TARGET per game4

The Liverpool of the Dalglish era was atleast consistent at the back. The same 4 have been retained mostly by Rodgers but their mentality has been changed; the likes of Skrtel, Agger and Enrique now tend to pass the ball out of defense and this has led to plenty of individual errors. Also the absence of Lucas Leiva has again left the centre backs exposed as Allen is not much of a shield, rather a distributor.

SHOTS CONCEDED per game12
SHOTS BLOCKED per game3

Though the only decent purchases had come in the midfield area for the Reds in the form of Allen and Sahin, the lack of height in this region has hurt them again. Allen, though a master of passing and distribution, very similar to what Arteta is doing at Arsenal, has been dominated in aerial battles against stronger opposition. Gerrard has not been as effective from a deeper role with Allen, and the English captain certainly needs a much more attacking role.

Average POSSESSION %57 %
Average PASS RATE %85 %

Key Player: Who has been under-utilized

Nuri Sahin: Rodgers might have just missed a trick by not playing Sahin in the role next to Allen, where Gerrard is playing now. The Turkish international has been played behind Suarez, in a role that he was not used to play at Madrid and Dortmund.

Sahin stats

PASS SUCCESS231/280
ACCURATE LONG BALLS per game10/11
ACCURATE THROUGH BALLS per game0/0

The season so far, though strewn with lapses in defense and lack of attacking intent, has been highlighted by the Rodger’s youth preference policy. The emergence of academy talents Sterling, Suso and Wisdom has made the world take notice, with Raheem Sterling going directly into the England senior team at an age of 17.

Sterling adds a lot of direct running to the Reds’ attack and his runs need to be picked out accurately from the deep. Though Stevie G is more than capable to play that role, Nuri Sahin is equally adept at it, and moreover the Turkish-man is being wasted at a position that Gerrard tends to excel in.

What Liverpool need in the weeks before the December window is to utilize the talent of Jonjo Shelvey much more. The youngster might have a hot temper but his distribution and off the ball running have brightened prospects for the Reds. The winter window will be really important for the Reds’ finish this season and one ponytailed- energetic Andy Carroll jumping around in London seems set to decide Liverpool’s fate.

Attacks down the left

Everton’s attacks down the years have been concentrated much more on their left. Leighton Baines has been the obvious reason for this, and now with his old partnership with Pienaar being revived, the two have wreaked havoc down the left.

A new observation in the Toffees attacks this season has been their change in the play down their right. Last season, Royston Drenthe played on this side and was given the option to freely roam and cut in from the right. Phil Neville also featured there at times and was much more conservative in attack.

But now Moyes is seen to play new signing Naismith on the right and he has adding a much more energetic dimension to the attack. Naismith features in a much more pressing midfield and utilizes the concentration of attack on the left, to venture unmarked into the box.

CROSSES per game2
TOTAL KEY PASSES8

The spot on the right has been also taken up by Mirallas at times, and the Belgian has started to play a very similar role to what Samir Nasri plays for City when Silva attacks from the right. Mirallas is in around the box for long periods and is often seen central due to the drifting left of Fellaini and Pienaar.

Key Player: Whom to save in the Window   

Marouane Fellaini:

The key player for the Blues is another Belgian whose ‘bird-nest’ hairdo has become a terrorizing sight for Premier League defenders.  Marouane Fellaini has become Everton’s most important player, not only due to his hulking profile but also due to his intelligent movement and tap-downs that allow the likes of Pienaar and Osman to be released on goal.

The Belgian takes advantage of his height by towering above the fullbacks usually and the center back’s long balls to him are Everton’s usual way to start attacks.

AERIAL BATTLES WON39/77
KEY PASSES17
TOTAL SHOTS40

The loss of Rodwell has affected the depth in midfield, as Moyes now uses veteran Neville alongside Osman. Neville is doing a decent job of sitting deep while Osman ventures ahead, but he can be easily outrun by the likes of Toure or Diaby.

Everton have impressed the League with a highly technical and spirited opening period. Though their main striker Jelavic is still misfiring this season, his runs off the ball are providing his teammates with goal scoring opportunities.

And with the loyalty that Moyes has inculcated within the squad, it is difficult to see the likes of Baines, Jagielka or Osman leaving any soon. Keeping hold of their asset Fellaini would be top priority for the Blues as the fans who have seen many such gems leaving to seek greener pastures, wait for the Chelseas and Uniteds to make their moves.

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