Did Frank Lampard get his tactics right in the Merseyside Derby?

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As Andrew Robertson’s header bounced into the corner of the net, you could almost see Frank Lampard’s heart sink just a little bit. His team had come to Anfield on a mission to disrupt, fluster, and provoke Liverpool, but the breaking of the deadlock midway through the second half saw that plan go up in smoke. 

With the game drawing towards a close, Everton’s arch-nemesis Divock Origi added a second and Liverpool ran out comfortable 2-0 winners in the end. Lampard’s gameplan, which frustrated Liverpool for long periods, had ultimately proved fruitless as Everton simply couldn’t withstand the onslaught for 90 minutes.

The result begs the question, was Lampard’s approach to the game the right one? Everton are in dire straits, in desperate need of results, and they came to Anfield looking to ride their luck and hopefully nick something on the counter attack. For a club that pride themselves on attractive football and entertainment, it was symbolic of how far they have fallen this season.

Lampard can be forgiven for adopting a somewhat negative approach. After all, Liverpool are a relentlessly attacking side, and are competing on all fronts for an unprecedented quadruple. The Premier League odds were firmly in the Reds’ favour before the match, and not many people were giving Everton a prayer. If Everton had managed to cling on for a draw, we would have been talking about a tactical masterclass.

Indeed, there was a moment where the entire match could have turned in Everton’s favour. With the score still locked at 0-0, Anthony Gordon burst into the Liverpool penalty area before being brushed to the ground by Joël Matip. Referee Stuart Atwell took a moment to consider, before signalling for a Liverpool goal-kick despite the protestations for a penalty from Everton’s players and staff.

Gordon had been booked earlier in the game for an embarrassing dive, and there’s no doubting that the incident was in the referee’s mind as he weighed up whether or not to give the penalty. Lampard was left fuming at the decision.

“It was a penalty,” the Everton boss said. “If that was Mo Salah at the other end, he gets a penalty. You don’t get them here. That’s the reality of football sometimes.”

Of course, there are no guarantees that Liverpool would not have gone on to win, even if Everton did get the penalty. The reality is that Everton’s gameplan was geared towards taking advantage of moments such as that, and once that moment didn’t go their way, it looked as though a Liverpool win was inevitable.

The Everton performance was in stark contrast to their display in beating Manchester United 1-0 at Goodison Park earlier in the month. They played fast, dynamic football that afternoon, and even after taking the lead they still looked to hurt United in forward areas. There’s no denying that this current Liverpool team presents a much greater challenge, but Everton’s supporters may have left Anfield thinking that their team could have done a bit more to put the home defence under pressure.

Lampard deserves credit for a spirited performance, but the fact that this club, who have spent so much money on talent in the last couple of years, was reduced to setting out their stall in such a negative way is a cutting indictment on the club’s mismanagement. Everton are going nowhere fast, except perhaps the Championship.

 

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