Not the ideal result, not one most could complain over either. A 3-3 draw away to Everton, under new manager Roberto Martinez, should be seen as a positive one for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side, who still sit 2nd in the table with Chelsea. There were definitely a few major positives to take away from this tough away fixture, but there are some worrying signs for Rodgers to ponder over this next week before visiting Hull this Sunday.
First up, the positives. Luis Suarez, even after jetting back less than two days before the derby in owner John Henry’s private jet, got on the scoresheet with one of the goals of the season and managed to trouble Everton’s rearguard. He even managed to soldier on after Kevin Miralles’ horror high, studs-showing farce of a tackle that left him with two open wounds on the side of his thigh. Daniel Sturridge got over his mini goal drought as he grabbed the crucial equalizer. Philippe Coutinho got his first goal of the season, but in actual fact he did not trouble Everton as much as he would like, being stifled by Seamus Coleman’s attacking strides forward, forcing the Brazilian to track back more often than not.
The man of the match, for me, was Jon Flanagan. Why? He’s primarily a right-footed right-back. Secondly, he was playing left-back. Thirdly, his last game was against Arsenal a few weeks ago, his first game in months. And still, he performed like a seasoned regular, intercepting passes, closing Miralles down, tackling anyone on his flank as aggressively and fair as Rodgers have liked. He even managed to bomb forward well and laid the ball off to his more offensive-minded team-mates whenever possible. Put it simply, Flanagan could not perform any better.
Now, the negatives. Or sort of negatives. First off, referee Phil Dowd. How is Miralles’ challenge not a red, I, and many others, even neutrals, will never know. Secondly, with more focus on Liverpool themselves, their defence just could not handle Everton’s attack. Liverpool’s favourite tormenter-in-chief Romelu Lukaku was at it again, bullying both Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel (sometimes at the same time, it seemed), and getting two goals, one directly off a corner which Glen Johnson could have defended better and another indirectly off his own free-kick. The whole Reds defence dropped too deeply while reacting to the rebound, which gave Lukaku the space he needed to get his side-footed shot away. After Kolo Toure’s fine performance early in the season against Christian Benteke, maybe he should have started this game. Or since Rodgers dropped Sturridge, a revert to a back-three with Lucas and Steven Gerrard sitting in front while the wing-backs and other two midfielders support Suarez?
Thirdly, Joe Allen’s horror miss and below-par performance. I don’t get how anyone could say Allen played well at all, even when you take away his miss. He showed his usual short passing, but he was weak in the tackle and could not challenge the likes of Ross Barkley and James McCarthy in midfield. And then that miss that compounded it all. That was the turning point in the game, that gave Everton the confidence and impetus to grab their equalizer and subsequent go-ahead goal. Allen is one or two games away from being dropped more permanently and potentially being classed as another expensive midfield flop, or simply put another “Aquilani”, or in the same class as Charlie Adam and Salif Diao.
Win the next game against Hull, put simply. After Crystal Palace managed their first away points of the season at the KC Stadium, Liverpool cannot not win at Hull. A draw will feel like a defeat, even if it was a last-minute equaliser for the Reds.
Allen should start, for the sake of his confidence, even though I personally am not comfortable with that, being an away game at an aggressive and graft-y Steve Bruce side. Lucas might be the man to make way to accommodate Sturridge’s return to the starting XI. A narrow 4-4-2 would be a good way to go about this game, with Jordan Henderson tucking in from wide right and Coutinho cutting in from the left.
Keeping pace with Arsenal is a must, and only 3 points against Hull will do any good for the Reds to start the week on a positive note, which would leave them in good stead for their next two games at home to relegation battlers Norwich City and West Ham United. In fact, only the full 9 points will do, I’m not going to tempt fate though.