Everton Win At Anfield: Things We Learned

Everton won Saturday’s Merseyside derby for an eighth straight unbeaten away match and remain in touch with the Premier League’s top four.

Richarlison opened the scoring and Gylfi Sigurdsson added Everton’s second from the penalty spot to cap an impeccable team display.

Here, evertonfc.com highlights some of the things we learned from the Anfield encounter.

Davies Growing Into Key Figure

Has there been an Everton player in the past decade supporters have wanted to succeed more than Tom Davies?

The midfielder from the Club’s Academy provides a direct link to Evertonians and owns an endearing and rounded personality.

His football is coming on enormously, too.

Davies is still only 22 – he was born on the day a floored David Beckham aimed a kick at Argentina’s Diego Simeone in England’s 1998 World Cup second-round match – but has played 142 games for Everton.

This is the first time since his breakthrough campaign of 2016/17, however, that Davies has been granted an extended run in a defined position and settled team.

Davies’ mesmerising goal against Manchester City in January 2017 is naturally identified as his coming-of-age moment.

More significant for the player was his run of 16 starts from Everton's remaining 17 games following that bustling run and impudent finish.

Consistent periods in the team have been few and far between in the intervening years.

When Davies filled in for an injured Allan against Brighton & Hove Albion early in this campaign, then, it felt like the Englishman was performing his role as a squad man.

A mature display in front of Everton’s back four, however, indicated a player gaining an acute appreciation of the game and his longer-term position.

Another setback for Allan opened the door for Davies back in December and he has started nine of Everton’s past 11 Premier League games – adding to a tremendous performance in the FA Cup victory over Tottenham.

Davies was outstanding against Liverpool.

His positioning to intercept and stifle and tackle was immaculate.

The Englishman’s use of the ball was lifted directly from his manager’s playbook: fast, assertive and ambitious.

Davies has always been brave in possession and now he is playing in a side where that courage is rewarded.

His first-time ball out of defence with 10 minutes remaining scooted 30 yards across the floor and sent Richarlison bombing forwards for the pass that ultimately won Everton their penalty.

Davies made five tackles, recovered possession eight times and of his 18 successful passes eight were directed forwards; following the same direction as this brilliant young man’s career.

Build From The Back

Carlo Ancelotti chuckles about his nationality when discussing favoured tactics, mischievously playing up to the stereotype of Italian pragmatism.

The reality is, Ancelotti likes his sides to be daring and expressive, to move the ball speedily and progressively and contain a sprinkling of mystery and magic.

He’s the man who signed James Rodriguez three times, after all.

In Ancelotti’s first season at Real Madrid, his team scored 104 goals in 38 league matches at a rate of 2.7 per game.

They played 13 matches to win the Champions League and scored 41 times – 3.15 per game – including four in the final and four in a semi-final cuffing of Bayern Munich in Germany.

You can take the man out of Italy, though.

“I am Italian”, laughs Ancelotti when talking about an appreciation of the art of defending.

And there has been an element of catenaccio in the majority of Everton’s best performances this season.

Think clean sheets at Tottenham and Leicester and the one-goal win over Chelsea at Goodison Park.

The second-half rearguard action to complete victory over Leeds United this month.

Ancelotti doesn’t lean exclusively on defence or attack. There was a plan to hurt Liverpool: James combining with Richarlison, before giving way to Dominic Calvert-Lewin to link with the Brazilian to equally profitable effect.

But Ancelotti mentioned four opposition players post-match when expanding on his ploy.

A desire to subdue Andrew Robertson on Liverpool’s left led to Seamus Coleman being employed as a wing-back.

Coleman was free to attack in the spirit of the position but when Everton ceded possession instantly fell back into a five-man defensive line.

The remaining four players outnumbered the Liverpool attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Ancelotti’s strategy was flawlessly executed by his players and enabled Everton to gain early control which they never relinquished.

Clinical Blues

Everton’s plan to allow their hosts an awful lot of the ball – 71 per cent in all – showed faith in the team’s creative powers to exploit possession which came their way.

Liverpool's ball share inevitably led to more shots but the sides were matched for strikes on target.

And where the hosts were primarily restricted to efforts from distance, Everton cut through for clear openings.

Both goals were the very definition of clinical.

When Abdoulaye Doucoure's header dropped at the feet of James Rodriguez inside three minutes, there was the hint of an opportunity.

In the blink of an eye, James surveyed the scene in front of him, noting Ozan Kabak’s eyes fixed on the ball and Richarlison sprinting into space.

James completed his control and feather-light pass in one blurry motion, releasing Richarlison behind the Liverpool defender.

The finish was unerring, arrowed across goalkeeper Alisson and sounding a metallic thud as it smacked into the stanchion.

Everton were content to protect their lead after half-time – but, crucially, never went into their shells.

The surest sign they fancied a second arrived with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s introduction in place of James.

The fresh legs of Calvert-Lewin were pumping to keep up with Richarlison when the South American overpowered Nat Phillips to race into Liverpool’s half.

Still, Liverpool had three defenders in position to cope with Everton’s pair of ambitious raiders.

Richarlison’s pass for Calvert-Lewin did for all of them, timed and weighted to perfection as the striker stole a march on his opponents.

Calvert-Lewin reacted to Alisson’s save and Trent Alexander-Arnold committed the foul which stopped a second attempt at goal.

Everton have latterly enjoyed a relative glut of penalties at Anfield; this their second in three years and two months after only Wayne Clarke’s conversion in 1988 between World War Two and Wayne Rooney’s strike from the spot in December 2017.

The wait for Chris Kavanagh, the referee, to check replays, then, was less stressful than it might have been.

For Gylfi Sigurdsson, though, pressure would have mounted during those extra seconds.

Not that you’d have known it when the Icelander casually deposited the ball inside Alisson’s right post for his third successful penalty – and sixth goal – this season.

Four At The Core

Everton’s authoritative defensive effort was founded on the performances of a balanced trio of centre-halves who didn’t put a foot wrong.

Michael Keane claimed man-of-the match honours to sustain a season which is developing into a personal tour de force for the defender.

England international Keane produced two crucial tackles to snuff out chances for Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

He made 13 clearances to lift his total for the season to 105 – second most of any Premier League player.

Keane was aerially dominant, vocal and physically imposing.

Either side of the former Manchester United player, Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey zipped across the turf, closing and blocking and hassling.

Holgate and Godfrey were routinely well-positioned to intercept crosses to their respective near posts.

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Blues boss proud of his players after derby victory.

Godfrey admits he savours any chance to make a meaningful tackle.

You could sense his excitement, then, when everything fell just right for Godfrey to burst out of his penalty area and fire into a hefty and legitimate challenge on Xherdan Shaqiri.

The 23-year-old fits the criteria for what Seamus Coleman calls a “proper Everton player”.

Holgate had the complicated job of flexing between centre-back and right-back as Everton switched from a three-man defence to a back-four, depending on circumstances.

He managed the task intelligently and skilfully, employing mobility and speed and strength to cover ground and shrug opponents off the ball.

Holgate’s interception on his own line to prevent a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross presenting Sadio Mane with a tap-in epitomised a clever and aware display.

When Liverpool found a way through or around Everton’s back three, they had to contend with a resolute Jordan Pickford.

Everton’s goalkeeper produced two excellent, leaping stops to deny Jordan Henderson and Alexander-Arnold before half-time.

When Salah wriggled his way clear in the second half, Pickford met the Egyptian with a broad frame to repel the shot.

With Everton two goals in front and the game as good as done, there was one more fingertip stop from Georginio Wijnaldum to preserve the clean sheet Everton deserved.

Blues Win Vital For Bigger Picture

Everton had more than derby spoils resting on this game.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side needed to prevent two defeats in the previous six days stretching into a run that could harm European ambitions.

Following a storming victory at Anfield, Everton remain close to the top-four positions and neck-and-neck with Liverpool in sixth.

There was further evidence, too, of Everton’s ability to consistently compete with teams from the division’s upper reaches.

This season, already, they have played each of Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Leicester City, twice, while both Chelsea and Arsenal have been to Goodison Park.

Everton are undefeated in those eight games – winning six and drawing two – and it is that capacity to rival sides around them, coupled with prolific form away from home, keeping Ancelotti’s team on course to achieve their goals for the campaign.

Additionally, it felt important that the next eight days without a match weren’t spent reflecting on a derby defeat.

Everton return to action when Southampton visit Goodison on 1 March and from that date games will come and go in a hurry.

Pressure intensifies as we enter the season’s final stages, the margin for error squeezed as opportunities to recover lost points reduce in number.

A Merseyside derby is nobody’s testing ground but the game represented a useful dry run for when Everton face critical fixtures in the closing months, nonetheless.

There couldn’t have been many more difficult circumstances in which to try to recover your footing after a two-match stumble.

After turning over their neighbours in their own back yard, Everton are back up and running.