Liverpool have forged a strong identity, culture and philosophy under Jurgen Klopp, while rivals Everton have evolved in entirely different directions
With the increasingly important role of analytics in football, I thought I’d spoil you with some – frankly amazing – stats from my career.
In the 11 seasons I’ve been at Liverpool we’ve averaged a top-four finish every year, with a statistical position of 3.9. Everton averaged 14th… which means throughout my time at Anfield we’ve been about 10 places above them every season. We’ve never finished below them once in my career with the Reds, and in that time they’ve actually been within three spots of us a couple of times. That means that in all my games against them we were a better team than them – by some distance.
Yes, and this is where the amazing thing comes in, Liverpool’s record for the time I was in the first-team squad against Everton at the club is: played 20, won 6, drew 8… lost 6. So we had an even record against a team that finished 10 places below us – every season for 11 years.
And that shows you what people always mean when they say the form book goes out the window in derbies, and particularly the Merseyside derby – which my admittedly lengthy analysis will show you. Except of course no more. Everton have won one of the last 25 derbies. Indeed, since I left Liverpool (for the second time) in 2007, they have won three out of 34.
Which leads me to two conclusions. Firstly, the gulf between the two clubs has never been wider; even if it is currently only slightly wider in the table than it was in my time, and in the last decade it was even narrower than in the 90s and 2000s. Secondly, derbies have changed in football; probably forever. That can be the only explanation for the turning point, which didn’t throw the form book out of the window but held it up quite religiously.
I’ve looked back on red cards in games since my days and I have a confession to make… in the Premier League era it was me who started it all! Well actually David Unsworth who teased me and we both got sent off to fight when in truth it wasn’t a big hit I landed.
That was in 1997, in the following 14 years there were a total of 20 red cards. Yet in the 11 years since Jack Rodwell was fired in 2011, there have been TWO. A player has been sent off in Liverpool in 16 years. Why have the games developed much better and why are there so few red cards anymore? Well, quite obviously the two are connected.
I think that’s partly because the games are more tactical and technical. Have a player sent off and that makes the competition, if not outright impossible, then virtual. But it goes beyond that. If you look at the likely squads today, chances are that out of 40 players in the matchday squad there will be two local boys. That’s also pretty amazing when you think about it.
I’m not saying it’s not that important to players, but I do wonder if they’re a little more isolated from the emotions involved. Of the meaning of it? Yes and no. But the bottom line is that there has never been a larger gap in living memory. Well, at least in my living memory. And that’s perhaps the most relevant statistic of anyone going into this derby.
It shouldn’t be. Everton have net spent a lot more than Liverpool over the last five years. Everton spent big in the summers of 2016 and 2017 when Liverpool snapped up Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. While Everton’s big signings have flopped, Mane and Salah have thrived, although I don’t think that would have been the case had things been the other way around.
Why? Because in Liverpool they have an identity, a culture and a philosophy. And if they have one at Everton, it’s not obvious to me. It’s simple: you can’t have a clear identity (and smart recruiting) if you change managers and go in wildly different directions each season.
Everton were a disaster under Farhad Moshiri and that needs to change. They must now stick to their managerial choice and give Frank Lampard time even if they go down. Only in this way can the derby statistics become astonishing again.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/liverpool-vs-everton-robbie-fowler-26785748 Stunning derby stats between Liverpool and Everton show how wide the Merseyside divide has become - Robbie Fowler