Liverpool & Everton: A tale of two managers

Date published: Wednesday 20th April 2016 10:39

If this was a game to match the Merseyside mood, there was a moment to epitomise it. As Mamadou Sakho celebrated Liverpool’s second goal, he ran fifty yards to embrace Kolo Toure, sat on the bench but delighted. As the pair hugged, Jurgen Klopp stood to the side, beaming like the proudest of parents. Three yards to his right stood Roberto Martinez, arms crossed and tight-lipped.

There is a feel-good mood around Anfield; the players, manager and fans can feel it. Liverpool have now won four consecutive matches for the second time during Klopp’s brief reign. Since the beginning of last season they have had 25 or more shots in a game on four occasions – three of them have come with Klopp in charge. This Premier League season has demonstrated emphatically the power that good morale can create, and Liverpool have more than most.

This is Klopp’s forte, the raison d’etre of his Borussia Dortmund side now being imprinted on his Liverpool team. Beneath the interview guffaws and the public perma-smile lies a demand that his squad must commit completely to the greater good. Only a squad with overflowing belief in themselves and one another can effect a turnaround like the one against Dortmund. Everton and Bournemouth were little more than collateral, swept away by the aftershocks of that win.

The Klopp effect is demonstrated not just in the collective, but in the performance of certain individuals. Sakho is quickly becoming a cult hero at Anfield and was superb again, while James Milner’s improvement since the autumn (and Rodgers) is striking. Having spent the last month perfecting his impression of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi is now busy mimicking Christian Benteke. Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren, Joe Allen; there are examples all over the pitch.

Liverpool’s dominance, aided by Ramiro Funes Mori’s second-half stupidity, was humiliating. The home side had 37 shots to Everton’s three, 13 shots on target to none and 64 touches in the opposition box compared to Everton’s three. Joel Robles conceded four times but made nine saves, a total surpassed only three times in a Premier League game this season.

Everton played their own part in miserable defeat. If this was the week for Roberto Martinez to prove he is a manager worth persisting with, his team effectively sent his P45 to print. Martinez has had the recent persona of a late-tenure Brendan Rodgers, regular fanciful claims of his own side’s excellence that fly in the face of all evidence. No amount of optimism could make Everton’s current situation look anything but grim.

Romelu Lukaku is being left constantly isolated, Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley both look incapable of beating their man and John Stones was at fault for the first and third goals – worryingly static. Only Robles, for so long kept behind Tim Howard in the goalkeeping queue by Martinez, stopped the scoreline becoming deeply embarrassing. The performance still was.

“It was a horrible, horrible showing,” admitted Martinez after the match. “There was an inability to do basics right, and we forgot to defend the box properly. Then we got too emotional. The whole thing is a chain reaction of a disastrous group of actions.” Some supporters would point out that every word in that quote could reflect Martinez’s own performance. A team is a mirror image of their manager. Never has that been more stark than in Liverpool and Everton’s current guises.

Having taken Wigan down from 11th to relegation during his time at the club, Everton have fallen from sixth to 11th under Martinez’s stewardship. They are now two points ahead of Crystal Palace in 16th, and only the bottom four teams have a worse defence. That quote about the Spaniard not believing in clean sheets should be the epitaph on his Everton grave.

The only question for Everton is whether their manager survives until Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final. Rodgers lost his job after a Merseyside derby in October. It would be no surprise if the vice versa is to occur in April.

It is the broader question on the lips of Liverpool supporters that will provoke a more long-term answer: Just how far can Jurgen Klopp take this team when he adds to the squad this summer? On nights like these, it feels like only the sky is the limit.


Daniel Storey

More Related Articles