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Liverpool have struggled against Sean Dyche sides in the past but beat Everton this week.


Irrespective of Everton’s wretched record at Anfield – with fans present – there will have been many Liverpool supporters who approached the latest derby with a sense of trepidation. Their side had not won in the league in 2023 while the Blues had begun the Sean Dyche era with an impressive victory over league leaders Arsenal last weekend.


And the new Everton boss has undoubtedly proved he can mastermind an unlikely victory at Anfield in the past. Indeed, a video of him explaining Burnley’s 1-0 win over the Reds in 2021 went viral ahead of the Blues’ latest trip across Stanley Park.


Clearly the circumstances of the two games were quite different. The Clarets played behind closed doors, which is inevitably easier for visiting teams, and had spent over eight years being tutored in Dychean principles of defending (as opposed to the little more than eight days Everton have enjoyed). Nonetheless, it’s interesting to look at how the two games differed from a Liverpool perspective, as well as how they prospered where the Gunners had failed in the Blues’ preceding match.


In his The Coaches’ Voice video, Dyche spoke about his principles of defending what he called the ‘V’ area. It’s a zone which stretches diagonally from each goalpost to the edge of the penalty box, and then out towards the half way line.


Ideally, we want most of our team inside of that V, that keeps us nice and compact,” he said, and the Reds’ shot map from Burnley’s win two years ago highlights Dyche’s side achieved their aim that night. Liverpool had 27 shots, a total they’ve only topped 12 times in league games under Jurgen Klopp. But just three of them were from closer than 12 yards, only two were worth more than 0.08 expected goals.


Arsenal had very similar numbers for decent chances at Goodison Park last weekend: two of greater than 0.08 xG, one from less than 12 yards out. However, Liverpool – aided by Everton’s susceptibility to counter attacks – had a much more fruitful attacking performance on Monday.

While they didn’t have too many close-range efforts, save for Cody Gakpo’s goal, the overall chance quality was much higher on average. The Dutchman and Mohamed Salah generated more expected goals from their eight combined shots than Liverpool’s 27 against Burnley had.

Tifo Football’s Jon Mackenzie noticed a key distinction between how Klopp approached the challenge of facing Dyche’s Everton and how Mikel Arteta had recently. “One difference between Arsenal and Liverpool in this game is that Liverpool are happy using their CBs [centre-backs] to carry the ball and pull the midblock apart,” Mackenzie noted. Doing so may not have directly contributed to either derby goal but the numbers back up the general idea. Any way in which an opposing team can disrupt the compact shape of a Dyche side can only help them.

Arsenal’s central defensive partnership of Gabriel and William Saliba have started every single league match this season, a level of selection consistency of which Klopp can only dream. But the Gunners’ pair don’t advance up field with the ball too often; the 216 yards they mustered at Goodison was less than Joe Gomez alone (280) managed against Everton, never mind the higher figure Joel Matip offered (356).
The Reds’ centre-backs’ total of 636 yards was also more than the former Cameroon international and Fabinho had offered from the position in Liverpool’s 2020/21 loss to Burnley (508). It wasn’t a tactic used solely in their most recent game, of course, Matip is renowned for his gambols up the pitch. It certainly broke the Everton team structure which is key to their new manager’s football, though.
Klopp’s Liverpool had faced a Dyche side 12 times prior to the latest derby, and in only four of those tussles did they record a higher expected goal total than they logged against Everton on Monday. Arsenal might be having much the better league campaign, but Klopp still has the edge over Arteta in one small sense.

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