An Emre Can mistake has given Brendan Rodgers’ critics more ammunition, but Liverpool’s performance at Everton should keep him in his job.
A defeat for Liverpool in the Merseyside derby, it was claimed, would spell the end for Rodgers at Anfield. A win could have kick-started the Reds’ season, according to James Milner, so what does a draw do for the 42-year-old’s long-term prospects?
Mark Holmes gives his verdict…
With Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke still out injured, Rodgers stuck with the side that had beaten Aston Villa 3-2 at Anfield the previous weekend, with the likes of Joe Gomez, Kolo Toure, Joe Allen and Adam Lallana failing to do enough in the midweek Europa League draw with FC Sion to win a place in the starting XI.
Generally, Liverpool fans, on Twitter at least, were happy with the team Rodgers picked.
If I could have picked the #LFC team today – it would be exactly the same as the XI Rodgers has chosen. I'm nervous that we agree…
— Kurt Schröder, CSCS (@KurtSpeaks) October 4, 2015
Bit given injuries etc. Rodgers has put out the best team he can. Glad Allen doesn't start, was worried he would now fit.
— Reece (@ChalkonBoots) October 4, 2015
Liverpool's team is not bad. Just need to get the match day tactics & pre-match training plan to beat easy sides. Not easy easy with Rodgers
— Ignat Manjoo (@IgnatManjoo) October 4, 2015
While Rodgers’ selection was welcomed, there were plenty of Reds supporters before and after kick-off questioning the manager’s decision to persist with a back three, with the selection of Can as the right-sided centre-back of particular concern.
Playing Emre Çan at the back in a back three against Barkley and Lukaku could be the decision that leads to Rodgers' sacking imo
— Nebert O.Z. (@Nebert_Lfc) October 4, 2015
Please don't play with 3 centre backs Rodgers, after 3 years our team still had no solid formation, it's beyond a joke!
— Kieran Jenkinson (@KieranJenkinson) October 4, 2015
Continually amazes me how Brenden Rodgers forces a 352 upon a team that doesn't fit the system
— Bill (@billykeller) October 4, 2015
After using either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation in the first six games of the season, with Gomez surprisingly picked at left-back, Rodgers switched to a back three in the seventh game of the season, a 1-1 draw at Bordeaux in the Europa League, that he has stuck with ever since.
For the third Premier League in a row, Can was picked as part of a back three ahead of Toure and Gomez, who is seemingly not trusted by Rodgers to play in his preferred position through the middle.
Liverpool were well on top in the opening 10 minutes, with Phil Jagielka twice making crucial interceptions to deny Daniel Sturridge an almost certain goal and Danny Ings another clear opportunity. Sturridge in particular looked lively, but the true test of Rodgers’ team and tactics was always going to come at the opposite end.
The Reds’ defence had their chance to shine in the next 20 minutes as Everton grew into the game, but the free header presented to Steven Naismith and poor clearance from Lucas to allow James McCarthy an effort on goal shortly after provided the first signs of vulnerability.
James Milner had been denied by Tim Howard before those two chances, however, and in the 42nd minute Liverpool got the goal their overall display warranted when Ings was left unchallenged by either Howard or Ross Barkley to head home from inside the six-yard box.
Rodgers celebrated on the touchline but just three minutes later his decisions were once again being scrutinised as Can made a hash of clearing a Gerard Deulofeu cross, smashing it into Martin Skrtel and setting up a chance which Romelu Lukaku made the most of.
Not for the first time this season, a defensive lapse cost Liverpool in a game they had enjoyed the better of.
Can’t mistake was the type of which a manager simply can’t legislate for, but it provided easy ammunition for Rodgers’ critics.
Can being played out of position and Liverpool are punished. Same old, same old 'square pegs in round holes' from Rodgers. #bbcfootball
— James Hammond (@HammondCOBHC) October 4, 2015
Emre Can can play at LB but, no Rodgers would rather embarrass him in the centre. Joe Gomez is a CB but, no, plays him at LB instead. Kmt.
— Obinna (@BynosLogic) October 4, 2015
Emre Can simply isn't a CB. Rodgers should work this out sooner rather than later
— Locutus (@Billy_murph16) October 4, 2015
Surprisingly after such a frenetic first 45 minutes, the second half was an underwhelming affair, with Coutinho and Lukaku shots straight at the goalkeepers as close as either side went to grabbing a winner.
Liverpool can take some heart from their second-half display, however. After attacking well but looking messy at the back in the first 45 minutes, they withstood some increased pressure from Everton after the interval and never truly looked like surrendering their point.
Future for Rodgers
It was reported in the press on Sunday morning that the game could be Rodgers’ last in charge of Liverpool if his side were beaten, but the Reds go into the international break six games unbeaten.
They won only one of those games, of course, but a four-point haul from the Aston Villa and Everton games is likely to be enough to convince Fenway Sports Group that Rodgers is making some progress with his latest new-look team. With Benteke, Henderson, Firmino and Lovren all possible additions to his first-choice XI, the Northern Irishman will certainly be pleading for patience in any meetings with the owners.
Many of Liverpool’s supporters remain unconvinced, but FSG backed Rodgers to the tune of around £85million in the summer and are unlikely to have lost confidence in their man on the back of this. For now, he looks certain to keep his job.
Everton have now gone 10 league games without a victory against Liverpool. The last time they had a longer run was in 1984 (11).
Brendan Rodgers’ side have won just one of their last nine away Premier League games (D4 L4).
Romelu Lukaku has scored five Premier League goals against Liverpool, his joint-favourite opponent (also 5 vs Newcastle).
The last four PL meetings between these sides at Goodison Park have ended level (2-2, 3-3, 0-0 and 1-1).
Roberto Martinez has never beaten Brendan Rodgers in the Premier League in nine attempts (D5 L4).
Liverpool’s last eight goals in all competitions have been scored by English players (Lallana, Ings, Milner and Sturridge).
Lukaku has scored just two goals in his last 15 PL apps at Goodison Park.
The Reds have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight games in all competitions, with five of those finishing 1-1.