Liverpool 0-0 Everton: 6 Tactical Takeaways from Derby Stalemate
The Reds perhaps carved out the better openings, although David Moyes' side will rightly query why the referee ruled out Sylvain Distin's second-half header.
The result leaves the teams likely to finish the season sixth and seventh in the table, with little left to play for over the final two games.
Here's a look at some of the key tactical talking points to emerge from this fixture.
Before the major tactical points are sieved through, first here's a look at Everton's disallowed goal, which was the main focus after the final whistle.
Set pieces were always likely to prove central in such a tight, tactical battle, and the Toffees will certainly feel this one should have proved decisive.
Attention was drawn to Victor Anichebe as the ball came in, but while the Nigerian was certainly in contact with Pepe Reina, he did little to knock him off balance. Instead it was more a case of the Spaniard running into him.
Behind them, Distin attacked the ball behind the poorly positioned Jamie Carragher, who—with his back to the Frenchman—was badly placed to deal with him. There was once again contact between the players, yet little to warrant to referee's whistle.
Overall Game Flow
Both sides were comfortable with the game being played between the halfway line and Liverpool's penalty area, with 76 percent of the game played away from the Toffees' final third.
Liverpool were happy stroking it around at the back and content for Everton to maintain possession up to their final third.
The Toffees set up with a familiar high line, often gaining quick territory through Marouane Fellaini. They aimed to overload a flank and find a route to goal from out wide, and unsurprisingly heavily favoured their left—with 46 percent of attacks coming down that third.
The Reds built from the back, hoping to suddenly spark an attack with some direct, incisive passes, or to create a turnover and dissect a disorganised defence at speed.
The numbers reflect this, with the visitors attempting more passes in the final third (147-129) despite Liverpool keeping 55 percent of possession. The Reds also hit 58 long passes to the Toffees' 52.
Sturridge a Constant Outlet
Given Everton's predictable emphasis on width, pushing both full-backs high up the pitch, Daniel Sturridge performed a particularly crucial role in Liverpool's system, providing them with an effective outlet all afternoon.
Left with two centre-backs to deal with, he was often seen sprinting to the touchline to collect a long diagonal ball in the space behind a full-back, pulling over one of the centre-backs with him.
That left one sole defender alone in the middle, responsible for covering the remaining space, with Liverpool's trio of attacking midfielders looking to sprint forward in support.
If Sturridge managed to maintain possession, Everton's defensive shape was pulled out of position and appeared stretched during the next few phases of play.
Although this did not lead to a goal in this game, it was a well-planned method that led to several quick breaks—especially after a misplaced pass from the visitors.
Role of Mirallas and Pienaar
With Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman flung forward, hugging the touchline, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas had a license to drift infield and get involved more in the middle.
Both players swapped flanks and, as this picture shows, each player roamed about the pitch, hoping to create an overload and fashion out an opening.
However, this picture also shows the contrasting influence of both players. While Pienaar was one of his side's more prominent performers, also creating two chances, Mirallas was far more peripheral, unable to create anything as the Toffees struggled to involve him.
The Belgian has proven himself a match-winner over the season, but he spends too much time drifting around the fringes of play, as was very much the case today.
A target for Everton over the summer months is how to involve their explosive Belgian a little more often.
Final Tactical Flurry
An interesting tactical shuffle took place over the final 10 minutes. Everton brought on Nikica Jelavic for the disappointing Mirallas, with Moyes moving Victor Anichebe over to the left flank, prompting a flurry of late tweaks from both managers.
Brendan Rodgers felt Everton's left could suddenly be exploited and immediately introduced Martin Skrtel while switching to three at the back.
By then using Jamie Carragher as a right sided centre-back, driving forward into Anichebe's new left-sided zone, the home side suddenly had an extra man on the right.
On the few times that Liverpool looked to capitalise on this, Everton brought midfielders across but were eventually exposed when play was quickly switched to the left and Jose Enrique was completely free.
Moyes then pulled Fellaini deeper for a couple of exchanges to close down the space, although the Toffees subsequently struggled to clear the danger without an outlet.
While this passage of play did little to affect the result, it was an intriguing few minutes as both managers battled to gain an small advantage with a positional switch.
Ultimately Not Enough End Product
Overall, despite the controversy of Everton's disallowed goal, neither side produced enough quality in the final third to claim all three points.
The match saw just five shots on target combined between both sides, when each side averages over five shots on target individually this season.
Liverpool created 11 chances to Everton's eight, again significantly down on their seasonal averages of 14 for the home side and 12 for the Toffees.
Crossing was also particularly poor, with just two of Everton's 22 finding a man, and four of the Reds' 19, while each side was about four percent below their average passing accuracy for the season.
The Toffees seemed to slow down and run out of ideas when approaching the final third, with Fellaini unable to maintain possession frequently enough. Their best route to goal was via set pieces, and they could and perhaps should have won the game with Distin's disallowed effort and Fellaini's narrow miss in the first half.
Liverpool made some impressive surges forward, capitalising well on any turnover they won. A couple of excellent blocks from Phil Jageilka and a one-on-one dealt with superbly by Tim Howard were the closest they came to scoring.