Jurgen Klopp devastated Everton with a brilliant tactical tweak on Wednesday. It turned a potentially tricky tie into a comfortable 5-2 win.
We highlighted ahead of the Merseyside derby that Everton had a plan up their sleeve. Their 2-1 defeat at Leicester City featured a back three – something they haven’t used in a year.
It helped them keep the Foxes at bay at the King Power – for almost long enough – and it helped fill the void left by Jean-Philippe Gbamin in their defensive structure.
But it also would have worried Liverpool. The Reds don’t play well against a back three – their only dropped points came against one at Old Trafford. They also struggled against Sheffield United’s admittedly very well drilled back three.
There are good reasons for it, too. It creates a situation where Roberto Firmino can’t find space as there’s always a centre-back free to follow him. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both struggle to work the channels when there are extra defenders narrowing them. Liverpool’s midfield can’t push on, either, as it leaves 2v2 at the back.
In short, it dramatically limits Liverpool’s movement. But only in their usual 4-3-3.
Klopp will have known that Everton trialled three defenders at the weekend and subsequently changed his own formation. Liverpool lined up in the derby with a 4-2-3-1.
Now it didn’t matter if there was always a spare defender to follow a dropping forward. Instead of dropping deep, Origi continuously ran in behind, exposing a high line designed to combat Firmino. He scored twice doing so.
Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri didn’t need the channels as they instead cut inside in front of the defence. The lack of a defensive midfielder gave them all the space they needed to do so. None of Everton’s defenders knew whether to follow them and both scored.
Adam Lallana, playing as a No. 10, simply drifted behind the midfield. Again, no Everton player was sure what to do with him and Lallana had constant space.
It took Marco Silva 35 minutes to adjust, four minutes after Origi made it 3-1. The Everton gameplan was in ruins with a little over half an hour gone – and that’s all thanks to Klopp.