I’m back from France today and it is fair to say Paris was the winner on and off the pitch. The players were second best to a formidable PSG side and everyone on our trip have come off second best from the beer and wine the city has to offer. A punishing time for all concerned, one that leaves you re-evaluating decisions made and misplaced optimism going into the trip.
But it is no time for anyone to feel sorry for themselves, for it is the Merseyside derby at Anfield this Sunday. That special time of the year when Everton writers do combined teams with seven Everton players and then presumably wonder why they keep getting beat. This year I’ve learned that a team who have conceded fifteen goals this season apparently has a better goalkeeper and defenders than a team who have conceded five.
It is a real head-scratcher, but maybe it will all become clear on Sunday afternoon.
Evertonians are certainly very confident around the city this week considering they haven’t won at Anfield this millennium. They are in decent form, to be fair. They have only lost once in the last two months, and that was against Manchester United, so they wouldn’t have minded that. But that decent form still sees them 11 points behind Liverpool in the league table.
The fact is that if any other team was coming to Liverpool this weekend with Everton’s record at Anfield, their record against big teams generally, their squad and points total, everyone would be predicting a home win. But it isn’t any other team. It’s Everton, and the Merseyside derby. So you get into your head that anything can happen, even though the only unpredictable nature of the game across the last two decades has generally been how many Liverpool manage to score.
This Everton team is probably better than most that have come to Anfield in that time, to be fair, but we all seem to be forgetting that this Liverpool team is better than most we’ve had in that time too. In fact, if you judge it purely on the number of points the team has got so far, it is the best.
It is a very Liverpool thing to decide that it’s team that is unbeaten in the league so far this season is actually a bit rubbish. Jurgen Klopp has just done a press conference ahead of the game which was described as “spiky” because he refused to believe there was much wrong with his team that has played 13, won 10 and drawn three in the Premier League. Nor would he accept that a team that has only conceded five goals due to the fact they hardly give any chances away, actually has no midfield.
PSG exposed a lot of Liverpool’s current weaknesses with organisation and frightening pace. Liverpool struggled to create and looked predictable and slow in comparison. But I’m struggling to see what Everton can really learn from it. Apart from “wouldn’t it be brilliant if we had Thiago Silva at the back and Kylian Mbappe up front”. No offence to Cenk Tosun and Michael Keane, but I can’t imagine they will find life quite as easy this weekend
As Reds we need to stay positive, get through the Paris hangovers, literal and metaphorical, and not talk ourselves into a crisis that isn’t there. On Wednesday we got beat by a very good side.
On Sunday we host a quite good one. Law of averages says Everton will win at Anfield one day. I wouldn’t bet on it being Sunday though.