Saturday sees two cracking local derbies as Spurs take on Arsenal in North London and the Blue half of Liverpool host their local rivals. We had a headache to pick between these two for this week’s writeup, but we eventually plumped for the Merseyside derby, as this game was such a thrilling spectacle last year.
An absolute classic Merseyside derby was played out at Goodison Park last season (end of November 2013), with both teams playing some of their best football in years. First half goals from Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez gave the visitors an edge over Everton’s single goal from Kevin Mirallas at half time. The second half was a different story, as Everton, playing with the attacking style introduced by (then new) manager Roberto Martinez scored two quick-fire goals in succession from the feet and head of Romelu Lukaku, who had previously twice been thwarted by Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet.
The hosts were ahead with eight minutes left and bragging rights on Merseyside was on offer, but it was not to be; Daniel Sturridge heading home Steven Gerrard’s free-kick beyond home keeper Tim Howard to rescue a point for Liverpool.
Both teams have seen a dip in form this season compared to last and it would be interesting to see how this weekend’s players would have fared against last season’s lineups. To see what fans of both Clubs may be thinking about the fixture this season, we looked at the Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football data from this game last season, to see what players were picked for the lineups last year.
Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football is a game similar to “Football Manager”, but applied to live football, where you manage your favourite Club and pick lineups, bench, formations and substitutions, all in real-time. When fans play the game, the Beat Your Manager team can measure the popularity of different players, by looking at how frequently they are selected for the starting lineup, substitutes bench or not selected at all.
The app ran for the 2013/4 EPL season and is currently inactive while the developers are creating the revised version – we’ll keep you posted on when it’s going to re-launch.
Formation: 4-4-2 the most popular choice for Reds fans, Toffees are tied
Almost half (43 per cent) of LFC fans went for a 4-4-2 formation for this game last season, with a more attacking 4-3-3 much further behind in second place, selected by 16 per cent. Everton fans were pretty divided on the formation to pick for this game, with two formations, a solid 4-4-2 and an aggressive 4-3-3 each getting selected by a third (33 per cent) of Blues fans.
Goalkeepers: Mignolet not convincing the fans
Although Liverpool fans did not go for any surprises in goal, Simon Mignolet’s 71 per cent fan score was his 3rd-lowest rating of last season, so reds fans were clearly voicing concern over their No. 1. Everton’s Tim Howard had no such concerns, getting a perfect 100 per cent score from Blues fans (making him the jointly club’s most popular player).
Both Managers agreed with the fans; Mignolet and Howard lining up between the posts.
Defence: One switch between LFC fans and Manager; none between Martínez and fans
Everton had two clear fan picks in defence for this game, with Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka both getting a perfect 100 score, making them jointly (with Howard) the club’s most popular players for this game. Seamus Coleman was next in line for the home fans, on 83 per cent, while Sylvain Distin (67 per cent) made up the last spot in the back four, well ahead of the next-most popular Everton defender John Heitinga (33 per cent).
With José Enrique injured, Liverpool fans had only one clear favourite in defence; Glen Johnson the club’s most popular defender (and 4th-most popular player), polling a 93 per cent rating for the lineup. After Johnson, the three remaining fan selections in defence were grouped closely together; Martin Skrtel slightly more popular (71 per cent) than Daniel Agger or Kolo Touré (both on 65 per cent).
Everton boss Roberto Martínez went with the same back four as the fans, while LFC gaffer Brendan Rodgers decided to field Jon Flanagan (41 per cent fan rating) rather than Touré, but otherwise went with the players chosen by the fans.
Midfield: Liverpool lead the midfield lineup with fans
Liverpool topped the midfield charts, taking four of the top-five most popular spots. Steven Gerrard was the most popular midfielder and jointly the club’s most popular player on a perfect 100 per cent score. Jordan Henderson was rated just behind Gerrard, on 91 per cent, with goalscorer Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Leiva grouped slightly further back, both on 84 per cent.
Only Gareth Barry could challenge Liverpool’s midfield for popularity, his 92 per cent rating making him Everton’s most popular midfielder and jointly 4th-most popular player for this game. After Barry, support for Everton’s midfielders dropped in large measures, with Steven Pienaar (78 per cent) and James McCarthy (67 per cent) and Ross Barkley (42 per cent) sharing the spoils.
Both Martínez and Rodgers picked the same four midfielders as the fans, but the LFC gaffer also fielded Joe Allen (only 4 per cent fan rating) in a five-man setup, dropping club regular Sturridge to make way.
Forwards: Fans make the right choice over Rodgers’ selection
With Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge available for this game, they were overwhelmingly the upfront choice of LFC fans, both getting a perfect 100 per cent rating, making them jointly (with Gerrard) Liverpool’s most popular players with LFC fans for this game. While Suarez got an early scored goal in this fixture, the big talking point for LFC fans was Rodgers’ exclusion of fan-favourite Sturridge until the 79th minute, scoring the final goal to level the points after just 10 minutes on the field.
Everton’s most popular striker was Romelu Lukaku, his 92 per cent rating from Blues fans making him jointly (with Barry) the club’s 4th-most popular player for this game. With Arouna Koné injured, Kevin Mirallas (58 per cent) was the fan’s second-choice upfront and both strikers rewarded both fans and manager with their side’s goals on the day.