Liverpool captain changes his tune on Everton criticism – but was he right?

Luis Suarez should have had a hattrick on Sunday in the Merseyside derby but his third goal was ruled out by a late and incorrect offside call from the linesman. Before realising the flag had been raised, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard ran the length of the pitch to celebrate. After the game, he was very critical of Everton’s style of play and likened them to long ball specialists Stoke.

“I thought we were fantastic and stood up to a team that are very similar to Stoke,” he said. “Every single time they get the ball to the goalkeeper it comes in long. Everton are effective because they have some big, physical lads in the team. We had a young, small team out there who were men and stuck together. There was only one team who came to play football and that was us. Everton are not better than us.”

This is an interesting assessment from the Liverpool captain because Everton had more attempts on goal than Liverpool, both on and off target, as well as enjoying 56% possession of the ball to Liverpool’s 44%. Everton completed 78% of their 399 passes whilst Liverpool completed 77%, with 100 of these passes coming in the attacking third for Everton compared with 63 for Liverpool. Most interesting of all though is that both Everton and Liverpool attempted 47 long balls in the game.

Everton defender, Phil Jagielka, was quick to respond to Gerrard’s criticism, suggesting the Liverpool captain must be fairly riled to give such an overreaction. Everton are currently 5th in the league whilst Liverpool are in 12th, one point ahead of Stoke, which might explain some of the frustration.

“I suppose it’s a backhanded compliment,” said Jagielka. “Stevie must have thought Liverpool were in a game to come out which such comments. It makes you chuckle, but if Stevie is saying things like that, there must be a reason behind it which must be that we are doing something well.”

Having been given time to cool down and watch the game, Gerrard has backtracked on his stinging criticism, and blamed his comments on being annoyed about Suarez’s disallowed goal.

“Just to clarify I’ve watched the game again and I’ve seen some of Everton’s matches this season, and what I said in relation to their style of play went too far,” he said. “I was frustrated by the disallowed goal from Luis when I spoke and also some of the things that have been said about Luis in recent weeks, which haven’t been fair in my opinion. As captain I have a duty to stand up for our players when I feel they are unfairly singled out. But it wasn’t my intention to disrespect Everton or Stoke for that matter and I certainly didn’t intend any disrespect to their manager or players. I have the utmost respect for David Moyes and Tony Pulis and the job they have done at their respective clubs. My main issue was with the goal that wasn’t given and that Liverpool did not get the three points I felt we deserved in what was a fantastic derby match.”

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