Many fans may have been concerned, but the central area proved to be a strength with Liverpool rather than a weakness.
Liverpool put in one of their best and most memorable performances of the season last night which left their fans elated, and their Evertonian rivals stunned.
The big surprise perhaps was the command Liverpool had of the game in the middle of the park. No Lucas and no Joe Allen meant Steven Gerrard was reprising the defensive midfield role which left him so heavily exposed against Aston Villa not so long ago.
Instead Liverpool were compact and protected space around Gerrard with Jordan Henderson reprising a deeper role than usual – though he did get forward on occasions, whilst Philippe Coutinho took up a central role.
Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure had one of their more solid games at the heart of defence – though they were perhaps aided when Romelu Lukaku’s game was cut short after Liverpool had taken the lead.
|Name||Team||Pos||Total Through Ball||Apps||Mins|
The table illustrates all of Liverpool's through balls last night - only one of them was unsuccessful, and two them led to goals - and they all came from players playing in central positions.
But defensively there was also a solidity about Liverpool. For all of the possession that Everton had Liverpool tried to make sure there was no way to goal through the middle, Gerrard being the most prolific blocker of them all.
Though Coutinho was the smallest player in the middle of the park, he certainly made his presence felt on the game and vindicated Rodgers' decision to move him inside as he led the way in duels won. Given he was the most advanced of the central midfield trio, it illustrates that Liverpool tried to win the ball fairly high up the field. Raheem Sterling also features highly on this list.
And the last statistic that showed Liverpool's strength in central areas last night were the clearances. Unsurprisingly it is the back four who top the list of clearances but Martin Skrtel is the clear leader, with Kolo Toure behind him. With Everton missing regular full-back Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines having a quiet night with Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan doubling up on him effectively, Everton had to go central. Both Cissokho and Flanagan effectively showed their opposing full-backs inside well, and Skrtel and Toure did the rest.
Rodgers deserves the plaudits for a shrewd performance by nullifying Everton's threat on the flanks and forcing his opponents. With only 39% possession, it was a game plan that was executed very well in the middle of the park. Everton had their chances, but Liverpool made it difficult for them.