Ian Rush: Liverpool Must Be Wary of Everton Despite Contrasting Form

Ian Rush: Liverpool Must Be Wary of Everton Despite Contrasting Form
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Liverpool have been conceding a lot of chances of late and Alisson Becker had to be in top form to keep another clean sheet against Southampton in the Premier League last time out.

I’ve seen Liverpool being criticised for the amount of chances they allow their opposition but, honestly, it’s just part and parcel of playing an attacking style of football.

It’s impossible to play on the front foot without leaving yourself open at the back and Everton will be mindful of that ahead of Wednesday’s Merseyside derby. It's a great chance for Everton to get something out of the game and put their season back on track.

I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but with derby games the formbook really does go out the window. When you’re playing in these games, it’s never more apparent that you’re playing for the fans and if you’re not producing for them, they’ll certainly let you know about it.

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All the fans ask for – both Liverpool and Everton supporters – is that you give 100 per cent, and if you give it your all and still get beat then there’s not much you can do about that. Both sets of supporters are very passionate and they demand you put a shift in.

From Liverpool’s point of view, they just have to go out and focus on playing their own entertaining style of football. Everton have been on a poor run of results lately but I really do see this as a chance for Rafael Benitez to get back on track.

Knowing Benitez, he won’t be too concerned about putting on an entertaining game of football because he knows what Liverpool are capable of. I imagine he’ll set up a little bit like Manchester United did against Chelsea on Sunday. They were looking to catch Chelsea on the break – and they did.

Liverpool will have most of the ball so I think it makes sense for Everton to set up that way. Benitez is very good at setting his teams up for these types of games, that’s why they brought him in and that’s why I think they have a chance. I think Everton will get chances in the game but they really need to take them when they come.

Rafa Benitez At Everton

When Rafa went to Everton I have to say I was a bit surprised, but I think he just wanted to get back into football and the Everton job came up. He lives in the area, so it made a lot of sense in some ways, but it was a brave decision by him.

He knows the people of Liverpool, he loves the city and is very connected with the locals and I think that’s part of what attracted him to Everton, where he’s desperate to succeed and give their supporters something to shout about.

He has confidence in his own ability and so do I, it’s a good appointment and I think it will work out given time. I know Rafa personally and I genuinely want him to succeed at Everton, but I just hope things only start to go his way after the Liverpool game because I want them to get all three points!

It’s not an easy job but he’s prepared to get Everton back where they belong and I wish him the best of luck – after the Liverpool game of course.

Rafa Under Pressure

If Liverpool win and win well, Rafa will no doubt feel a bit of heat from the Toffees support and the press, but that’s football and he’ll be ready for that. We’ve seen it recently with Steve Bruce and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer losing their jobs – it’s a ruthless industry – but Rafa is fully aware of what he’s got himself in to.

There’s already pressure because they haven’t won in seven league games and that run will be even harder to stomach if they lose to their local rivals on Wednesday, but I think people should be looking at the long term rather than the short term and I have no doubts Rafa will turn things around at Everton whatever happens in the derby.

The Liverpool game is a big chance to make an impression, but if they don’t get a result there are other big games coming up and they’ll surely start winning.

Merseyside Derby History

It may not be the biggest game in English football like it was in the 1980s, but for the supporters the Merseyside derby is as important as ever. In the late 80s, Liverpool and Everton were the two best teams in Europe – not just in England.

There was a lot of scousers playing for both teams back then, which gave it an extra edge. These days Premier League teams are very continental and you wonder if some of the players know how much it means to the supporters. Sometimes it takes them two or three experiences of a Merseyside derby to appreciate the scale of this fixture.

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There are a few scousers on either side now and that does help a lot I think. We had quite a few scousers in our team when I was playing and I could always see how much it meant to them and that taught me a lot.

In the 80s, I remember speaking with Everton men Kevin Ratcliffe and Peter Reid and they used to have about 500 supporters showing up to training on the Friday before the derby, demanding that they win the game! Obviously, that doesn’t happen these days, but the passion of the supporters remains the same.

Both sets of fans really, really want to win this game and if they lose, they take it to heart. You can be sure that Duncan Ferguson will be reminding their players how much this game means to Everton’s supporters. Klopp gets it too.

My Standout Goodison Memory

Goodison Park was always a special place to go when I was a player but my standout memory from playing there was in 1982 when I scored four goals as Liverpool beat Everton 5-0. I don’t think that had ever been done before, so it was a bit special.

I actually supported Everton as a kid so to go to Goodison Park and score four goals was amazing, even if it was in the red shirt of Liverpool. To this day, Liverpool fans still sing “All You Need is Rush” to the tune of All You Need is Love by The Beatles, and that’s where that song came from. It’s always nice to hear it, especially at Goodison.

Liverpool Transfer Speculation

Transfer rumours are beginning to circulate, as always at this time of year, and one of the names being linked with a move away from Anfield is Joe Gomez, who has struggled for gametime this season as he continues his comeback from a bad injury last season.

Apparently Steven Gerrard is interested in bringing him to Aston Villa and I can see why – he’s a quality player and there’s no doubt he would strengthen Aston Villa, that’s all Stevie will have in his mind.

But I think Liverpool would be wise to keep hold of him. There are always transfer rumours when the January transfer window is around the corner and it’s difficult to know what to believe, but I don’t see Liverpool looking to offload many players.

From Joe’s point of view, I suppose he will be starting to think about the 2022 World Cup. He’ll want to be a part of that but he needs to be playing regular football if he’s to go to Qatar. But if he can get a few more games under his belt and get his match fitness up then I still see him as a key part of this Liverpool squad.

We’ll just have to see how it pans out for him, but I think January would be too soon for him to jump ship. I’d like to see him stay and fight for his place because, for me, when he’s in peak condition he’s a world class defender.

Disappointing Ballon d’Or Result

Congratulations to Lionel Messi on winning the Ballon d’or for an incredible seventh time but for Mohamed Salah to finish seventh on the list is a bit of a joke to me. I can understand the likes of Messi and Robert Lewandowski finishing ahead of him – they’ve both won major honours and scored plenty of goals – but Salah is right up there with them and should have been in the top three in my opinion.

From where I’m standing, Salah is the best player in the most difficult league in the world to play in, and that should have been factored in. He’s been in the best form of his life over the past year and he’s only come seventh? Come on!

He’s getting better and better and I don’t think the Ballon d’Or outcome reflects that fairly. I might be biased, but from a personal point of view I’m disappointed with the result. In my view, Lewandowski and Salah are the two best players in world football right now.

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I’ve nothing against any of the players who finished above Salah – they’re all world class players – but maybe too much emphasis is put on what players achieve with their international teams. Messi won the Copa America with Argentina and Jorginho won the Euros with Italy. Those two nations are always likely to be in the mix at major international tournaments and it puts players like Lewandowski and Salah at a disadvantage with Poland and Egypt respectively.

I can resonate with their situation because with Wales I always found it a lot harder to get chances and score goals and never played at a major tournament. Success comes more naturally to the bigger footballing nations because they have bigger and better pools of players to choose from, and I think that should be considered when voting takes place on who has been the best player in the world each year.

Keane and Carragher’s Heated Debate

Like most football fans I was tuned in to Sky Sports on Sunday when Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane had their blazing row about Cristiano Ronaldo, and I have to say I was quite pleased to have been mentioned as an example of a striker who was able to press and score goals at the same time.

I think it was the only thing the two pundits agreed on so it was pretty amusing. They’re both great pundits and it was great entertainment, that’s what they’re there for, but they’re both passionate as well and their arguments are genuine.

But to be mentioned as someone who scored goals and also chipped in with pressing, it was nice for that to be acknowledged all these years later. The pressing game isn’t something that was only invented recently, as some people seem to believe. We were doing it at Liverpool in the 80s.

If the ball was played to a full-back, and I felt as though I had a chance of winning it, I would press. Then Kenny Dalglish would press, then Graeme Souness would press, then Alan Hansen would press – we played it as one group.

I think that’s where teams tend to get it wrong today. In order for it to work, you have to go together. If I had gone to press and my team-mates weren’t ready to back me up, I’d have gotten a shout from Dalglish not to go.

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That’s the secret of the pressing game, it doesn’t do the team any favours if you only do it individually, you have to do it collectively. But you also need a trigger, someone to set the press in motion – I was that trigger. If I felt I could win the ball and I didn’t get a shout to hold back, then I knew my team-mates were right behind me ready to win the ball.

Nine times out of 10 we’d get the ball back or we’d force it out of play. That’s how it worked for us at Liverpool and that’s still how it works today under Klopp. A lot of work goes into it on the training pitch.

By pressing as individuals, you’re just wasting energy that should be spent going forward. Manchester United looked a lot more organised against Chelsea but if you look back at the Liverpool game where they tried to press as individuals, Liverpool just walked right through them.

Against Chelsea, you could see they were working more as a team and they got a result out of it. Just on the topic of United and pressing, Ralf Rangnick has come in as manager on an interim basis and it’s an interesting appointment.

I was listening to Klopp’s comments on Rangnick and he only had good words to say, which tells us a lot, so I’m expecting a lot more from United in the coming months.