This phrase gets thrown around a lot, but this is well and truly the most important Merseyside Derby in years. Generally speaking, it has always been an exciting game, one where form and discipline were thrown out the door. With both teams bringing in extremely technical managers, in Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez, some of the fight has gone out of the game, but both teams will have something to bite and claw their way to a victory for.
The problems at Liverpool have been well publicized. The pressure on Brendan Rodgers to improve or get the sack has been impossible to ignore. Rodgers comments on the “hysteria around the club” shows he certainly hasn’t been able to. That’s why this game is so very important. Between the Europa League match against FC Sion and the derby, this will be the most important week in Rodgers’ career. If his team plays like it did in any of the matches prior to the Aston Villa match, he will be out of a job come October 5. The players still back him and he will certainly be pushing them to reflect that on the pitch.
So why is this so important for Liverpool? Losing a manager is always a big deal. It means a new style of play, a new coaching set up. For Liverpool, a new manager will almost certainly be followed by a total restructuring of the current system. The transfer committee, a bastardized version of the Director of Football system the owners originally wanted, will almost certainly be scrapped. If that were to happen, would Fenway Sports Group (FSG) go with the Director of Football, like they did when Kenny Dalglish was in charge, or give their new manager full control, closer to what they did this summer with Brendan Rodgers? A total restructuring can be a scary thing and it would come at a critical time for Liverpool.
As for the blue side of Liverpool, this game will be critical for Everton as well. They are hitting some good form, having fought for a 3-2 win over West Brom, and find themselves in 5th place. A win would potentially tie them on points with 2nd place Manchester City and a single point behind Manchester United. With the other big teams expected to challenge for Champions League places struggling (Arsenal are in 4th but haven’t quite hit the heights they were expected to, Spurs are tied on points with Everton, and we already discussed Liverpool) and the teams currently in those spots, or thereabouts, expected to fall away as the season progresses (West Ham, Leicester City, Crystal Palace) now is the time to establish momentum. A big win over your nearest and dearest rivals can certainly do that. If Everton can get this win, it wouldn’t be unheard to establish a run that could carry them through the season. At the very least, it could help them clinch a Europa League spot for next season.
All of this should combine to become an exciting and hard fought Merseyside derby. In a weekend full of great games, this should be one to keep an eye on.