Sean Dyche’s tracksuit energy shocks weary Liverpool into submission

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Mohamed Salah;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Mohamed Salah</a> looks to the skies after <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Dominic Calvert-Lewin;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Dominic Calvert-Lewin</a> scores <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Everton;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Everton</a>’s second goal.</span><span>Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters</span>

It is little wonder Jürgen Klopp is running out of energy when he is having to come up with a new lineup every few days. For the Merseyside derby defeat to Everton there were six changes to follow on from the half-dozen made for Sunday’s win over Fulham. On this occasion, however, it did not work.

The latter weeks of the season are a tricky balance for any coach with so much at stake. Trying to maintain a rhythm and build momentum while keeping everyone fresh for crucial fixtures is an unenviable task. It cannot help a manager when hours before the match a starter withdraws but not even the riches of football can dictate when a mother-to-be enters labour.

Related: Liverpool’s title hopes suffer huge blow after Calvert-Lewin seals Everton win

Sean Dyche knew there was fatigue in the Liverpool ranks, considering Darwin Núñez was making his 50th appearance of the season for his club, in addition to the air miles involved for Europa League travel and the international breaks in South America. Everton’s most-used player is James Tarkowski, who has played 41 times, and not troubled Gareth Southgate in the process.

Now Dyche has ditched his suit to become a tracksuit manager, it seems more fitting that his team have increased their work rate and physicality under the gaze of their personal trainer, rather than a bouncer. The instructions were clear: to play on the physical and mental tiredness within the Liverpool squad.

In the early stages Everton pressed relentlessly, letting those in red know the game was unlikely to be enjoyable despite the 14-place and 38-point difference in the standings before kick-off.

A tired child, as Cody Gakpo is about to find out, is liable to get frustrated and angry as their bodies fight it, something Dyche wanted to exacerbate in Liverpool.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin, recovered from injury sustained on Sunday, was tasked with being the irritant striker, chasing Ibrahima Konaté and Virgil van Dijk, ensuring each press included contact. They were not fouls but, like a flea bite, the more received, the more irksome the matter became.

One key ploy for Everton was to buy free-kicks anywhere from the halfway line onwards. Two Dwight McNeil set pieces resulted in the goals from Jarrad Branthwaite and Calvert-Lewin as Liverpool failed to deal with the height and power of Everton in the box. Andrew Madley obliged whenever a blue shirt was touched, much to Liverpool’s chagrin, explaining why Van Dijk’s remonstrating earned him a yellow. It was an accumulation of issues that saw the Dutchman vent at the referee.

Related: ‘Not good enough’: Klopp apologises for Liverpool’s derby defeat at Everton

Everton disrupted the Liverpool gameplan. The visitors became quickly distracted by the shock tactics on show from the repeated free-kicks into the box and the multi-ball system that ensured Liverpool could not switch off, even if their brains were eager for a rest and blue shirts buzzed around them. In midfield Liverpool’s trio were disjointed, unable to cope with the battle they had walked into. Curtis Jones and Dominik Szoboszlai departed after just over an hour of Everton ferocity, with little to show for their war wounds. Whenever Abdoulaye Doucouré motored through the middle, he was able to brush aside all-comers with ease.

Liverpool had 76% of possession but were met with nine blue shirts – Calvert-Lewin did not retreat – and despite their best efforts, it was difficult to find a way through. In the final stages, few had the energy to attack for Liverpool as their attempts to progress up the pitch became more direct. The quick, sharp passing that has been instrumental this season was lost with minds and legs depleted of resources.

As has often been the case in recent weeks, Liverpool have created chances but lacked the clinical finishes required. Núñez and Luis Díaz were foiled by Jordan Pickford in the first half, while the Colombian hit the inside of the post in the second. There are fine lines when scoring and a tired mind can make the difference. Diogo Jota’s and Mohamed Salah’s injuries during the season have put more pressure on Núñez and Díaz, limiting Klopp’s level of rotation in his front three.

Without a forward on the bench, Klopp lacked options and with Everton two goals clear and fewer than 10 minutes to go, all he had to turn to was Kostas Tsimikas and Joe Gomez. Both good players, but when an attacker was needed there was nothing the manager could do.

It has been a gruelling season for Liverpool amid their attempts to win four competitions and the emotional uncertainty provided by Klopp’s summer exit.

The Everton fans sang: “You lost the league at Goodison Park” but the weariness has been growing and is hard to counteract. There will be no shame if Liverpool do not take their title challenge to the final days. Nine months of exertions take their toll.