Time for Everton to lose inferiority complex

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

The Merseyside derby is often exciting, usually contentious, always nerve-shredding, and it remains a fixture capable of striking fear into Evertonian hearts. The statistics do not paint a pretty picture for those in blue, with Liverpool becoming increasingly dominant as the decades elapsed.

To pinpoint the anguish associated with this local rivalry, a cursory glance through past meetings highlights the Anfield-based dominance. In my lifetime -- closing on 24 years/46 league derbies -- the number of Everton victories is in single figures (nine).

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Without a league double over their neighbours since the 1984-85 title-winning campaign, Everton are winless in the last six meetings. Those six matches breakdown into three draws and three defeats, including the galling capitulation at Wembley in the 2011-12 FA Cup semi-final.

That semi-final proved the end of the line for many with David Moyes. Seemingly gripped by fear, both on the pitch and in the dugout, victory slipped agonisingly out of reach as Andy Carroll delivered the telling blow to one of the more recent, sustained but ultimately doomed silverware quests.

Too readily lacking in attacking intent and ambition under previous management -- this problem predates even Moyes, though he did little to address it -- the crucial task for Roberto Martinez is eradicating the inferiority complex that constantly strangles the life out of the Toffees in this fixture (and others against the top sides).

The blueprint in years gone by was one of hustle and bustle; Everton would fly into tackles, try to unsettle the opposition and rely heavily on blood, sweat and tears. Nowadays, though, under the cultured methods of Martinez, the outlook has shifted.

The old 'Dogs of War' moniker served its purpose, as did the unity and togetherness generated by the 'People's Club' slogan, but both are worlds away from the Martinez approach.

Boasting one of the sunniest outlooks in football, there is no danger of Martinez quipping about taking knives to a gunfight, nor is there any reason for him to do so. The Catalan has the necessary tools at his disposal to hurt Liverpool, namely Romelu Lukaku, who netted in each match against the Reds while at West Brom.

Furthermore, with Brendan Rodgers also favouring an aesthetically pleasing style, this should ensure a significant sea change for the contest responsible for the highest red card count in the Premier League era. After all, recent derbies are synonymous with contentious refereeing decisions rather than quality football; the Jack Rodwell sending-off springs to mind, while Liverpool can point to the offside call last season.

Prominent in both incidents was Luis Suarez, and stopping him will be vital if Everton are to grab a first derby win since October 2010. Forming a headline-grabbing partnership, Suarez and Daniel Sturridge account for 76% of Liverpool's goals this season. Stop them -- as hard as that may be -- and the fair assumption is that you stop Liverpool.

Nevertheless, regardless of key players and histories, it is time for Everton to stand tall and compete, as the gulf between the two sides has evaporated in recent years. There is no excuse for a meek, defensive surrender. The Blues are unbeaten at Goodison Park this calendar year, with no visiting team claiming three points since Chelsea snatched theirs in December 2012, and there is a reason for that.

Goodison is a formidable place, whether the opposition is crossing Stanley Park or jetting up from London, few teams welcome the trip to L4. This is something that all associated with Everton must capitalise on, from the chosen ones on the pitch to the thousands in the stands. It is time for both to make their mark on the 221st Merseyside derby, and time for the players to leave the inferiority complex behind.

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