Matthew Pennington’s Merseyside Derby

Matthew Pennington, Everton’s 22-year-old ‘one of our own’ has been thrown into the first team this season through a combination of centre-back injuries and Koeman’s will to play a back three. He was highlighted in the Merseyside Derby by Gary Neville for failing to stop Philippe Coutinho cutting onto his right foot and shooting for Liverpool’s second goal.

It was with good reason, no matter how much Jamie Redknapp wanted to give the youngster the benefit of the doubt, and Pennington struggled with one-on-one moments like it for the 67 minutes that he was on the pitch.

True, Coutinho never should have got past Gueye, but the view from behind the goal shows clearly how Pennington’s weight and body were still moving to his right when Coutinho had skipped past the Everton midfielder. Ideally, you’d want to be balanced, and blocking the path to cut inside, facing the direction you want to show him. Pennington does one of these, the latter.

Pennington – Coutinho goal from EveryTeamNeedsARon on Vimeo.

Where Coutinho (and probably others who have similar trademark moves, Arjen Robben for example) can cause big problems is the way they can change their weight quickly in either direction, meaning that they can afford to make the angle of the initial cut wider.

Artists representation: The dotted line represents the usual path of a forward cutting inside, the fuller line the angle that causes problems. It means that the defender has to be more alongside the forward, which then leaves a bigger opportunity for them to sprint down the line.

This isn’t about Coutinho though. Throughout the match, Pennington looked wobbly on his feet. For Liverpool’s first, he nearly falls over as he backs away from Mané and as he recovers he takes out his team-mate Holgate, who could have helped cover if he hadn’t been put on the floor.

Then there was the moment a few minutes later when he – again faced with Coutinho one-on-one – was off-balance and swung a leg at thin air as the forward skipped past him. In fairness, it looks a little worse than it is, but it still isn’t exactly good.

Pennington waves a leg at Coutinho from EveryTeamNeedsARon on Vimeo.

You can put the imbalances and decisions down to nerves perhaps – he also miscontrolled a loose ball early on, the touch heavy and his step backwards too far and with too much weight put onto his heels, allowing Mané to almost nick the ball away. Despite this, he had some normal, regular, non-mess up touches on the ball in the latter part of the first half and in the part of the second when he was on the pitch.

He also looked like he was communicating decently with the rest of the defensive players, which is probably a relatively reassuring sign, that he wasn’t completely overwhelmed by the occasion. And he looked to be following Koeman’s instructions well, sticking to Coutinho or Firmino when they came into his zone and being positionally flexible between the reference points of Holgate at right wing-back and Ashley Williams as the central centre-back.

But then, even in the second half – presumably after a nice and calming chat with boss Ronald – he still looked uncertain in one-on-one situations.

Pennington – Showdown with Can from EveryTeamNeedsARon on Vimeo.

Pennington was subbed off in the 67th minute with Enner Valencia coming on as Everton changed shape, although he was the clear choice of the centre-backs to bring off.

I can’t profess to be a Pennington expert so this may not be representative of his game. He’s still young-ish, and didn’t look phased by playing in a back 3 and, on occasion, having to tuck into central midfield in the hole behind Davies and Gueye – so that’s relatively promising, at least.

I dunno, I don’t have any firmer conclusions than that. That was his Merseyside Derby.

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