Gerrard stoking the flames once again

If you’re keen on re-opening a can of worms, simply give Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard a call and ask what he thinks of rivals Everton in the aftermath of a Merseyside derby. “I thought we were fantastic and stood up to a team that are very similar to Stoke,” he proclaimed on Tuesday.

Oh Steven. If there is one thing that maddens opposition fans, it is comparing them to Stoke City. For those blissfully unaware, the Potters are famed for their physical approach to football, utilising the height of Peter Crouch with a series of long balls to test the opposition.

With Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross coming forward for set pieces, coupled with Rory Delap’s ‘missile’ throw-in, you can understand why Stoke have be labelled a long ball team. Nevertheless, while fans have adopted the tag, it is one that is likely to rile Everton fans.

However, while Gerrard’s remarks may cause offence, he actually hasn’t a leg to stand on regarding his comments, as stats show. During the recent Merseyside derby, 44 of Everton’s 361 completed passes were considered ‘long balls’, or 12.8%.  

In comparison to Liverpool, of the 261 passes completed only 33 were considered ‘long balls’, or 12.6%. While the Toffee’s may utilise the height and physicality of midfielder Marouane Fellaini, the fact is, for a team dubbed a long ball team, the Liverpool skipper can’t back up his remarks, judging from the stats.

Whether he is referring to the physical approach, then, having played in countless Merseyside Derbies over the years, he should be used to the intensity that associates itself with the fixture. Whether he is using the remarks to force his way under the skin of Everton fans or generally proclaiming the Toffees play like Stoke, then fans of the blue half of Merseyside needn’t be too worried regarding Gerrard’s words on Tuesday.