Superiority counts for nothing as fortune favours Burnley

By Lyndon Lloyd 23/10/2016  29 Comments  [Jump to last]
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Burnley 2 - 1 Everton

Last weekend’s draw at Manchester City was supposed to be the springboard from which Everton could revive a campaign that has started flagging of late; a backs-to-the-wall performance laced with some individual brilliance at both ends of the field to build confidence for games like this at Burnley that they simply dare not lose. Unfortunately — undeserved as it may have been — lose they did.

The early-season optimism that was pervasive on the back of a four-game winning streak and a second-place spot among the front-runners has given way to mounting frustration and acceptance of the fact that Ronald Koeman didn’t simply wave a magic wand to cure the ills that had set in over the past two years.

Five games without a win in all competitions has certainly reset expectations now, with eyes already trained on January to see if the new manager can fill a couple of key roles in the side that are clearly lacking at the moment — namely a player that can pull the strings in midfield and open up opposition defences with a key pass or a moment of magic and another capable of taking some of the burden for goalscoring off the shoulders of Romelu Lukaku.

Yannick Bolasie stepped up at Turf Moor, ironically enough taking the ball off Lukaku, pulling Everton level with almost an hour gone and setting up a push over the final half hour to win the game. With a bit more luck, less determined defending by Burnley and a touch more guile in the final third, Everton might have been celebrating a victory; as it is, fans are left poring over another setback.

That issue of creativity — or the lack thereof — is one that has come to fore over what is a worsening run of results in recent weeks and it was certainly a glaring one in the first half of this game.

Everton started well and had forced Tom Heaton into a save, the first of a number of saves he would have to make over the afternoon, from Kevin Mirallas after he had seized on a defensive error and fired goal-wards from 12 yards out. And the Blues remained on the front foot for most of the first half hour but though they would have Burnley under pressure in both halves, when intensity and pace didn’t suffice, they lacked the ability to carve their hosts open when Sean Dyche pulled his men back behind the ball.

So often, this was a display that was crying out for movement and tempo but the pleas from the travelling fans in that regard would go unanswered for long periods, especially in the first period. Too often, the defence — usually Phil Jagielka, who had his worst game for a long time — had no route out from the back other than a clipped ball forward aimed in the direction of Romelu Lukaku, an agricultural approach that produced mixed results and frequently handed the ball back to Burnley, particularly with no-one running behind looking for the second ball.

Not that the Clarets were able to do much with it. They, too, were overly reliant on their own target man, Sam Vokes, but it was via a rare fluid move along the deck, arguably their best of the half, that they took the lead late in the first half. Scott Arfield, who was fortunate to still be on the field after testing referee Mike Jones to the limit with a series of cynical fouls over and above his yellow card in the preceding 40 minutes, danced past the uncharacteristically lead-footed Ashley Williams and stabbed a weak shot that bobbled off an Everton leg. The deflection wrong-footed Maarten Stekelenburg, however, who could only push the ball meekly into the path of Vokes who had the simple task of prodding it home from close range.

It was a harsh reminder for Everton that you have to make your superiority tell in the form of goals and that you can be punished in the Premier League for switching off even for a moment. The Blues had unquestionably been the better side up to that point, going close when Bolasie finished a move by bicycle-kicking wide, forcing Heaton to parry away a bouncing effort from Lukaku and then a stinging effort from Ross Barkley.

Recalled to the side after sitting out against Manchester City last weekend, Barkley was, on balance, one of the brighter lights for the Blues and he certainly vindicated his inclusion but there were still times where he delayed a pass too long or there just wasn’t enough movement around him to open up lanes for a killer ball.

Having gone into the break a goal down, a robust response was clearly required in the second half and Koeman got it in terms of greater purpose from his charges and a more physical approach to match that of their hosts. Lukaku in particular — the target of further but unwarranted criticism in the wake of what was a very harsh defeat — became more adept at holding the ball up and bringing team-mates into play as Everton swarmed forward at times looking for an equaliser.

It almost arrived when, not for the first time, Idrissa Gueye and Gareth Barry combined to snuff Burnley out in the centre-circle and the ball was sent forward quickly by the Senegalese to pick out Mirallas but his cross was just too heavy for the sliding Lukaku to connect.

A move of similar speed and incision a few minutes later yielded the equaliser, however, when this time Barry collected after Gueye’s interception and sent Bolasie and Lukaku away, with the Congolese international taking the ball off his team-mate and belting a shot across the ‘keeper and into the far corner. The away end erupted in celebration, followed by inevitable renditions of the “Yannick Bolasie” song and clenched-fisted demands that Everton now finish the job.

To be fair, in the context of an abysmal refereeing performance from Mike Jones, who constantly broke up the flow of the game with fussy decisions when he made them and neglected his duty entirely on other occasions, and the limited game-changing options on Koeman’s bench, they made a pretty good fist of attempting to do so.

Coleman combined well with Gueye down the right, skipped inside and looked to have slid a perfect ball behind the defence for Lukaku to tap in but Michael Keane got a crucial toe on the ball to put it behind. Mirallas had a somewhat unconvincing header blocked at the back post and there were a couple of “nearly” moments after Gerard Deulofeu came on for Mirallas where the ball was pinged into the feet of Lukaku in the box but Everton just needed it to break in their favour.

Unfortunately, their intensity died a little in the last five minutes after Gueye went off in favour of Tom Cleverley — the former had spent quite a few minutes intermittently messing with his boot so might have taken a knock — and on another day, the Blues might have left Turf Moor with a draw and some pointers from which to work on following a patchy but occasionally spirited display.

Their inability to deal with another high ball, however, this time from Heaton’s lofted free kick in the 88th minute, and Burnley benefitting from some fortune when Johann Berg Gudmundsson's snapshot came off the crossbar straight to Arfield, condemned them to defeat. The Clarets’ midfielder executed what was, admittedly, a tidy first-time finish back across Stekelenburg’s goal to spark jubilation in three sides of the ground and the rapid emptying of the David Fishwick Stand as demoralised Blues trooped out into the gathering gloom.

While he is under no illusions after two full campaigns in England about the fact that there are no easy games in the Premier League, Koeman will be wondering how Everton lost that game given the extent to which Everton dominated the match and how poor Burnley were. That Dyche’s men managed just three shots on target told its own story but so did the fact that they scored from two of them in terms of the Blues’ defending when it counted.

The Dutchman will be pragmatic, no doubt, about the fact that his side were unfortunate, will file this one away as an undeserved loss and move on to concentrate on getting back to winning ways against West Ham but he will also have gathered further evidence of where he needs to strengthen in January and then next summer beyond. For Evertonians who dared to dream of an instant transformation under the new man based on those early results, the reality that there are few quick fixes and that Koeman was right about his two-year time horizon has set in.

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Reader Comments (29)

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Mark Andrews
1 Posted 23/10/2016 at 15:01:07
There have been some proper, post match hysterical comments on here. I hope that, on reflection, in the cold light of the day after, some people realise the stupidity of their hot-headed comments.

I can't believe we lost that game but lose it we did. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, eh, kids? Now pick up teddy and behave yourselves.

Nicholas Ryan
2 Posted 23/10/2016 at 16:00:43
Has anyone else noticed the painful irony, that the only person currently on the books of Everton Football Club who is scoring regular goals is Oumar Niasse!!
Patrick Murphy
3 Posted 23/10/2016 at 16:07:21
There's also that other bloke too Nicholas, Romelu something or other –can't quite think of his surname. Niasse didn't have the opportunity to add to his tally wasn't even in the squad for the U23s.
Ben Dyke
4 Posted 23/10/2016 at 17:02:21
The new manager has tightened us up a bit but we now lack fluidity in the final third. I still have a great deal more belief in Koeman's approach to the game than that Martinez guy's.

But it could be a tough learning curve for players and manager here. We've had too many poor results already after a pretty promising start. Let's hope they still believe in themselves as it would be quite easy for heads to drop now after 5 without a win.
Soren Moyer
5 Posted 23/10/2016 at 18:44:29
I believe most of these players are not suited to Keoman's system. I would only keep Bolasie, Idrissa, Williams and perhaps Lukaku. The rest are too lightweight.
Anthony Hughes
6 Posted 23/10/2016 at 19:57:19
Tightened us up abit? We've kept 3 clean sheets out of 11 games this season and one of them was against Yeovil. For a team that is struggling for goals then clean sheets are a must if we are to take all three points in a game.
Chris Gould
7 Posted 23/10/2016 at 20:24:35
Mark #1. Absolutely spot on. It's ridiculous. Pathetic even.

Fair enough to get angry, frustrated and upset, but go away and get it out of your system before posting such hysterical nonsense.

Anthony Hughes
8 Posted 23/10/2016 at 20:37:54
Can we please stop with the Niasse shit as well please. He isn't good enough and if we're to progress then we need better strikers than him, someone who can come in alongside Rom who at least can replace him if he's out.
Peter Murray
10 Posted 24/10/2016 at 09:25:18
We currently lie 6th, 4 points off 5th placed Chelsea and 3 above 10th placed Bournemouth. It's beginning to look as though we'll be plying our 2016-17 Premier League trade in this area.
Christopher Timmins
11 Posted 24/10/2016 at 10:44:02
We have 15 points after 9 games, which if repeated over the course of the season would result in a total in excess of 60 points. I would gladly take that scenario this morning.

What is obvious from the first 9 games is that the current manager took over a team that were no better than mid-table. For all his subsequent disappointments and troubles in management, Moyes left us in far better shape than Martinez did.

To go from a 6th- /8th-placed team to a top-4 team is going to take time and a couple of successful transfer windows.

The last window was a limited success but a bit of panic broke out on the last day with the chase for the Newcasle midfielder at crazy money, which was not the way Walsh operated at Leicester or the way Ronald operated at Southampton.

Jim Burns
12 Posted 24/10/2016 at 15:29:27
Anthony @6 – we have conceded on average of just under one goal per league game this season – bettered only by Spurs in the Premier League.

We conceded 1.4 goals per game last season. Measurable and steady progress in anybody's book, I would suggest, only nine games into Koeman's tenure.

Anto Byrne
13 Posted 24/10/2016 at 17:11:22
Since Holgate was dropped, our form has dipped. Coleman is no longer effective and adds very little to the team. McCarthy at least puts in the effort. Play Ross Barkley up front in a 4-4-2 system and let's have Davies on in the midfield – at least he adds a bit of spark.

Jagielka should have been sold to Sunderland for Kone. Barry may be a great player but we still look shakey at the back so what is going on there?

I'm happy for the team to continue to develop and perhaps another 8 to 10 games may see some improvement. Not sure why the team that did so well at Man City was changed.

John Keating
14 Posted 24/10/2016 at 18:21:46
We continue to play the ball up to Lukaku with his back to goal. His hold-up play and first touch is appalling. Played through, he is world class... so why we can't play to his strengths is beyond me.

We need a small nippy Defoe type in the box to complement Lukaku's power. I also think it might be time to give Funes Mori a game alongside Williams.

There are no so-called 'easy' games in the Premier League but, if we want European Football and can't beat Bournemouth, Burnley and Palace, then we don't deserve it. 8 points dropped to these teams would have had us doing a Leicester...

Danny Broderick
15 Posted 24/10/2016 at 22:00:23
The problems we have can only be solved by recruitment of players. Our main issues are in the final 3rd. We have no alternative to Lukaku, and from the supporting players, only Bolasie is 1st choice. You just can't rely on Barkley, Mirallas, Deulofeu etc.

I would like to see Lennon given a run, as he has always done ok for us, and I don't think Koeman has given him a fair crack yet. And Bolasie has to play, particularly after we spent £30 million on him. But as a minimum, we need a number 10 and a striker. Hopefully we can do some business in January.

Unless we can bring some players in, we will struggle to break into the top 6. I do believe we will finish in the top half though. Between now and next season, Koeman must make his own mark on the squad, and phase out some of the Martinez driftwood. For me, this includes Barkley, Gibson, Mirallas and Deulofeu. We need some ruthless new additions who do the business every week, not players who flutter to deceive or can't last 90 minutes.

Michael Kenrick
16 Posted 25/10/2016 at 04:50:22
Danny... "flutter to deceive" – that's actually quite good... in fact, it's perfect for our lot.

I don't agree with the rest of your post, though; this holding out for the salvation that comes in the next transfer window. I can't believe Lyndon is buying into this nonsense too, but I guess there's an imperative to keep the mythos alive, and the perennial hope that all our problems will be solved in the next transfer window.

To me, it would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad how people throw out names of all these players they want to see at Everton, as if it was some kind of referendum, the one with he most mentions gets picked by Steve Walsh.

We have no influence... zero... zilch on who comes to Everton. Heck, judging by the last fiasco, even Walsh, Koeman and Moshiri aren't in control. I mean, Bolasie? Sissoko?? Valencia??? Total desperation. These are not and never will be Everton players. And half of you believe this is going to fix the issues in our team? Sorry... I just don't geddit.

We have a squad of highly paid professional footballers, ffs. No more excuses. They need to perform. Getting them to play as a team is Koeman's job.

Darren Hind
17 Posted 25/10/2016 at 05:18:53
Spot on MK
Brian Porter
18 Posted 25/10/2016 at 08:12:48
On the subject of striking options, I'm still wondering whose brainless idea it was to let Shani Tarashaj go to Germany on a year-long loan. Just watched him score a great goal for Eintracht Frankfurt in a 3-0 win over Hamburger SV. He showed pace, power and a great ability to finish somewhat reminiscent of Rom's powerful run and finish in the cup against Chelsea.

If it was Koeman's,decision to let him go, I would seriously begin to question just what our new manager is looking for up front. This lad is good, a full international and is clearly seen as being of a high enough standard for the Bundesliga, which I watch regularly and where the standard is as good as the Premier League despite some people thinking ours is the best league in the world.

The guy should be here playing for his parent club, not going off on loan like some youth player looking to make the grade. With limited striking options, I just can't understand why he was sent to Germany.

Tony Hill
19 Posted 25/10/2016 at 08:36:07
Why can't both things be true? We need much better cohesion and performance from the existing squad but we also need better players in key areas, as we have done for at least 18 months.
Peter Barry
20 Posted 25/10/2016 at 09:14:49
Now that the new Manager uptick is over and the new Owner euphoria has abated and, some supporters at least, have returned from the Cloud Cuckoo Land where they went in their OTT enthusiasm and reactions perhaps we can face reality and realize that far too many of our players are just not good enough.
Trevor Peers
21 Posted 25/10/2016 at 09:23:45
NO Everton or International manager has ever managed to consistently get the best out of Barkley, Mirallas or Deulofeu, and that's going back over the past three years.

Why should we expect Koeman to be any different? Clearly none of them are good enough and should all be replaced, we're stuck with them for the moment though, so it will take time, before we can move forward.

Brian Harrison
22 Posted 25/10/2016 at 09:33:47
MK

You criticize some posters for throwing out names of players we should sign in the next transfer window. Then go on to say Bolasie and Valencia are not Everton players. You also put Sissoko in that category well Pochettino isn't a bad judge and he rates him just like Koeman did.

I would be interested to hear what is an Everton type of player, of the ones available for us to sign.

Richard Dodd
23 Posted 25/10/2016 at 10:00:27
Brian @ 18 regarding Tarashaj; I, too, have admired the football played in the Bundeslega although Shani Tarashaj has only appeared three times for Frankfurt (as a midfielder) scoring only the one goal to which you refer.

On signing for Everton earlier this year, Martinez sent him back to Grasshoppers of Switzerland from whom he was signed last January. There he scored 3 goals in 15 games.

I suggest to you that his style and role is rather akin to that of Naisy rather than that of an all-out attacker and is he better than what we have here? I doubt very much we shall ever have the chance to find out!

Stan Schofield
24 Posted 25/10/2016 at 10:12:19
I agree with Michael @16. We have enough players of real ability in the squad to expect improvement under the new manager. These players have enough experience and adaptability to get this improvement without relying on mythical signings in future transfer windows.

Yes, future signings should create even further improvement, but IMO the current squad should be sufficient to get decent results, especially against the likes of Burnley. What seems to be lacking still is overall gelling of the team, which Koeman will hopefully sort out.

Phil Walling
25 Posted 25/10/2016 at 10:18:47
Trevor Peers (21), I'm with you there. It occurs to me that what we see from this unholy trinity you mention IS their best!

Certainly they have all had 'good' games – even Niasse had one the other day, albeit for the kids – but seem incapable of 'getting their arses into gear' on anything like a regular basis.

Most of our players are of similar ilk and whilst Ranieri proved miracles can happen, I very much doubt one will occur at Goodison any time soon.

Laurie Hartley
26 Posted 25/10/2016 at 10:35:57
Michael (#16) – I too am bemused that you don't rate Bolasie as an Everton player.

I think you are right about Sissoko and Valencia but Bolasie – I can't have that. I think he is a cracking player.

Tony Hill
27 Posted 25/10/2016 at 10:47:33
If we don't think that we need the early signing of players to boost the team then why did we hire Steve Walsh at great expense? I don't understand the argument that recognising deficiencies and looking to fix them as soon as possible is an exercise in wishful thinking or is in some way letting Koeman off the hook.
Rob Halligan
28 Posted 25/10/2016 at 10:51:42
Watching a live game from Australia, involving a player we could probably do with right now. A goalscoring midfield player who likes to get in the face of the opposition players and manager alike, and wind them up and who never gives less than 100% every match.

Tim Cahill playing for Melbourne City against Melbourne Victory in the Australian FA Cup semi-final. He hasn't changed. GO TIMMY GO!!

Apologies to any Melbourne Victory fans by the way!!

Brent Stephens
29 Posted 25/10/2016 at 13:22:04
Michael #16 I, too, liked "flutter to deceive".

And now your " I guess there's an imperative to keep the mythos alive" - a reasonable brew if kept lively.

But (regarding players people on TW want to sign) "We have no influence... zero... zilch...". But then why comment on anything at all that we have no control over - manager, chairman, tactics, stadium (moderator!). It's the fun of TW.

Brian Furey
30 Posted 25/10/2016 at 15:25:16
Brian Porter (#18), Tarashaj has only played 113 mins (in 3 games) for Frankfurt and that was his first goal. He isn't exactly setting the world alight and sounds a bit like Deulofeu or Mirallas.

Trevor Peers (#21), I totally agree. Mirallas is 27 but has spent most of his career in and out of the team and not fulfilling his potential. Geri looks like he has all the tools and the pace but hugely lacking in his commitment and effort.

I always think that if you compare the attitude of Coleman who had to fight a lot harder in life to make it as a professional footballer to the likes of Lukaku, Deulofeu and Barkley who seem much more laid back and couldn't be arsed half the time. Did they earn their big bucks too young and don't appreciate putting in the effort???

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