Much was made in some quarters of the character of Everton’s players and the tactical acumen of their manager in the wake of the 6-2 drubbing at Tottenham’s hands and while there may have been disagreement between Evertonians over how representative that defeat was of the Toffees’ problems, there was universal agreement that a response was needed.
A Boxing Day trip up the road to Lancashire to struggling Burnley presented the opportunity to quickly erase the worst of the memories of three days prior but it’s unlikely Marco Silva could have envisaged things panning out quite the way they did and ending with Everton recording their biggest margin of victory away from home in 18 years.
Given the severity of Sunday’s defeat at the defensive capitulation that underpinned it, this could have gone very differently so it’s to Silva’s credit that he moved to address his side’s vulnerability with Idrissa Gueye out the side by reverting to a three-man central defensive unit.
It might not have looked the most effective or comfortable formations at Manchester City 11 days ago and some might have viewed it as overkill against one of the least productive attacking teams in the Premier League but it proved to be just the ticket this afternoon.
Far from being overly defensive, the system favoured the offensive proclivities of the two wingbacks and allowed Gylfi Sigurdsson to drop slightly deeper to play off André Gomes in central midfield. The result was a more confident and typical-looking Seamus Coleman while Lucas Digne was able to add an impressive 30-yard strike to another beautifully-struck free-kick as he bagged a brace.
It also presented Yerry Mina with a recall to the starting XI and he took less than two minutes to grab the opportunity with his first Everton goal. A corner from the right was cleared to Bernard on the other flank and he arced a peach of a cross to the edge of the six-yard box where the big Colombian defender headed home unmarked.
Not resting on their laurels, Everton retained the initiative and would score two more goals before a quarter of the match had elapsed. Bernard sent a reverse pass forward for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to chase in the 13th minute, the striker was upended clumsily by Matt Lowton and Digne stepped up to curl a carbon-copy dead ball to the one he scored against Watford at Goodison Park inside the post and into the net via Joe Hart’s glove.
Then, after James Tarkowski had done well to chase back and atone for his own error by denying the Brazilian’s breakaway, Everton were awarded a penalty when Ben Mee’s arm was seen to connect with the ball as the resulting corner was swung in. In truth, there was an even more blatant tug on Michael Keane’s shirt that could easily have been called as well but, regardless, Sigurdsson had the confidence to step forward and bury the spot-kick.
Burnley came into the game sitting in the relegation zone, a far cry from their stellar campaign in 2017-18 where they finished above today’s visitors and qualified for the Europa League, and their attacking deficiencies were exemplified by the fact that it took them 36 minutes to have their first attempt on goal.
That came via the head of Ashley Barnes who had Jordan Pickford scrambling across his goal to palm the ball behind but sloppy defending from the resulting corner handed the Clarets a potential lifeline 10 minutes before half-time. Tarkowski was left unattended at the back post but Keane blocked his header on the line, only for Ben Gibson to turn the loose ball through the melee as Everton’s defenders failed to react in time.
What could have been a pivotal moment in the contest arrived in the 49th minute when Jeff Hendrick swung a defensive clearance back into the box catching Keane on his heels and finding Tarkowski five yards out but he somehow scooped the ball over the bar.
What could have been 3-2 eventually became 4-1 with 20 minutes to go but not before a buoyant Everton had gone close with a handful of chances. Eventually rising back above the more physical and one-dimensional game employed by their hosts, Silva’s side began probing and a lovely interchange between Calvert-Lewin and Theo Walcott ended with the winger flashing the ball across the face of goal just inches ahead of the striker’s lunge.
An excellent pass out of defence by Keane then found Bernard, enjoying perhaps his best display in an Everton jersey thus (certainly since the Leicester game) and he in turn played Sigurdsson but his shot was blocked and Coleman was denied on the rebound from a tight angle.
Keane powered a header narrowly over from a corner and Walcott was denied by Hart as he tried to scurry around the keeper and tuck the ball into the unguarded net but it was from that corner that Digne struck. Richarlison, on as a substitute for Calvert-Lewin, saw his scuffed shot repelled as far as Bernard who cushioned a first-time pass to Digne to arrow a shot through a crowd of players and into the bottom corner.
Well beaten by the closing stages, Burnley tried to reduce the arrears when Mee hammered an effort across goal and Berg Gudmonsson floated a free kick over the crossbar but the final act belonged to Everton.
Sigurdsson saved his best pass of the afternoon for the third minute to stoppage time to dissect the home defence and put Richarlison in behind to stab the ball just inside the post and round off a handsome 5-1 victory.
The four-goal margin might not be wholly indicative of the general pattern of play — Everton only shaded possession and there were long spells where they were content to sit back a little and see what Burnley could come up with — but you can’t argue with a 5-1 victory.
Aside from a nasty slip in the first half where he appeared to have done his groin only to stage a remarkable recovery and play on until the 80th minute, Bernard’s performance was hugely encouraging for what it says about his progression in what has been an up-and-down introduction to the Premier League.
Walcott was also more dangerous than he has been in a few weeks even if that final end product isn’t quite there, although he was denied a clear chance to test Hart when he was bundled over by a defender and didn’t even get a free kick from referee Michael Oliver.
And Calvert-Lewin demonstrated his importance in this system by leading the line well with his aerial prowess, physical strength and running.
The win moves Everton back into the top eight but, of course, one impressive scoreline in isolation will mean very little if it isn’t followed up with a string of positive results over the upcoming seven games before the next meeting with a top-six side.
Win at Brighton on Saturday and follow it up with a victory over Leicester on New Year’s Day and Silva could legitimately feel that his side has recovered somewhat from the Spurs debacle to embark on a long road to Wembley in the FA Cup and remount a challenge for that sixth place that Manchester United currently occupy.
Reader Comments (27)
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1 Posted 27/12/2018 at 09:31:39
Coleman Keane Mina Digne
Gueye Sigurdsson Gomes
Richarlison Calvert-Lewin Bernard
Subs: Stekelenburg, Zouma, Davies, Walcott, Lookman, Tosun.
2 Posted 27/12/2018 at 09:37:49
Well done, Everton, and well done, Silva, for changing the system to make us more effective in midfield.
3 Posted 27/12/2018 at 09:47:29
Now it's over and in my opinion the next month will go a long way to determine how we determine Silva's first season and his future.
After literally every game this season, we've mentioned "how we react" "moving on" "transition" and other assorted buzzwords.
So far, after defeats, we haven't really seen any sort of major reaction until yesterday.
January sees us play teams we should be beating if we expect to see any sort of approach to the top 6-7. It's now time to stop making excuses and put wins on the board.
4 Posted 27/12/2018 at 11:02:29
Walcott and Bernard had very good games running at the Burnley defence and the wing-backs, Seamus and Digne played like genuine wing backs. Dominic Calvert-Lewin kept the home defenders fully occupied, winning more than his fair share of high balls and laying the ball off for the runners from midfield.
Although Gomes and Sigurdsson struggled to keep possession especially in the quarter of an hour either side of half-time they stuck at it during a period when, even with a 3-1 lead, we might have folded. The fifth goal of the game was pivotal. Had Burnley scored early in the second half, we would not have fancied our chances in the last half hour.
In the context of our away form over the past two and a half seasons, this was a remarkable result, albeit against a team in the bottom three. It was an unfamiliar feeling being able to relax in the final quarter of an away game having sealed the points and sitting on a comfortable lead.
Silva needed a big result to show he can pull a team out of a dip in form. He also needed to show we can win away games, at least against the teams near the bottom of the table. Brighton have a similar long-ball style to Burnley so 3-4-3 may also be the best option on Saturday. That will not always be the case of course.
5 Posted 27/12/2018 at 11:36:11
Our battle is to finish 6th, and we should be going all for it. Finishing above Man Utd would provide a real morale boost for next season, plus the European Football that, like it or not, is necessary to a) attract better players and b) build the Everton brand.
Hopes for the New Year: that this latest performance will be a sign of things to come from Bernard. Too often he has flattered to deceive, but talent he certainly has, and in abundance. Once he gets his first goal, he could become a real player.
That Calvert-Lewin can grow and make the centre-forward position his own. His recent performances merit a sustained run, he's not perfect, but has many qualities and will improve.
That Mina can really consolidate himself as a starter. Zouma has many qualities, but it is unlikely that we'll keep him. So hopefully 2019 can be the year Keane and Mina really develop a partnership to rival the Premier League's best. Both are big and imposing, both have a goal threat, neither is a slouch.
That Digne scores more worldies. No doubt, Digne has been brilliant, except against Chelsea of course, and now looks to be a real goal threat. Interesting that, in Digne, Keane, and Mina, we have 3 defenders* who can get 10-12 goals between them each season a real bonus. (*Oh for the Coleman of old!)
That some deadwood is moved on: Tosun, Niasse, Schneiderlin have no future. Some youngsters could do with loans. And we need 1 forward (replacing Tosun and Niasse) and one right-back or wing-back.
Finally, I hope that Davies can find his mojo.
6 Posted 27/12/2018 at 12:45:22
7 Posted 27/12/2018 at 15:18:27
Let's hope that you are right and Everton achieve the consistency that has eluded them for these past 20 years, This was one of the best tactical and team performances for some time.
Maybe it was down to the old chestnut of Everton having had their pride hurt and focusing them with a determination to gel together, with a determination to win – in other words, a collective kick up the arse.
If Everton had played like this against Tottenham, it would have been a different story, but they where missing Gueye. The selection of the midfield trio is critical especially against a team like Tottenham who won the midfield battle hands down, helped by an Everton forward line that gave away the ball.
The backline finally gelled and were the threat going forward that their 6-foot firepower have threatened .
. Richarlison must be the worst Brazilian passer of the ball in history. He now looks to be the main problem regarding Everton's poor play in the final third. He really has to get his head up and improve his passing. Brazil are going nowhere depending on Neymar, Richarlison's self-appointed mentor. . . Stay well clear for Everton's sake, Ricky.
Bernard and Walcott (finishing still needs work) played so much better and hard-working Calvert-Lewin seems to have got to the stage that he is the most productive centre-forward in the Championship, and would be easily the top scorer. His link-up play took Everton's pass-completion rate in the final third to new levels.
It's the new-found quality that will be needed to unlock Fulham, who will try to close up shop. Everton still need competition on the right flank, defending midfield and the forward line with more and better coaching throughout the team. Hopefully Pickford has wised up. Silva needs to be able to adapt his tactics during the games and have the players coached to respond.
I would love to know what input Brands has. I expect him to be the formidable difference that will enable Everton to overcome the bogeyman of that next vital game and push on, rather than fail consistently, as they have done for the last 20 years,
Hopefully not a false dawn and an end to the ‘long-suffering‘ Everton Supporter.
8 Posted 27/12/2018 at 16:45:18
John #4: "Mina looked far more comfortable on the right of the back trio than he did on the left at the Etihad." No doubt, but I have a feeling his comfort level was less about which side of the pitch he was on and more about having a bunch of "cloggers" (great word, Franny!) running at him instead of Jesus, Sane and Sterling.
9 Posted 27/12/2018 at 16:58:51
I have bowed to no one in my support of Seamus. Back in the day It was suggested, such was my support, that I was related to him. I believe, pound for pound that he is the best signing we have ever made, by a million miles.
I have taken heart from your belief that he is not yet recovered from that awful injury. However, I am worried. He has lost pace and I fear that never comes back. Experience, postional sense and guile will get central defenders away with it for years. Not fullbacks, though. They are there to be torn apart. Walcott hasn't exactly protected him and Kenny might be just as exposed.
Mike, I know how much you admire Seamus, so, please give me some reassurance.
10 Posted 27/12/2018 at 17:32:12
11 Posted 27/12/2018 at 18:10:04
The system and the opposition afforded him, and the entire team to be fair, a one dimensional threat with less emphasis on his problems of late. He wasnt targeted nor did have to deal with stopping crosses. They just lumped long diagonals.
It certainly allowed both wing backs to play higher up and I guess seeing him up in the final third gave the impression of a better performance.
He still cannot find any real chemistry with Walcott and they lack any cerebral nous between them, just very direct athletes for me.
A back three might see a revival in his form but Im not going to hold my breath, bit it plays closer to his strengths. We went through the same denial with Baines, now hes barely mentioned.
At the moment Kenny has a higher ceiling, that alone makes more sense.
An awkward conversation for sure but it might be time to move on.
12 Posted 27/12/2018 at 19:29:13
Everton's game against Spurs was a perfect example of the negativity that came from two incidents: (1) The denial of what many consider to be a perfectly good goal by CL. This is particularly annoying in an era when shirt pulling in the penalty area is almost considered as the "norm", while minimal body contact is deemed as "violent"conduct. (2) The Pantomime display by Zouma and Pickford, with Pickford playing the evil villain. The follow up was a total disaster which gave Spurs the upper hand as the Everton team fell into a united depression. Our opponents were good, but mainly because these two incidents left the Blues incapable and impotent for the rest of the game.
Move on a few days and we beat Burnley 5-1, This time positive incidents: (1) A great start with two early goals gave us the confidence and impetus to take the game to our opponents. (2) A penalty which we fully deserved but on Burnley's part was unnecessary and almost as ridiculous as the Pickford Zouma epic. Note: I said "almost"
Other than a brief resurgence this was the end of Burnley. They became the "Everton" of two day's before. I agree that Burnley of this season are not too good, but they made themselves look even worse than they really are. And we looked like a really good team which we can be when the stars all align and we don't make idiotic mistakes.
Spurs were made to look even better than they really are, and I actually think that we gave them the drive and impetus for their next game when they beat Bournemouth 5-0. I think honest Spurs fans should thank us.
Mind you I also think RS supporters should thank us for Pantomime Act 1 "The Final Curtain" when Pickford, again the evil villain,decided in the 96th minute to give the eternally Ugly Monsters an undeserved two points. This was an arrow in the heart of all Evertonians...to me much worse than a 6-2 loss to the Cockneys.I somehow can never get it out of my mind. Despite this I still like Pickford, although I strongly advise him to leave his theatrics for the Stage not the sacred ground of Goodison Park.
13 Posted 27/12/2018 at 19:39:29
Burnley in the early 1960s used to be a bogey team for Everton, we could never get a result when Jimmy McIlroy, Pointon, Cummins, and Adams played for them.
I never thought the manager and the team had the ability to turn things around so quickly.
14 Posted 27/12/2018 at 19:40:02
But once Bernard was put in a free role behind a lone striker, in a wing back formation, the Everton team looked more inventive, decisive and solid with Digne and Mina able to exploit the room that was given to make decisive strikes.
But I do have reservations about Sigurdsson and Coleman, because time is catching up on them, because today's football in the EPL is more about athleticism, strength and pace, so players have less time to dwell on the ball.
15 Posted 27/12/2018 at 19:49:21
I don't think Seamus is technically gifted enough to do the job being asked of him.
I'm a massive fan of Seamus and his marauding style has given us some of our best moments in what has been a dark 5-6 year period, Using a combination of running power, determination not to let anyone down and sheer will to improve. He has made himself a firm favourite with the faithful . . .but if we are playing out from the back we need natural born footballers.
We now have players like Gomes and Bernard who have played with the very best, They have been brought up expect team mates to be able to comfortably receive a ball, even under pressure, they will not roll their passes, they will fizz it into feet.
A player can improve his passing with practice, he can drive past people using a modicum of skill and a Coleman-like will to do it. but Silva is trying to introduce a more sophisticated brand of football, to do that, you need players who are thinking what they will do with the ball WHEN they have controlled it. Seamus tends to do things in two stages, first he has to concentrate on controlling a ball. Only then can he think about what he will do with it. He's not alone.
Seamus has too much desire to have too many bad games, but he is not the force he has been. I don't subscribe to the theory that his form has dipped, I just think he is being asked to play a game which doesn't show him in his best light.
16 Posted 27/12/2018 at 21:03:23
Andy, yes, I do believe he will get back to what he was before (I see the progress), and pace definitely does come back with time and hard work. Whether that's good enough for what Silva wants is another question.
Darren, you're absolutely right that Seamus is not a natural "footballer", and even at his best his crossing was iffy and his dribbling attacks were more headlong than artistic, so when we see a young man like Wan-Bissaka we see the possibilities. But I'm not convinced Silva wants to build an entire team of footballers, because he certainly seems to value artisans as highly as artists. This goes back to our ancient argument over Gana.
John #11, lack of chemistry with Walcott is hardly a unique problem in the side, and I question whether JJK has done enough to indicate a "higher ceiling". My first guess is that if Silva feels Seamus needs replacing, he will go outside for a new RB. My second guess is that he will not do so, for now anyway.
Steavey #14, I would suggest that an even bigger reason for the Burnley romp was the fact that it was Burnley. Silva definitely picked the right formation, but I question how much difference it really made.
17 Posted 27/12/2018 at 23:30:46
I'm a great Seamus fan but I'm afraid I disagree with you and Lyndon.
In his more forward position he was getting passes that cut out the Burnley defender allowing him to make forward runs but none resulted in telling crosses.
When he received the ball with a man directly in front of him he failed, every time, to get round him.
He was also responsible for the Burnley goal when he over ran the ball and what should have been a simple clearance, or a pass to a team mate, went for a throw in. The two corners, and the goal, came directly from that throw in and could have been avoided.
Unfortunately, I feel it's time for a change.
18 Posted 28/12/2018 at 04:26:16
I agree with Andy Crooks that he has been an outstanding signing and if push came to shove, I would happily have a team full of Seamus-type players but technically, he does not possess the skills of a Gomes or Bernard and I believe that is the direction Silva wants to take.
19 Posted 28/12/2018 at 06:14:13
I have to say he hasn't looked they player he was before, and of course, that's not surprising, but unlike the left back position where Baines age made it critical to get in at the very least a quality alternative; Coleman is still relatively speaking in his prime.
He certainly doesn't have a seamless relationship with Walcott. The two often seem at odds to me. I am not sure which of the two is more culpable though.
It's a sign of the way things have changed this season that we are actually talking about upgrading on Seamus; he has been one of the more consistent performers over recent seasons, but things move on. I personally think that, unless a real quality right back turns up, he is still our best option for the next season as Kenny is still developing.
20 Posted 28/12/2018 at 06:43:01
I feel everyone is culpable at this stage but Seamus is really letting us down here. He charges up the field and 99% of the time delivers a cross that isn't even allowing our players to compete with. He's never been a decent crosser of the ball but had enough else going on... it just seems more obvious now than before.
The other is Richarlison... love him... but he's still learning this centre-forward thing and he doesn't provide continuity when he gets it.
To be honest, I haven't figured out what it is really. All I know is Lookman has stood out to me as excellent in possession this year in tight spaces...
21 Posted 28/12/2018 at 11:42:04
22 Posted 28/12/2018 at 11:44:37
23 Posted 28/12/2018 at 12:29:50
I don't think the Spurs game gave a false impression of the gulf in class during the game – we got everything we deserved. I don't necessarily think that Spurs are that much better than us but we caved completely and deserved that scoreline.
Similarly against Burnley we were by far the better team and deserved the scoreline. Stats don't tell everything about the scoreline. Possession doesn't win you games. Very pleasing but quite right with the opinion that it will count for nothing unless we back it up with more positive results.
I don't like 3 at the back but it worked against Burnley, it won't against better teams as we saw against Man City. With Gana now fit, I expect us to revert to a back 4 against Brighton and hopefully another win.
Onwards and upwards
24 Posted 28/12/2018 at 12:44:26
Having a back 3 seemed to suit our centre-halves. The midfield 4 in front of them all did okay. And having 3 up front brought the best out of Walcott in particular.
I can't help thinking that Gueye would replace Sigurdsson in centre-mid if we had all options available. Gueye is a much better foil for Gomes. And while Bernard played well, he will not score enough goals from the left side of attack long-term – Richarlison would be a better option.
The team selection for Brighton away is going to be interesting. If all fit, I would play:
Mina Keane Zouma
Coleman Gueye Gomes Digne
Walcott Calvert-Lewin Richarlison
25 Posted 28/12/2018 at 14:13:50
26 Posted 28/12/2018 at 15:20:32
27 Posted 28/12/2018 at 23:55:17
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