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.
Everton made a mercifully short Boxing Day trip to Burnley and gave their fans a fine five-goal response to Sunday's embarrassment at the hands of Tottenham. It's a funny old game...
Bernard and Mina returned in the dreaded back-three formation. Richarlison and Davies were dropped to the bench, where Gueye returns. Pickford retained his place. Lookman was still out injured.
Burnley got things going, Everton looking strange in a rather Spurs-like strip. Mina picked out Coleman with a long ball down the wing that won an early corner, Digne played the ball short, and on the second phase Bernard crossed superbly from the other side, for a fine header from Yerry Mina. Goal! — after just 2 mins — Everton's 7,000th in their illustrious top-flight history.
Bernard looked to create more havoc, his shot when Coleman was breaking on the right was deflected for another corner, and in the follow-up from that, Barnard tried to pick out Mina with a lethal cross that was marginally too strong for the big Colombian goalscorer.
There should have been an Everton break from a Burnley attack when Walcott had the ball but Bernard stopped and went backward, surrendering momentum.
Bernard, with a lovely change of pace, looked to feed Calvert-Lewin, who was taken out after overplaying it, and very fortunate to be given a free-kick that Lucas Digne stroked beautifully into the top corner off Joe Hart's hand. A very fine free-kick goal.
A long ball picked out Walcott who seemed to be bowled over as he tried to control the ball, but no decision this time, and it probably was outside the area if it had been a foul.
Burnley were pushing up and swinging in crosses that justified Silva's decision for three centre-backs, but errors playing out when Everton did have the ball prevented any adventures further forward.
Bernard got free and galloped goalward but delayed his shot crucially, allowing Tarkowski the chance to defend the ball. From the corner, Mee slapped the ball behind with his raised hand under strong pressure from Zouma, a fine spot by the referee. Sigurdsson sent Hart the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Sloppy passing from Gomes led to Sigurdsson fouling and getting booked for chasing after Westwood. Lowton then bought a free-kick in the corner that Keane headed away at the far post. It had become a very open game, with poor passing from both sides making things look a little ragged.
There was a great break down the left, at least two of Zouma, Digne, Gomes and Bernard fouled after they had jointly created a fine ball for Calvert-Lewin to chase. At the other end, Gibson wiped out Coleman with a horrible head-butt challenge: no card from Michael Oliver.
Calvert-Lewin worked his way around for a shot but drilled it wide. A silly free-kick given away by Mina wide right saw Barnes head goalward, forcing a good save from Pickford but, off the corner, Keane cleared a far-post header off the line only for Barnes to poke it through the crowd and over the line.
Burnley were jazzed and now chasing down every loose ball, making it a very competitive contest, Everton needing to cool things down a little. Calvert-Lewin and Bernard exchanged passes for Walcott to run in but, all too predictably, he stumbled under the slightest pressure and failed to shoot at goal.
Walcott was taken out in a late challenge from Gibson who was finally booked. Calvert-Lewin was penalized for pushing his man in the back (again!). Burnley earned a late corner in stoppage time that Pickford batted away in heavy traffic, Everton clinging with some desperation to their two-goal lead as the half ended.
Everton restarted but it was clear from the off Burnley would be snapping at heels all across the park. A sharp cross in was grasped well by Pickford but Calvert-Lewin fouled on his long release-ball. More fouls put Everton under pressure, Tarkowski skying it from 5 yards out when he really should have scored.
Everton had to repel some concerted pressure, Gomes breaking well and Bernard winning a corner that Digne pumped in but it came to nought. Bernard turned Tartowski and was fouled but Keane was called for a small nudge on the ball in from the set-piece.
Finally some joined-up passing ended in a handball call that was denied. Walcott looked to trap a looping ball forward but, in inimitable fashion, lost it and fell to ground.
Coleman and Taylor had a good tussle that went to the Burnley man on points as Everton looked to be doing enough to contain the Burnley drive, without doing enough to put pressure on Hart's goal. Barnes almost got in but played the ball too far forward for Volks.
A fine move down the right saw the brilliant best from Walcott this time but somehow Calvert-Lewin contrived to miss the excellent cross-cut ball right across the face of the Burnley goal that Walcott set up for him when it seemed easier to score.
Another fine move, this time down the left, almost released Digne who was immediately under pressure but won the throw-in only for it to go limply behind for a goal-kick.
Another brilliant run from Bernard fed Sigurdsson whose shot was blocked; Coleman's follow-up deflected into the side netting. Good pressure on the corner saw Mee push Keane in the back. Richarlison replaced Calvert-Lewin.
Walcott looked to collect and shoot (wide) only to be flagged offside as Everton were now attacking more than the home side, having seemingly weathered the storm. Richarlison went on a great left-channel run and almost pulled it back, winning a corner. Keane headed over from Digne's outswinger. At the other end, Cork looked to test Pickford in a rare foray.
Walcott nipped in on Hart and seemed to have a chance to score but Hart's leg intervened. A corner was worked around and, from a long way out, off Bernard's set-up, Digne drilled a pearler through the middle and into the far corner beyond the despairing Joe Hart.
Richarlison ran at goal but was driven wide ad his shot was pitiful as Gana replaced Gomes. Burnley still swung in crosses but the blues centre-backs stayed strong. Davies was Silva's final sub, replacing the effervescent Bernard into the final 10 mins.
Sigurdsson wasted a free kick with a short delivery to the first man and Burnley went forward to win a corner, that was very dangerous. Another corner was headed out by Richarlison but it came back in to Mee who drove a very tasty ball across the Everton goal and beyond, thankfully untouched. Another corner followed as Everton seemed to draw the pressure, Keane there again to head away but not far enough, and it was recycled yet again by the home side until Mina, rather fortunately, won a foul for nothing.
A free-kick from 30 yards out saw Gudmundsson shoot over Pickford's top corner as the game went into added time, Everton looking safe on a three-goal lead – Gana booked for 'simulation' after falling over.
The icing on Everton's belated Christmas cake came in added time, Sigurdsson picking out Richarlison with a perfectly weighted through ball for a very tricky finish from the Brazilian just inside Hart's near post to end the game in fine style.
Scorers: Barnes (37'); Mina (3'), Digne (13', 72'), Sigurdsson (pen:22'), Richarlison (90+3')
Burnley: Hart, Lowton [Y:], Taylor, Tarkowski, Mee, Westwood, Cork, Gibson [Y:44'] (63' McNeil), Barnes, Vokes (73' Wood), Hendrick (63' Gudmundsson).
Subs not Used: Heaton, Bardsley, Vydra, Long
Everton: Pickford; Keane, Mina, Zouma; Coleman, Digne, Sigurdsson [Y:25'], Gomes [Y:30'] (75' Gueye [Y:90']); Bernard (80' Davies), Walcott, Calvert-Lewin (67' Richarlison).
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Baines, Jagielka, Niasse.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Everton make a mercifully short Boxing Day trip to Burnley needing to offer their fans a response to Sunday's embarrassment at the hands of Tottenham.
Having beaten the Clarets at Turf Moor during Roberto Martinez's second season, the Blues have lost on their last two visits under two separate managers and they can ill afford a third successive defeat there lest their recent slide from sixth to eleventh place continue further into the bottom half of the table.
In Everton's favour is the fact that Sean Dyche's outfit have not been anything like the team they were last season when they finished in seventh place and qualified for Europe, a feat that proved to be the poisoned chalice it so often is.
Despite showing a flicker of improvement with a 1-0 home win over Brighton a fortnight ago, that was Burnley's only win in their last seven since winning at Cardiff at the end of September and they will begin the day in the relegation zone.
Without an away win since the 6th of October, with just one victory in the last seven matches and now a season's nadir reached with the 6-2 drubbing by Spurs, Marco Silva needs to find some answers to a slide in form that meant Everton went into Christmas with fewer points, 24, than at the same stage as last year's debacle of a season.
And his task could be complicated by injury concerns over his first choice central midfield pairing. Idrissa Gueye has missed two games with a groin problem and remains a doubt while André Gomes will also undergo a late fitness test on the knee injury that forced him off on Sunday.
Ademola Lookman, meanwhile, will also be assessed for an unspecified knock reportedly picked up in training prior to the Spurs game as he looks for another opportunity to prove that he can be one of the solutions to Everton's attacking shortcomings of late.
Given the crowded nature of the festive fixture programme, the injury to Gomes and the possible need to make changes following a heavy defeat, Silva is unlikely to name an unchanged line-up today.
Yerry Mina could come back into the side, perhaps at the expense of Kurt Zouma while James McCarthy might finally make his return to first-team action following the double leg-break he sustained last January.
Up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has probable done enough to keep his place while Bernard's lively cameo off the bench could be weighed against Theo Walcott's goalscoring outing against Spurs.
Kick-off: 3pm, Wednesday 26 December, 2018
Referee: Michael Oliver
Last Time: Burnley 2 - 1 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, McCarthy, Davies, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin