Line-up changes fail to make a difference
Ronald Koeman opted for a very different set-up compared to what we’ve seen so far this season. Deploying a 4-4-2, an in-form Oumar Niasse started up top with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Nikola Vlasic was sent out on the right wing.
These changed appeared to have a positive effect early in the match as Everton started off strong but saw a few scoring chances fall by the wayside. A 21st minute Jeff Hendrick goal saw the wheels come off the bus and Everton reverted to their worst habits.
There were positives to be drawn from this line-up shuffle. Namely, Niasse and Calvert-Lewin injecting some much needed pace and strength into the striker position. This was also one of the quicker sides that Everton have sent out this season and this allowed them to diversify their attacking options.
Unfortunately they still failed to crack a very solid and well-organized Burnley defense. While speed was injected into the side, it was done at the expense of width. Burnley time and time again took advantage of space on the flanks and created big problems for Everton throughout the match.
Poor defensive organization dooms Everton
What was considered Everton’s strongest quality, their defense, early in the season has quickly turned into an Achilles heel for the side. Look no further than Burnley’s lone goal to see how lost Everton’s defense has become. Everton’s defense seemed content on ball-watching as Hendrick neatly slotted the ball into the far corner of the net.
Ashley Williams may be an easy scapegoat for Everton’s defensive woes, and yes he has been terrible, but these issues are not limited to him. Morgan Schneiderlin has been a shell of himself since getting sent off against Manchester City. He is meant to be a shield for the back line, but has been doing a poor job of that over the last few matches. Idrissa Gueye has been forced to run all over the pitch putting out fires, but these efforts also leave holes elsewhere on the pitch.
Everton’s fullbacks have not been without errors either. Several times in this match, the back four was playing so narrow that Burnley’s fullbacks were open to bomb cross after cross into the box. Let us not forget it was Burnley’s left back, Stephen Ward, who played a clever cut back pass that lead to the opening goal.
Unfortunately for Everton, their options in defense and midfield are limited. Phil Jagielka and Mason Holgate are unlikely to turn Everton’s defense around and the same goes for the defensive midfield position. James McCarthy is unable to stay healthy and Muhamed Besic has his own set of issues, namely discipline.
Gylfi Sigurdsson wasted on the wing
Watching Gylfi Sigurdsson play on the wing this season has been an exercise in futility. Due to a self-created logjam in midfield, Koeman has been forced to play a number of his best players out of position. But the insistence on playing Sigurdsson out wide is the worst offender.
Sigurdsson has shown flashes of brilliance at times this season. He’s been one of the best attacking midfielders in the Premier League over the past few seasons, but his skills are wasted out wide. He is undoubtedly a slow player and while good with the ball, he lacks the skillful moves to break past defenders.
I’ll admit I was pleased to see Rooney and Klaassen on the bench in this match, hoping this would mean a start at attacking midfield for Sigurdsson, but it wasn’t until late in the match that he was finally slotted into his best position.
It is worth mentioning that Sigurdsson had one of his best games with Everton today and was unlucky not to have a goal or two in this match. He did do a better job of cutting inside and finding teammates in scoring positions. Unfortunately, until he gets more games in the middle of the park his massive price tag will be difficult to justify.