Monday Night Football saw Everton come from behind to beat Sean Dyche’s Burnley. The Toffees won three goals to one, despite being behind approaching the 60 minute mark. This game saw Everton have more possession than the opposition for the first time this season, taking us up to 4th in the Premier League in the final game of the weekend.
One player who I picked out in my tactical preview of the game that Everton needed to be aware of was of course their star man, Dwight McNeil. Early on he provided a fantastic cross, where Michael Keane lost his man and Chris Wood fortunately couldn’t connect properly with the header. McNeil completed 5 dribbles, 3 more than anyone else on the pitch, with the majority of Burnley’s attacks (39%) going down the left hand side. This was something clearly picked up on by Rafa at half time, as all of these dribbles were in the first half. He completed 0 second half dribbles and had 2 second half shots towards the end of the game with both being restricted to outside of the box.
In the first half, Everton found it very difficult to get the ball into the midfield third. Burnley crowded out the midfield and pressed high, with Ashley Barnes dropping in and blocking the passing lanes into Allan and Doucoure. This forced Everton to go long a lot of the time, where we played 62 long balls. If you compare this to our previous game against Brighton, we only played 39 that day. Against a side like Burnley, they are more than happy to see long balls pumped towards their centre halves. James Tarkowski and Ben Mee will happily head the ball all game, especially without the aerial threat of Calvert-Lewin up against them.
Different to previous games, which saw a lot of our attacks heading down Digne and Gray’s left hand side, we saw 45% of our attacks coming down the right last night. Townsend often stayed really wide, but as soon as he received the ball that’s when he would make the darting runs inside onto his stronger foot. We saw him on more than one occasion cutting in and having a shot which of course also lead to his spectacular goal to put Everton 2-1 ahead. Townsend provided a ridiculous goal, a fantastic assist for Michael Keane and produced 2 key passes during the game.
In the second half, the introduction of Andre Gomes really changed the game. Not specifically for his personal contribution, but the change of shape really helped us going forward. As you can see above, Allan sat a lot deeper with Gomes and Doucoure both being given the freedom to advance forward. Typically, Allan would sit and Doucoure and Gomes go alternatively when the time is right. In the first half as I stated earlier, the midfield struggled to get on the ball much. With the addition of another midfielder in there, there was one more player for the Burnley midfield to mark. This allowed a lot of space for Doucoure, where he produced 2 assists in the second half and had a goal disallowed.
Defensively, we dealt fantastically with the aerial threat of the Burnley front two. Yerry Mina alone won nine out of the ten aerial duels he attempted. This was more than any other player in the Premier League over the weekend. Although there is going to be significantly more aerial balls to deal with against a side like Burnley, only losing one of the duels is exceptional. Ben Godfrey also won five of his aerial duels (in just 60 minutes before being subbed), both of them winning more than the Burnley strikers. Godfrey, Keane and Mina completed 14 clearances between them last night, weathering the storm of the poor first half we unfortunately had to witness. Rather than completely trying to cut out Burnley attempting crosses, we had three centre backs in there all capable of winning headers. Two of them went man for man, allowing the third to attack the ball. This nullified Burnley’s main attacking threat, except for the goal where unfortunately after a set piece breaking out we lost shape completely and allowed Ben Mee to home.
Although not getting on the scoresheet or even getting an assist this week, a special shoutout to Richarlison for his performance which might have gone under the radar to most. Having to lead the line which naturally he isn’t comfortably doing, I thought he did well. He had more tackles than any other Everton player on the pitch (3). This shows his willingness to track back and to press from the front. His selfless run for the Demarai Gray goal, dragged the defenders away, creating a huge gap for Gray to run into and kill the game off. It wasn’t his best performance by a long stretch and of course got overshadowed by the fantastic performances of Mina, Doucoure, Townsend, Gray and the rest but I thought it was certainly worth a little mention.
After a few hiccups during the game, it was great to see the lack of stubbornness from Rafa Benitez, who changed the game with one single substitute and a small tinker with the system. Without that change, I think I would have been writing a bit of a more disappointing article today. Another confidence booster for the Blues, who head to Aston Villa on Saturday evening which I’m sure will be one of the toughest tests for Everton so far this season.