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Everton 3-0 Bournemouth: Three Takeaways | Turning up the Heat

The visiting Cherries can’t live with the intensity of the Blues at Goodison Park

Everton v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League - Goodison Park
Doucoure slots home Everton’s third to settle the match
Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

The Mentality Problem

Everton manager Sean Dyche has made much of the team creating a lot of chances this season, yet not reaping the rewards for the efforts being made. The statistics do bear this out to a significant degree: the Blues had generated an xG (Expected Goals) total of 12.3, but scored just six times prior to Saturday’s meeting with Bournemouth, which is a remarkable underperformance.

From a defensive perspective, the club had conceded 12 from an xGA (Expected Goals Against) of 9.5, so were falling below the predicted model in that crucial category also. Perversely, the offensive deficit had been accrued in home matches, with the Toffees racking up high xG totals in two games and a moderate amount in another, but coming away with only a single goal across the three matches.

Dyche had inferred, therefore, that the team had been generating plenty of chances (the Arsenal and Aston Villa league games being the exceptions), yet not taking them at Goodison Park, possibly due to a mentality issue. It is hard to argue with that assessment, as the Blues had certainly created enough goal-scoring opportunities to win three of their four home games, prior to last weekend. So, what has changed? Of course, the team has all of its offensive players in harness now, all fit and and up to speed, which helps, but this was also the case against Luton Town. Two factors come into the equation.

Everton FC v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Firstly, the importance of scoring first cannot be understated. Despite their efforts on Saturday, the Toffees hadn’t managed an attempt prior to James Garner capitalising on an error by Illia Zabarnyi in the eight minute and there wasn’t really another major opportunity until Everton’s second goal almost 20 minutes later. But that early goal relieved a lot of the tension from the crowd and, more importantly the players. At 2-0 the game got a lot easier for the hosts, roared on by a joyous Goodison and they should really have added more goals after the restart so often were Bournemouth caught in transition as they chased the game, their midfield appearing to be non-existent at times.

Secondly, this is a side that appears on all evidence to be more comfortable operating in a reactive sense, rather than having to open an opponent up and devise chances through creative play, vision and well-rehearsed passing movements. This gels nicely with Dyche’s own preferences. The bulk of the opportunities generated by Everton are off transitions and set-piece situations. In the former case, this involves defending from the front in an intense manner, which gains possession in midfield, or the final third and results in an attempt on goal within a few passes at the most. The latter situation should benefit a team possessing the physical size the Blues have, aided and abetted by a recent uptick in corner and free kick delivery quality.

Defensive sides such as Luton will present more problems for the Toffees than ostensibly superior ones like Bournemouth, as they will sit in and challenge the Merseysiders to break them down, which is not something that comes naturally. The Cherries played an open style and allowed Everton to adopt a more “away” mentality, playing in a disruptive, reactive manner, with emphasis on the counterattack. Despite the Blues having squandered some (in theory) easy home games, that the next (on paper) more defensive, pragmatic visitor to Goodison will be Crystal Palace in February may not be as daunting a prospect as it appears.

Everton FC v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Harrison’s moment of brilliance put the Toffees in the driving seat
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Crash Bang Wallop

The Blues came out of the blocks fast, as has been their way in every home game this season, bar the strangely passive Arsenal match, the intent being to put immediate pressure on the Cherries. Under their new boss Andoni Iraola the visitors are attempting a stylistic rebuild from last season’s pragmatic, direct version into a high-pressing attacking outfit. The Basque is something of a hot property in management circles coming off a couple of impressive campaigns in La Liga with Rayo Vallecano, but is finding implementing his tactics with the South Coast outfit to be a challenge. Iraola’s system is highly-demanding of his players, requiring composure on the ball, intense pressing and strong individual defensive performances. It is questionable whether the 41-year old will be able to successfully impose this manner of playing on this squad: at Goodison it failed on every level.

Bournemouth frequently were slow playing out from the back and through midfield, being often caught in possession. This resulted in Garner’s opening goal, another opportunity for Abdoulaye Doucoure seconds into the second stanza, the Malian’s goal in the 60th and numerous other situations which could have proven costly. The Cherries coughed the ball up 22 times, compared to 13 for the Merseysiders and were often forced to hit the ball long under pressure. The Blues press caused havoc all afternoon. Accordingly, Bournemouth found it difficult to get past midfield, with 61.3% of their passes completed within their own half; Everton had no such problems, completing 57.1% inside the visitors’ territory.

Iraola’s high-pressing tactics are most suited to disrupting teams that like to play out of defence, particularly in a low-tempo manner and that’s about as far from Dyche’s style as possible. Consequently, the visitors were unable to effectively pressure the hosts, with the hosts able to play around their attempts, and happy to go long when required. It became apparent as the game progressed that the opposition players lacked the the individual composure, movement and technical qualities required to shake off Everton’s frenetic closing down. Unable to impose their own style, or to disrupt their opponents, Bournemouth lost confidence and the errors increased.

Whilst the visitors may lack the players for the type of football they are trying to play, a big part of their failure was the way Everton went about their business. The hosts’ aggression, and muscular approach posed Bournemouth questions they proved unable to answer. It may not be one for the purists, but this direct, intense, physical, energetic, old-school style fits the personnel the Blues have in their squad, not always easy on the eye but highly effective when it gels. Without the effort and commitment palpably on show at the weekend they are likely to appear somewhat too passive, as against the Gunners, but this reactive style, heavily reliant as it is on creation through transition and set-pieces is the most likely route to keeping the club in the top flight this season.

Everton v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League - Goodison Park
Garner was dynamic at the weekend
Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

Random Observations

Garner played a great game on Saturday, fully justifying the many calls by Everton fans for his inclusion in the centre of the park. The 22-year old is by far the most attacking of the team’s three primary candidates for the two central spots (Doucoure playing more as a second striker than a true midfielder). He was very active, with his 72 touches second in the side, took good care of the ball (87.2% pass success) and won eight of 14 ground duels, along with blocking two passes. Whether he’s a nailed-on starter in the midfield when Idrissa Gueye is again available is open to question, as the latter offers superior defensive qualities, but he’s certainly inserted himself into the mix.

Amadou Onana was a late replacement for Gueye and his partnership with Garner again looked promising. The two seem to balance each other out well, with the latter operating more progressively and the Belgian hanging back deeper. The tall midfielder put on one of his best displays of the season, winning both aerial duels and eight of ten on the ground and making ten ball recoveries. He showed more discipline and restraint with his sliding tackles than we’ve seen before, and that showed in his success rate too.

Harrison’s wonder goal and impressive work rate (demonstrated by the team-high eleven ball recoveries he made) overshadowed Dwight McNeil on the opposing wing, but the ex-Burnley man put in a strong performance himself. Appearing now to be back to full fitness, the winger was relentless, completing both of his attempted dribbles and carrying the ball progressively on eight occasions. Everton’s leading scorer last season created six chances for his teammates, in addition to making his usual defensive contributions.

Whilst acknowledging that the team and manager performed very well, finally obtaining that elusive first home win of the campaign, I felt Dyche could have been more proactive with his use of the bench after the decisive third goal. With a half hour left to play, the game had been settled as a contest and yet substitutions were not made until the 78th minute, when Nathan Patterson came on for Harrison, with 38-year old Ashley Young (who played the full 90) being pushed up onto the wing. Beto followed five minutes later, replacing Dominic Calvert-Lewin. I’m uncertain what the benefit was of leaving the striker - a key man for Everton - on for so long, particularly considering the muscular problems that have wrecked his last two seasons.

Everton FC v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Calvert-Lewin is vital for Everton, but looked to be tiring long before he was eventually substituted
Photo by Mike Morese/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Beto is clearly desperate to make an impression and getting that first league goal would be a real morale booster for him. This would have been an ideal opportunity to get him a solid 25 minutes, with Bournemouth looking vulnerable to the counter. Likewise Arnaut Danjuma, little used recently and left on the bench against his former team for the duration on Saturday. Why he didn’t replace ultra-veteran Young, who has played all but 17 minutes of the team’s opening eight league games is tough to fathom, but I can only conclude that Dyche doesn't want to utilise him, for whatever reason. This will be a gruelling campaign, it’s a squad game and I don’t believe the manager should be restricting his options. It’s myopic, in my view.

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