Wildly Divergent Tactics
This was a heavily-rotated Clarets team and it’s fair to say they looked more hesitant than usual, as they attempted to get to grips with unfamiliar personnel thrown together for the first time in a competitive match. The style that Vincent Kompany has them using, with a resolute determination to play out from the back and through midfield, is not an easy one to carry off in the fast, intense Premier League. In fact, the young manager’s preferred best eleven have been found wanting against top flight opposition so far this season, despite the club spending quite heavily on reinforcements during the summer, so a visit to Goodison Park with a much-changed side was always going to be a tough proposition.
Everton, meanwhile rested only Abdoulaye Doucoure and Nathan Patterson, with Arnaut Danjuma and Ashley Young (returning from suspension) coming in as replacements; perhaps an indicator that Sean Dyche is taking the Carabao Cup very seriously. They set up as anticipated, in a mid block, daring Burnley to attempt to play through them, waiting to jump on a poor touch, an errant pass, or any tendency to dwell on the ball. The hosts soon found ample opportunity and just five or so minutes in, after the game had begun to take shape, it was apparent that the Blues’ pressing and counterattacking game would prove a major challenge for the Lancastrians.
In the 13th minute, James Tarkowski nodded home unmarked from Dwight McNeil’s centre, the left winger being allowed as much time as he wished to pick out a target. The Clarets were low-hanging fruit for Sean Dyche’s Everton to pick right off. Dominic Calvert-Lewin kept finding ample space, but even when closely marked he enjoyed a noticeable advantage over Burnley’s defenders, in terms of strength and aerial ability. With a lead established, it is a disappointment that the Merseysiders didn’t finish Burnley off during the opening half, but instead they sat too deep and struggled to break forward with any fluidity, leaving Calvert-Lewin isolated, despite his sterling work leading the line.
The Blues went in having accumulated an xG (Expected Goals) tally of 0.40 from six efforts, with the visitors enjoying 60% possession but managing only two shots for a paltry xG of 0.04.
Applying the Finishing Touches
Dyche clearly wasn’t entirely happy with his team’s performance in the first half, because they emerged from the dressing room with renewed vigour and attitude. It was evident from the kickoff that Everton had pushed up an extra ten yards and were actively putting pressure on the visitors higher up the pitch. Within eight minutes the increased tempo paid dividends, McNeil’s corner being knocked down by Tarkowski to be bundled in from close range by Amadou Onana. With the hosts two goals to the good and Burnley being bullied all over the pitch, it was hard to see a way back for Kompany’s outfit.
The Clarets pushed more men forward, but their attacks went nowhere, being snuffed out, or running down blind alleys. After 65 minutes the 37-year-old former Manchester City star turned to his bench, making three changes, but other than the names on the backs of a few shirts, the pattern of the game went unaltered. A couple of minutes later and it was Dyche’s turn to make a couple of substitutions, withdrawing Calvert-Lewin and somewhat surprisingly, Danjuma. Everton were able to blow right through Burnley in transition, though still couldn’t find the right pass to punish the opposition for their defensive frailties.
As the game drew to a close, the Blues generated a flurry of chances, culminating in Young, now playing as a right winger following Patterson’s introduction in the 79th, slotting home after some muscular work from substitute Beto down the left flank. The relief on the big Portuguese front man’s face was apparent, so desperate has he been in recent weeks to make an impact for his new club, following his big-money arrival from Udinese in the summer. Although Burnley had increased their share of possession after the interval, their anaemic attack was starkly illustrated by the numbers: three attempts, one on target and an xG of 0.06 over the 90, whereas Everton had racked up an xG of 1.94 from 14 efforts, including four “big chances”.
This was as routine a victory as you’ll see and a fifth win for the Toffees in all competitions from their last seven games, which is great form and offers major encouragement ahead of a big game against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday. I feel a lot more confident about the team’s prospects now than I did a few weeks ago.
Squad Depth Considerations
It was a little surprising to see Dyche go with such a strong team for a cup game, given that Everton’s league situation, whilst improved recently is still not in a great position. The club sits 15th, ahead of Nottingham Forest on goal difference and five points clear of Luton Town, in 18th. The Blues are “only” five points behind Manchester United, who are eighth, illustrating how tight things are at this stage of the campaign and that a win or two can drastically alter the way things look.
In particular, Dyche took a big risk retaining Calvert-Lewin, given that on Saturday he’ll be starting his third match in six days. Considering how vital the striker is for the side, his history of muscular injuries and how primary replacement Beto has not yet hit the ground running, this is a gamble that I’d have been inclined not to take. However, with a kind home draw against Fulham in the Quarter-finals and several strong sides having already fallen out of the Carabao Cup, the possibility of the Toffees progressing further in what has historically been a cursed competition for them is now an appetising proposition, so we can probably give the manager a pass all things considered.
Another puzzling selection choice was Idrissa Gana Gueye remaining on the bench until the 78th minute. It is highly unlikely that Dyche will look to shake up the Onana-James Garner tandem in midfield for the Brighton match, so it is unclear to me why the former was left on for so long and the latter for the full 90. The Senegal international lost his spot in the starting team due to injury, not poor form, so I’m unsure why he appears to have fallen way down the pecking order all of a sudden.
Finally, I’ve been beating the drum for Danjuma to get more minutes recently, so it was pleasing to see him given the start in the cup, but I have no idea why he was withdrawn in the 68th. Playing in a central attacking role normally filled by Doucoure, it’s true he wasn’t impactful, but was hardly playing badly, didn’t appear tired and was still making positive attacking runs. He won’t be making the starting lineup on Saturday, so why take him off with a 2-0 lead, yet leave McNeil and Jack Harrison on? Both appeared jaded all game, with the exception of a couple of nice crosses from the former and Everton will need both fresh and firing against the Seagulls.
These days football is a squad game, though Dyche does not appear entirely on board with this concept. Whilst there are major benefits to going with an unchanged lineup, moreso when gaining positive results, I fear that the players could get worn down, particularly as the boss is loathe to use substitutes in-game. In addition, cameo outings and a lot of warming the bench is not going to get the squad players feeling involved, confident to perform, or match sharp and this won’t be helpful when they need to be called upon, as will surely be the case at some stage.
Stats provided courtesy of fotmob.com