Everton took the 39 miles journey to Burnley on Saturday for a 3pm kickoff with Sean Dyche going back in time to return to his old hunting ground where he spent almost ten years at the helm. Dyche had seen a gradual resurgence in his team and the recent successes were impressive. Everton were looking for a fourth consecutive league win for the first time in three years. They had won four of their past five Premier League away games, as many as in their previous 42 which is more than two season’s worth of matches.
Going into the match, Burnley had eight points from 16 matches, with nine points being the fewest a team has had at this stage of a Premier League season and not being relegated. However, they had taken four points from their last three games, as many as they had after their first 13 league fixtures this season.
Everton’s Idrissa Gueye and Jarrad Branthwaite were both serving one-match suspensions. Left-back Vitalii Mykolenko was questionable but when the team was announced he was completely missing from the squad which meant that Ben Godfrey was brought in to the defence. Defender Michael Keane was deemed fit again, after missing last week’s win over Chelsea, and took over from Branthwaite. Ashley Young and Seamus Coleman had been ruled out.
Burnley made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Brighton last time out. Hannes Delcroix came in for Charlie Taylor while Jacob Bruun Larsen replaced Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
Sean Dyche walked out of the tunnel and received a very warm welcome from the Turf Moor crowd. Anthony Taylor was the man in the middle as Burnley kicked off. Interestingly, at the outset it looked like Everton had set up with a back five with McNeil playing in a left wing back role. It was obvious from the offset that the changes were requiring some time to get sorted out.
Early moments showed Burnley’s interest in controlling the ball which Dyche was happy to allow. The high press was not being used by Everton so it was only long balls over the top seemed to be the plan for Burnley. It took eight minutes for Everton to get the ball into Burnley’s end and the high press was then implemented. That first pressure shifted the play and Everton’s first control led to McNeil heading the ball narrowly wide. Should have done better.
Burnley were struggling when the pressure was being applied and a loss of possession was created by Harrison who put in a beautiful cross that was met by Calvert Lewin who was stopped by a great save from Trafford. The resulting corner was delivered by McNeil which was met by a thundering header from Amadou Onana who scored with aplomb. A cracking header!
Burnley broke down the left and the ball was brought back into the box but the shot from Bruun Larsen was blocked by Tarkowski. The Clarets response to going down was good and their control led to Rodriguez getting a shot but Tarkowski was there to deny the English forward. That control did not last long.
A long ball from Pickford was met by Tarkowski who headed the ball forward to Keane whose shot was saved but the rebound returned to the former Burnley centre back who drove the ball into the far corner. His celebration was muted but Evertonians in the crowd blasted out Spirit of the Blues.
Burnley were struggling to create chances and those that fell to them were being snuffed by the Everton defence. The game lost a bit of pace after the goal but it was Everton who were the more likely to score. As the half was drawing to a close, Patterson took down Odebert who was breaking down the left side but the resulting free kick was easily handled, in fact, it was Everton who broke away with McNeil forcing another corner. Garner delivered and Keane glanced the ball over the net.
Four minutes of additional time was announced and it was Burnley who had the last chance of the half as Vitinho broke down the right and the ball was delivered beautifully into the middle but an incredible intervention by Ben Godfrey robbed the Clarets of a certain goal. The first half ended with James Tarkowski asking the referee for a penalty but nothing was given.
Lyle Foster was substituted on after a long spell out of the team as he dealt with some mental health issues. Everton brought on Lewis Dobbin in place of Abdoulaye Doucoure who was taken off as a precaution with a slight injury. The second half kicked off and Burnley were clearly looking to get back in the match. An early cross from Bruun Larsen was cleared by Onana.
Pickford was required to make his first save of the game after Godfrey and Harrison got their communication mixed up. Burnley were showing some resolve and determination. The Everton defence was meeting the challenge but they were unable to get the press working. A free kick for Burnley was given but the huge Everton wall did it’s job.
The hour mark arrived with no real change in the balance of play. Burnley were pleased that the high press was not being used but the 5-4-1 formation was standing firm. Andouni went down in the box under pressure from Tarkowski but nothing was given and the VAR check was cleared. Moments later Michael Keane was furthest forward and another corner was delivered by James Garner which was scrambled around and Keane hit the post.
A nice move by Burnley ended up with Amdouni testing Pickford who was more than up to it with a great save. Burnley continued to push forward and Everton were sitting deeper than at any point in the match. With twenty minutes to go Burnley brought off Hannes Delcroix for Ameen Al Dakhil.
Burnley had the ball rattle off the woodwork but an offside was called. Beto replaced Calvert Lewin with less than ten minutes to play and Bruun Larsen was withdrawn for Manuel Benson. James Garner was given a yellow card for kicking the ball away. It was Manuel Benson who was urged on by the crowd but the wall held. More changes for Burnley as Nathan Redmond and Mike Trésor joined the fray in place of Odibert and Vitinho.
James Trafford slipped and almost gifted Everton a third goal. Only three minutes were added as Beto was slipped in by James Garner. The Turf Moor crowd started to head for the exits as the Evertonians were singing their hearts out. The final whistle blew and Everton had dominated away from home on the return of King Sean! We move up to 16th and only 3 points away from 12th.
Everton Man of the Match: It could always be Tarkowski, and today Michael Keane quieted his critics but Amadou Onana shone above all. The big midfielder got Everton on the way with a thumping headed goal. His all action display included 3 clearances, 87% passing accuracy, 6 of 8 aerial duels won and 4 of 5 tackles won.
The Sean Dyche factor continues to play a part in this fixture. During his 10 year tenure as Burnley boss, Everton had visited 7 times and only came away with a win on two occasions. Dyche knew what to do to get the result. Today, Dyche was up against Vincent Kompany and the tactical battle was there for all to see. From the kickoff, Everton sat back and allowed Burnley to control the ball. It was when Burnley had the ball in their own half that the game changed. The high press was used brilliantly and that pressure created difficulties throughout the match. It was a masterclass of exploiting the frailties of the opposition.
The worry from before the kickoff was the potential for Everton to play down to the level of the opposition. In the dark days of this season, the loss to Luton was a killjoy after victories over Brentford and Aston Villa sent Evertonians into freefall. Dyche has tried to limit the emotional pendulum swing between wins and losses. Staying focused on the job and not getting too high or too low. His consistent message to the players, the media and the fans has been designed to not allow emotions to get too overpowering. Today, the plan was created and Everton never sat back for long and pressed Burnley at every opportunity. Another positive step along the way.
The loss of Jarrad Branthwaite due to suspension was a big pair of shoes for anyone to fill and before the game the speculation on how Dyche would address this loss was front and centre in the buildup to the match. Before today, only Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City had conceded fewer Premier League goals than Everton’s 20 this season. Today, a fourth clean sheet with an almost completely different back line speaks volumes. The tenacity of defending continues to be the driving force with Tarkowski leading the line.
In our last two years, our defence was considered too fragile and the failures of the team were often put on the shoulders of the centre backs. Michael Keane, Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey have been vilified but under Dyche there is a greater emphasis on team defence where everyone contributes to the success or failure. This change in philosophy has created a more positive team that is cohesive and together. Today, that theory was put to the test with the return of both Keane and Godfrey. Happily, both Keane and Godfrey were solid at the back and even contributed going forward with a goal from Keane. Godfrey’s The greatest compliment today was that the missing players were not missed.