Before we begin. A moment to reflect on the incredible life and work of John Motson. There is no one who is reading this who was not mesmerized by the meticulous work of this legend of broadcasting and journalism. To lighten things up, we say happy birthday to Conor Coady who celebrates his 30th birthday!
The dreaded six pointer was here. Did I write that last week before the Leeds game? Well, if the shoe fits...... Villa had suffered three consecutive league defeats, conceding 11 goals. They had only lost one of their first seven league games under Unai Emery. Unfortunately, Aston Villa were unbeaten in all seven Premier League meetings against Everton since returning to the top flight in 2019 with five wins and two draws.
Everton were still without Dominic Calvert-Lewin because of a hamstring problem and Nathan Patterson suffered a minor setback this week in his recovery from a knee injury. Thankfully, Amadou Onana overcame a similar issue, while James Garner does not make the substitutes. Jordan Pickford made his 350th career club appearance after signing his new contract this week.
Everton manager Sean Dyche named an unchanged side. Neal Maupay needed to step up today as he had only managed one goal in his last 27 Premier League appearances and had faced Aston Villa six times without ever scoring.
Aston Villa head coach Unai Emery was thankful that there were no fresh injury concerns in his squad. Diego Carlos is still unavailable as he is in the final stages of his recovery from a ruptured Achilles.
Unai Emery made three changes to the side beaten by league leaders Arsenal last Saturday. Former Blue Lucas Digne, Jacob Ramsey and Leon Bailey came into the side in place of Alex Moreno, Philippe Coutinho and Emiliano Buendia. A very attacking side without question.
Z Cars rang out around Goodison as Anthony Taylor led the teams out of the hallowed tunnel. It was then a resounding version of Forever Everton as the whistle blew to start the match. It was Villa who broke forward first but good covering by Coleman snuffed out the chance. A coming together between Onana and Douglas Luiz saw Onana get a very late yellow card.
Everton’s high press was shown early and the pressure was paying off. Villa broke out with Jacob Ramsey running at the back four. The followup shot by John McGinn was hit high into the upper Gwladys Street stand. A lovely ball from McNeil to Maupay who held up the ball well and the overlap from McNeil allowed a great cross which was met by Iwobi only to have Martinez stop the chance.
Aston Villa then had a good chance as Mings put the ball over the top and Ollie Watkins was clear only to have Pickford come out and stopped him from shooting. Villa were growing in confidence and had Everton pinned back. Onana clipped Bailey and Villa were given a free kick just outside the box. Onana remonstrated but Taylor was not having any of it. Douglas Luiz and Digne stood over the ball. It was Digne who struck the ball but it was high and wide. The cheers and jeers rang down from the stands.
The wide play on the left from McNeil was paying dividends and his crosses were causing problems for Martinez. Villa were happy to get possession and pass the ball around when they had it. The game started to become bitty and neither team was getting any clear chances. Everton did force a scramble in the Villa box but couldn’t get a shot off. It was again the play of McNeil that was at the root of the move.
The Blues were buzzing around the box with Doucoure strolling forward. The resulting corner from Iwobi gave Everton their first corner. Maupay’s header went agonizingly wide. Almost the breakthrough he needed . The sun broke through when Iwobi put McNeil through but the cross had no one on the end of it.
Everton were controlling the play and took a breath after the frantic first half hour. The high pressure continued to work and a brilliant cross from Mykolenko was met by Onana who powered the ball with his head only to have Martinez make a brilliant save.
The final two minutes of the half arrived and it was Everton who had the final chance when McNeil set up Maupay who tried to curl the ball around Martinez only to have the World Cup winner catch the ball. Three minutes of added time saw Everton get a free kick at the edge of Villa’s box. McNeil stepped up and slammed the ball against the wall.
The second half kicked off with Everton attacking the Gwladys Street end. No changes for either side. The battle between Matty Cash and Dwight McNeil was not letting up and it was the high press that led to Everton’s first chance when Gana Gueye was taken down by Leon Bailey. McNeil stood over the ball and chipped it. Tarkowski met it and Alex Iwobi drove the ball but it careened off a fallen Konsa and then Maupay headed the ball only to have it cleared off the line by Tyrone Mings.
The Goodison crowd was in full voice as the search for a goal continued. Villa broke down and it was an incredible finger tip save by Pickford on a point blank header from Watkins. Villa made two changes and brought on Buendia and Moreno for Digne and Bailey.
It was then all for nought as Gueye brought down a rampaging McGinn. Taylor had no option but to give the penalty. Ollie Watkins stepped up and put it into the roof of the net. His fifth goal in five matches. Paul Rideout was the last Villa player to do that.
Everton immediately went forward to get the equalizer but Doucoure’s tame shot was disappointing. The Everton pressure continued but they couldn’t get the finish to work. Mykolenko then attacked and was met by Konsa. The calls for a penalty were dismissed. Dyche then looked to ring in the changes with Iwobi off and Demarai Gray on.
Villa had a free kick after Gueye took down Watkins. Douglas Luiz crossed the ball but it was met by a dominant Amadou Onana. Doucoure was given a yellow card for a high arm on Buendia. Ellis Simms was then brought on to replace Neal Maupay as Dyche was throwing everything on to get back in the game. He was right into the action when Doucoure put the ball into the box only to have Simms put the ball wide.
Douglas Luiz had the next chance but his shot screamed over the bar. The game was effectively done and dusted when McGinn slid Emi Buendia into the box who blasted the ball past Pickford. Davies then came on to replace Onana.
The Goodison crowd was growing restless as the stewards started to ring the pitch. Tarkowski did have a chance on a corner but his effort sailed over the bar. The final five minutes arrived and Taylor had to get between Buendia and Tarkowski. The resulting free kick was taken by Gray. His shot made it past the wall but Martinez was there to smother it. The crowd started to take their leave. A final corner from Gray was delivered and handily met by Watkins and Taylor blew the whistle to end the match.
It is easy to forget that Dwight McNeil is still only 23 years old. He was given his Premier League debut by Sean Dyche for Burnley under in May 2018. Four years later he was on the move to Goodison. McNeil’s first season was underwhelming but the arrival of Dyche has given him a new lease on life and today he showed that he can become a vital part of the team. Clearly, the confidence that Dyche is instilling in the young player is being rewarded. Throughout the game it was McNeil that was creating the chances but the lack of finishing was the biggest problem.
Dyche stuck with the same team and lots of chances were created but the finishing was not there. If I was going to stick or twist I would give Simms and Gray the chance in place of Maupay and Iwobi. Maupay just doesn’t finish and Iwobi has been less effective after being moved out wide by Dyche. This will also give a more balanced attack as it was very one dimensional against Villa. The added pace will also challenge Arsenal and making Simms the target man will replicate the plan that was in place when Everton beat them at Goodison.
We had a gritty victory over Leeds and an apathetic display at Anfield. Today, we had the drive but no finish. Arsenal are up next and the high pressing that was critical in the win at Goodison will be difficult to replicate. Our inability to counter attack at pace has been evident all season. The one area that has improved greatly under Dyche is our set pieces and the dominating work of our big men.
What is Yerry Mina doing in training that Dyche somehow is still keeping Coady in the lineup?
A disappointing result today.