Everton took the next step in their recovery journey with a trip to the Midlands for a Carabao Cup tie against Aston Villa. The contest earlier in the Premier League season saw the Toffees played off the pitch in a 4-0 drubbing that Sean Dyche described as “just not good enough”.
In the lead up to the Carabao Cup match, Dyche had this to say:
“We know we have to change the story, I must reiterate that, but we do it by performances. We know the Evertonians will support us and back us, but we have to keep doing what we did at Brentford, showing that intent and desire to win games.
Not just the quality, that whole body language, energy and belief in what we do to go and win games like we did on Saturday. We have got to keep doing that.”
The biggest news was the first start for Jack Harrison after his outing with the U21’s last week. Is it a back three, a back four, two up top, who knew when the lineup was announced.
Former Evertonian Robin Olsen was one of five changes for Villa but all four players who scored against Everton in August were on the pitch.
Storm Agnes was sweeping through England as the two teams kicked off in the most played fixture in the English game. Everton were playing with a back three with Calvert-Lewin up front with Danjuma on the left and Harrison on the right.
The game was slow to get moving but it was Tielemans who had the first crack at goal with a volley that went narrowly over the bar. Aston Villa were too frequently their own worst enemy when they lost possession and a nifty pass from Onana put through Garner who lashed home the ball past Robin Olsen.
Villa was struggling to get the ball into the final third as Everton consistently held their shape and pressured the ball all over the pitch. Their troubles continued when Leon Bailey was forced off with injury. Nicolo Zaniolo took his place as the final 15 minutes of the half arrived.
A break from Everton set Danjuma on his way but his shot was blocked but moments later Villa were at it again and it was McGinn shooting wide one is own net and it hit the post! Not sure how it wasn’t 2-0 as the final five minutes of the half arrived. A great ball from Harrison put Calvert Lewin in on goal but Olsen was up to the challenge. Everton continued to play great football forcing Villa errors.
The half ended with Jhon Duran blasting the ball miles over the net. The half ended with boos ringing down from the Villa fans. Everton had only 36% of the ball but more than twice the shots. A solid first half.
Everton replaced Mykolenko with former Villan Ashley Young. Villa made three changes bringing on Watkins, Digne and Kamara. Watkin took only 20 seconds to get a yellow card and then Nathan Patterson joined him in the referee’s book. Villa was controlling the play before another calamitous error from Tielemans gave Calvert-Lewin a break away which he dispatched into the corner of Olsen’s goal.
It took 53 minutes for Villa to get a shot on net but Pickford was up to it and stopped the shot from Diaby. Everton were sitting back a bit but Dyche was asking them to press higher up the pitch. Amadou Onana almost added to his lone goal for Everton but his shot sailed over the bar.
Calvert-Lewin had another chance but Olsen was up to the task by parrying the ball away. Harrison’s night was done on 63 minutes with Dwight McNeil coming on. Tarkowski was then in the book for a challenge on Watkins. The high press was not being used as frequently in the second half by Everton but the organized defending was doing the job.
Beto and Gueye were brought on for the final 20 minutes of the match with Calvert-Lewin and Danjuma giving way which pushed Garner out to the wing. The match lost it’s cutting edge as the Blues soaked up the pressure from Villa. The clean sheet was lost when Boubacay Kamara shot at the net and a deflection of Michael Keane through legs put it out of the reach of Pickford. Seven minutes to get an equalizer, seven minutes to hang on.
Beto was on his own up top and he became the lone outlet pass. A couple of breakaways were easily marshalled by Konza. Doucoure was brought on for Tielemans. A nice free kick by Villa forced a save from Pickford as the pressure mounted. Five minutes of extra time started and Douglas Luiz bicycle kicked the ball over the net.
The clock seemed to slow down for the Evertonians. Beto finally held up the ball and it gave some breathing room. The final minute arrived and Villa were desparate but the Blues continued to thwart the Villains. Beto was on the ball again and McNeil took it into the corner which led to a free kick and more time being eaten up. The whistle blew and the Blues were onto the next round.
Everton Man of the Match: James Garner - A goal to get things going but it was his control in the middle with Onana that was most impressive. Composure, control and passing accuracy were just three of his highlights. He has to be the first name on the teamsheet moving forward.
With more players coming available, tonight was an opportunity for Dyche to try out different systems and different combinations of players. Interestingly, the return of Michael Keane led to a back three when going forward and a back five when defending. The high press that was so successful in the first half was made possible by the more advanced wing backs creating difficulty for the Villa defenders. The inclusion of Jack Harrison with his all energy play leading the press was another part if it’s success.
James Garner playing alongside Amadou Onana could be a possible combination in the middle of the park moving forward. The young pair showed both composure in possession but also an attacking energy that is not present when Gueye is playing there. The first goal had both of the players near the edge of the Villa box when the high press was being applied. The greater fluidity in the team in both attack and when defending showed so much more than we have seen this season.
Evertonians support their team. 5000 supporters travelled to Villa Park and their singing was loud and proud for the ninety minutes. Wins are lovely to see but the effort and determination that has been on show for the last two matches is exactly what Evertonians want to see. As Evertonians, let us not allow the takeover talk to distract us from the real story. A home match at Goodison Park is the next challenge and if this team turns up there should be no doubt that three points will be in the bag for Everton. More of the same, please.